From Castellammare we head east right across the top of Sicily almost to the other end of the North Coast to Mongiove, our home for the next 5 nights. Given Eliza’s feelings about long journeys, our plan is motorway all the way, and having experienced the craziness of Sicilian drivers already we’re a little apprehensive about the ride.
Our apprehensions turn out to be justified, particularly on the ring road around the capital Palermo. This time we find that road markings just completely disappear (you know, the ones indicating lanes on a dual carriageway) for long stretches, which seems to be interpreted as ‘go where you fancy’ by the locals, meaning there’s cars all over the road, facing the same direction at least, but at one point we count four lanes of cars on a dual carriageway width at some traffic lights. We also discover extensive lane straddling, constant mobile phone use and a strong desire to drive in the centre of two-way roads. Overall we conclude that we’re less at risk than we think we are, but Sicilian drivers go where they fancy/ wherever’s easiest and only move over/ get in the actual lane about 5 metres before oncoming traffic or some other hazard.
We arrive unharmed at our accommodation around 2:30pm, Eliza has tolerated the journey pretty well and we are met by the parents of our host. They are lovely and the lady spends about 40 minutes showing us every feature of the house, maps and leaflets of local attractions and has even made us a pasta sauce for lunch. They are lovely and so is the house- it’s right on the beach with a view of the Aeolian Islands. All the bedrooms have doors leading to outside terraces and there’s sun loungers in the garden that we’re invited to carry onto the beach if we wish. To top it off, there’s a bowl of citrus fruits from their garden and a bottle of olive oil that is homemade from olives they have grown.
However, all through this introduction we’re aware that Eliza has recently deposited a gift in her nappy and feeling increasingly keen to change her. Eventually I pop back to the car and leave Marie to the detailed account of the local area to get the necessary supplies. Our other preoccupation during this tour is just where my Dad, Step-mum and sister have got to as we were expecting them sometime around 2pm.
Around 3:30 they arrive hot, bothered and somewhat harrowed by the experience. Turns out they have also drawn the same conclusion about Sicilian drivers and have inadvertently taken the ‘scenic’ mountain road route to reach us from the airport and all on about 2 hours sleep. Vicky tells us she spent a lot of the car journey trying not to throw up in the back, Jackie on a subsequent car journey comments that sitting in the back of the car is better because she can’t see and from what I gather Dad did a lot of swearing at the sat nav and probably various other things and people on the route. They also had a very confusing and lengthy experience at the motorway tolls, being unfamiliar with the ticket system.
It is great to see them though and they’re all really pleased to see Eliza (so pleased in fact that Dad forgets to say hello to me after he’s done cooing over the little cutie in my arms!). We immediately sit down to some pasta and Vicky makes a slow recovery from their journey. We spend the rest of the afternoon unpacking, catching up and having a little explore locally along the beach and then down to a pizzeria for dinner.
The next morning, after a breakfast of bread, croissants and the most delicious cherry jam ever from the local bakery, we head out to find a supermarket. Marie stays back to hang out with Eliza and somehow I’m navigating (Dad hasn’t been reading our blog so doesn’t know about the navigational adventures we’ve had so far)…I am ‘your mother’s daughter’ though, in his words, so he’s not particularly surprised when he finds himself taking a detour through some narrow streets on the way back. What none of us were expecting though was the need to reverse back to a dual carriageway exit that I’d missed to avoid ending up on a toll road right next to our little village. On the plus side, we did find a supermarket and in it was the cheapest decent quality food I’ve ever come across.
After lunch, we set out to explore Milazzo, a nearby port town that has been highly recommended by our host and by a lady I met on the ferry. Making the most of Eliza’s nap in the car, we initially drive through the town to follow a scenic route to ‘Capo Milazzo’, which has a ‘good view’ symbol on our map.
We’re in for a treat. The scenic route is pretty, with jagged rocks dropping off into the sea on our right and various shrubs and trees to our left. We park up and initially walk down to a church built into a cave in the cliff side, the ‘Sanctuary of Saint Antonio’. The decoration inside is pretty and I particularly like the amount of natural cave wall that has been left bare.
After this we walk back up and then toward the cape, walking through a pretty area with lots of wild flowers to see. We reach some extensive stairs and agree to head on without Dad and Jackie and to meet them afterwards. Vicky has a moment’s hesitation then decides to join us (whether or not she later regrets this…well, you’ll have to ask her yourself). There’s not one staircase but two, with a good long downhill walk in between. We’ve seen signs for a natural pool ahead and regret coming without any swimwear. The views are beautiful, with the sun shining on the limestone rock and this contrasting with the deep blue of the sea. We’re surrounded by a wide range of plants and enjoy reminiscing over our previous attempts at eating prickly pears elsewhere in the world as we pass many a cactus growing them.
Down and down we go until we see a thing of complete beauty ahead of us. A pool in the rocks, filled with greenish-turquoise water lapping gently against the sea beyond. As we get nearer with the plan of dipping our feet in we can’t resist and decide a swim in underwear is necessary.
Eliza however has other ideas and the moment I’m fully in the water and have reached the deepest part of the pool ready to lie back and relax a while she lets Vicky know, in no uncertain terms, that she is suddenly really quite hungry and needs me to come back immediately. Back I come as Marie goes in, while Eliza continues to protest as her meal is now contaminated by salty seawater. With nothing to help me, I lick my boob… (Marie, when I recount this to her a few minutes later; ‘wait, can we just rewind there, did you say you LICKED your boob? like, picked it up and licked it with your tongue?!’ – yes, yes that’s right). Eventually Eliza settles down and has a good drink. We’re then joined by a small group of people with fancy cameras who seem to be on a photography course. One is particularly drawn to Eliza and probably has her as the star of her project, after asking if we mind her taking a photo (a photo? more like a 10-15 minute photo shoot). By this time we’ve been quite a while and Dad and Jackie have called to suggest meeting us at the café/ bar near the car, so we decide to head on back.
This turns out to be a bit of a mission with a lot of uphill climbing and a few ups and downs along the route as we take the longer path alongside the water’s edge back to the car. ‘Can you like, come and meet us at the top of the stairs with two, three…maybe four bottles of water please’ is the breathless cry of Vicky to Dad on the phone as we’re reaching the end of our extensive climb. As an unplanned walk, Vicky’s in quite thick clothing, I’m in flipflops and Marie is suitably tired from having Eliza strapped to her front for the whole journey. As we’re cooling off with the water lovingly delivered by our parents, Marie finds herself chatting extensively in Italian with a lady who is quite taken by Eliza and emotionally describing how her daughter and grandchild live in London, showing us all photos and videos of them all while tears leak from her eyes and she coos over Eliza.
Marie is then sent on a short drive with the windows down to cool the car off for Eliza (what a pampered baby she is!) while Dad is sent back to the bar for more water. It’s then down to Milazzo for a wander and dinner. As I said, Milazzo comes highly recommended and one of the recommendations particularly mentions Milazzo in the evening as it’s buzzing. As a port town and with fond memories of our delicious meals in the harbour in Castellammare, we head in that direction.
Somehow it turns out there’s no restaurants at all in the harbour and the harbour lacks some of the charm of Castellammare, facing onto a large industrial plant.
We head across the town to the beach on the opposite coast.
Somehow there’s no restaurants on the beach, save a single pizzeria in the distance that doesn’t open for another hour. It’s also strange, a long walk beside blocks of flats and a high wall separating us from the beach and sea meaning we don’t get a glimpse of it.
We head into the town
Still nothing. By this point we’re all tired and particularly feeling for Vicky, who is exhausted after the climb, and Jackie who is currently walking with a stick after several ankle breaks.
Defeated, we head back to the car, with a couple of hopeful detours on the way, which bring up nothing. Everywhere seems to have bakeries come bars, which seem really popular but only serve snacks and drinks rather than a proper meal.
It’s pretty late and we agree that we’ll try to spot somewhere to eat on the way home…two minutes into the journey and I’ve spotted a pizzeria and trattoria the other side of the harbour. ‘It’s open! Quick, take this turn and let’s park up’….we park somewhere that turns out to be forbidden, Dad follows and a man comes out to tell him to repark, in Italian. Marie goes to help, Dad reparks, we decide to ignore his advice/ request and leave our car where it is, all grimacing moments later when a huge lorry barrels down the road narrowly missing it, and we move swiftly into the restaurant.
There are a few tables of Sicilian men enjoying a meal of several courses. We order pasta and risotto dishes which are passable, but nothing to write home about, so I won’t, and head on our merry way.
Then comes the petrol debacle- we’re in the red on the petrol gauge so use sat nav to help us find some on our way. The first one we stop at only allows payment via an app (what?!?) so we carry on. The second masquerades as a perfectly good petrol station with a card machine, yet won’t accept any of our cards. We only have €5 in cash, so put this in- somehow the number of miles we can now do in the car reduces further from this addition. We carry on, leaving the town and heading back, hoping to get luck on the way. We do, a perfectly good petrol station with a functioning card machine, who’d have thought it would be that difficult?!