A Drent and a Frisian have caught the travel virus and travel with their 4×4 motorhome around the world. We are Cor and Grietje from NoFear travel and we'll take you on roadtrip adventure. In this travelogue we leave Sardinia by night boat to drive our 4×4 roadtrip to be prosecuted in Sicily.
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De roadtrip Itinerary Sicily with our 4×4
We'll take you in this one roadtrip through Sicily with our 4×4 to Palermo, Favignana, the interior of Sicily and we also walk on the active Etna volcano. We meet lovely hospitable people along the way and on the last off-road route we even had to regularly remove some branches. Sicily has turned out to be rugged, friendly adventurous? Recommended! Below is an overview of the travel route we took through Sicily.
Arrival in Palermo
from Cagliari (Sardinia) we arrive in the Sicilian Palermo early in the morning after an 11-hour journey. We drive through the awakening city in the morning rush hour to a parking lot just outside the city where we try to get some sleep.
An accident and maintenance on the 4×4
In the morning we go back to Palermo. One of the goals is to replace our brake pads. These are worn out after 37000 kilometers and we want the roadtrip continue safely through Sicily with our 4×4.
The garage we choose is literally in the middle of the busy city center. To reach the small entrance door we have to turn up high with the camper. Bang...suddenly a white car drives past us at high speed. He hit us. The young Italian getting out has considerable damage to his vehicle and would like to recover it from us. He does this with full Italian temperament… After a two-hour delay, the police finally made a report and it becomes a matter for insurance. Our damage consists of some scratches that are easy to fix.
We agree with the extremely friendly garage owner that we will pick up the camper at 1700 hours. He installs the brake pads and we explore the city. People who have known us for a while know that our preference is not so much in the city… but we can recommend Palermo to everyone. Not because it is so beautiful, but especially special.
Versatile and special Palermo
The traffic -as is often the case in Italian cities- is extremely chaotic and extremely busy. It's a challenge to get through that. Cars and scooters are flying around you left and right.
Palermo is certainly not a clean city. In many places the waste is piled high. In the scorching sun with the accompanying odors, it does not always smell pleasant. Certainly not when we came to back streets where fish are sold in market stalls.
The narrow streets are beautiful to see. The houses are old, often weathered, the laundry and sun-cloths hang from the balconies. It creates a beautiful atmosphere.
A number of -often religious- buildings are well maintained and worth a visit. For example, we take a look at the ancient cathedral.
Finally, we pay a visit to the Corso Vittorio Emanuele (the main street), where the famous world brands have their shops. It is car-free and neat. In short, a city with many faces that we enjoyed.
Tip:: also read the blog: Street Art in Palermo – colorful treasure hunt through the city of Ciaoturri
Offroad in western Sicily with 4×4
Along an off-road route to the west we eat a sandwich in a parking lot and meet two men who are having their siesta there. We start talking via “Google translate”. They give us tips about the village Enrice and a few other special roads.
Tips from locals are usually the most valuable. Via winding country roads we pass many vineyards and a marble mine where we take a look.
Enrice is located on top of a hill and can be reached via a steep, winding road. The views towards the Mediterranean are breathtaking. The next day a car race will take place here for which preparations are in full swing. A few friendly municipal workers guide us to a spot on the other side of the village with a beautiful view over the port city of Trapani and the many salt pans.
The next day we take a look at the car race and we take a walk through the village. Here we are introduced to a Cannelo, a Sicilian sweet calorie bomb, but terribly tasty. Enrice is in any case a pleasant village, definitely worth a visit.
From Trapani we take the ferry to the island Favignana, part of the Aegadian Islands† A tropical paradise with many beautiful bays and beaches where we dive and snorkel. Most tourists come as a foot passenger and rent an old bicycle or scooter on the island. There is a nice, friendly atmosphere.
One of the rocky beaches is an abandoned stone mine. Where in the past the precious stone was extracted, now you can enjoy the sun and jump from the rocks.
The interior of Sicily
We head east through the interior of Sicily. As is so often the case, you will find the “real” life in the interior. Here you can see how people live when tourism doesn't play a role.
Along the way we see much more agriculture than, for example, in Sardinia. Many hectares of grains, grapes, olives and melons are grown there. Along the way we stop regularly to take a look at the grape harvest. In the authentic villages we enjoy coffee, an ice cream and the typical Sicilian village atmosphere.
We spend the night in the village of Valledolmo and in the morning we make a tour through the beautiful streets. Males sit quietly chatting under a tree, garbage men collect the bags of green waste, women dressed in household aprons do the laundry and water the flowers.
We cannot hide in our flip-flops and shorts that we are “strangers”, which is probably why we are often greeted.
On the way to Etna
Via the center of the island we take a look at the town of Enna, which is well worth a visit, and we head south-east. Here we descend into Cavagrande del Cassibile. A gorge that, according to some, is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon. Although we do not completely agree with this, we have absolutely no regrets about the visit. We are up early in the morning, just before the big tourist crowd, and we feel completely alone in one of the many swimming pools.
We continue the journey along the east coast, leaving the well-known cities of Siracusa and Catania for what it is. On to Etna…
Quad tour on Etna
Who says Sicily, says Etna. We understand from various sources that the south side of Etna is the most visited, while the north side is much quieter.
On the north side we spend the night at a picnic place at about 1400 meters in the middle of the pitch dark Ragabo pine forest where we only hear the bells of cows.
Adventurous as we are, we go exploring with a quad with a guide. Uphill, downhill, with the four-wheeled vehicle we thunder through forests and open fields over large lava rocks as if it were gravel.
Mount Etna and the guide's story are very impressive. He shows us how devastating the lava flow from the great eruption in 2002 was. A stream of lava with a temperature of about 1000 degrees has ruthlessly, slowly made its way through the landscape.
We visit a former hotel of which only a small part of the roof is visible. While the constant smoke comes from the 3300 meter high main crater, we can see the sea and even the mainland of Italy on the other side.
We return the quad in black fabric, we would never have wanted to miss this.
Hiking on Etna
On the second day of the visit to Etna we take a long walk. We have put together the walk ourselves and therefore there are a number of uncertainties. During the first part we make our way through easily walkable, crisp forest trails made of fine lava rock.
Then we start a climb of about 1100 altimeters. This one is downright heavy. The steep slopes of loose lava rock make us take two steps forward and one back. We keep our spirits up, because as you ascend the views become more and more spectacular. We reach the observatory tired but satisfied. From here we have a fantastic view towards the incessant smoking main crater.
But we also look back with satisfaction on the climb we have completed on the other side. We can see very accurately the way down, which produced the lava flow of 2002. On the hike down we see a number of smaller craters where we try to imagine how violent it was centuries ago.
Mount Etna has once again made us realize how powerful and destructive the Earth can be. It gives an insight into the billions of years of the origin of our planet and also shows us how we, as tiny people, can experience it all in a short life.
What is disappointing about Sicily
Because we don't write for promotional travel magazines, but from our heart, we beat everything as we see or experience it. We also experience less beautiful things - where "beautiful" is of course a suggestive concept - and so we write them down.
Very bad roads and bridges
For example, many of the local roads in the interior - by Western standards - are downright bad. It seems that the entire island is constantly falling prey to landslides and other vibrations. Or they simply do not prioritize maintenance. We regularly pass viaducts and tunnels where the iron wires of the reinforcement protrude.
Overdue maintenance of houses and other buildings is commonplace. Many buildings have collapsed and apparently there is no one who has an interest in rebuilding or cleaning them up.
We fall from one surprise to another when we see how much litter there is along the road. Complete garbage bags, washing machines and refrigerators can be found along the roads. It is hard for us to comprehend that the people on a “western” island leave so much rubbish lying around.
And then there are the devastating fires that left much of the rugged but beautiful landscape blackened last summer.
Nevertheless, the island has surprised us very positively. The friendly people, the rough, often untouched mountain landscape and beautiful coasts are great to discover. And the unmissable charming towns and villages, often touristy on the coast, wonderfully authentic in the interior.
But everything comes to an end, so does this part of our journey. After Mount Etna we will visit castelmola, a small village on a hill far above Taormina. We spend the night in a parking lot so that we can do a climb to the old castle first thing in the morning. What a great start to the day… from this point we have a 360 degree spectacular view and can see Mount Etna, the Strait of Messina, Taormina and in the distance the mainland of Italy. And all of this while the sun has just risen in a friendly awakening village.
We're going down to visit the famous Taormina to bring. Just off the coast of the tourist village is a tiny island aptly named Isola Belle. Well, indeed, great! You can walk to it, take off your shoes and walk a short distance through the shallow sea.
We have mixed feelings about the visit to the center of the village. What a crowd! We had hoped it would be a little quieter, at the end of September. Not so. Busloads of tourists follow their guide who holds up the number plate so as not to lose his followers.
We make our way through the bustle in the hope of finding a quiet terrace somewhere. We find them happy. After a delicious Sicilian Cannelo we flee back to the mountains. For this we take an off-road route, where we regularly have to remove some branches.
At our last overnight place in Sicily, there is a knock on the motorhome door at half past nine...police?...we're not doing anything wrong, are we? Nope, a local farmer spontaneously brings fresh eggs. Unfortunately our Italian is just as bad as his English, but the gesture is no less. thanks mille!
Then we take the ferry to the mainland of Italy, more on that later!