Over, under, through….

Monday was travel day for us – leaving Sicily is bittersweet. We very much enjoyed the small sampling of Sicily that we experienced. The sites were interesting and the people were so very friendly. But we are quite looking forward to our next and final stop on this trip, the Amalfi Coast.

To start our day – huzzah! She has emerged! We were able to finally view the summit of the looming Mount Etna! 20140304-165313.jpg We of course had to once again travel by ferry to leave the island of Sicily, but this time it was a smaller, open ferry. 20140304-165518.jpgToday, we travelled ~600km, on the Autostrade, through a wide variety of terrain – seacoast, plains, hills, valleys and mountains. You will recall I promised to count the numbers of bridges and tunnels we encountered. That may have been a mistake on my part, as it became quite tedious. But I persevered and I bring you the information that you have all been waiting for. 20140304-170021.jpg We travelled through 127 tunnels, totalling 69 km, and over 331 stretches of elevated roadway, measuring 60 km. That is over 20% of our trip. The shortest tunnel was 42 m long and the shortest bridge was 10 m. The longest were 2.4 km and 1.8 km. The tunnels are through hills and mountains and even under ancient ruins. 20140304-172935.jpgThe bridges span dips, valleys, gorges, streams and rivers. All in all, it is a feat in road building. However, as you can see in the signs, each tunnel or bridge is named and a sign is erected at each end listing the name and length. Does this seem like a make-work project to anyone else, as it does to me? I think the time and money could be better spent on the myriad of construction projects we encountered where there appeared to be no activity occurring. Just my opinion.

As we neared Sorrento, Sally led us through a maze of small, narrow, very congested (once again with both moving and parked cars, scooters and pedestrians) streets in towns that we have no idea where or what they were. We are unsure if this was the easiest way – or just the dreaded GPS ‘fastest route’.

But we made it safely to our hotel. I must commend my husband’s driving skills. I was stressed just being a passenger, while he remains calm, manoeuvring the car through the narrowest and trickiest predicaments!

Our hotel is fabulous! I am always anxious, having booked on hotels.com and relying on on-line reviews. All of our hotels on the trip have turned out to be great, but we definitely saved the best for the last. It was so nice to be greeted with smiles and information, to hand over the car keys for someone to handle the car, and to have a distinguished gent named Francesco get us settled in our room. 20140304-171955.jpg After a bit of a break in our room, we hunted down a restaurant for dinner. Our bruschetta, salad, seafood fusilli and gnocchi were good, but certainly not up to the standard of our dinner from the night before. Ah well, it was close and they did finish our meal with a shot of limoncello. 20140304-173321.jpgCheers,

B&H

PS – another note on Harv’s driving. When we were in Germany, he recorded speeds of 200 kph on the autobahn. Our 1 litre, 3 cylinder Fiesta isn’t quite up to that action, but he did get it wound up a bit today. 20140304-172453.jpg

Is it Halloween? Christmas? July?

Wednesday was a travel day. We were up quite early to take leave of the Hotel Agora. 20140227-152446.jpgSally behaved today and led us well, over the 700 kms to Cefalu, Sicily. We travelled on the Autostrade, and witnessed Italian road building at its best. The highway made its way past Mount Vesuvius and south through a mountain range. And it literally went through the range. We climbed in altitude but kept quite a straight path as we passed through what must have been hundreds of tunnels and over hundreds of ‘bridges’ ( those being stretches of elevated roadway). On our return journey next week, I plan on counting the number and accumulated length (as they give that information at the beginning of each) of the tunnels and bridges. Stay tuned for that exciting bit of news! 20140227-152941.jpgIt was a brilliantly sunny day with temperatures reaching 20 C at one point. As we neared Reggio Calabria, we passed acres of orange groves, the oranges a vibrant color in the sun.

Sicily is of course an island so we needed to take a ferry from Reggio Calabria to Messini. This added a bit of excitement to the day – especially as all signs were in Italian and a biglietto (ticket) booth was not obvious to purchase a fare, etc. So we followed the other cars and when we got to the front of the boarding line, the fellow just sent me scampering over to the biglietto kiosk. The strait is quite narrow so it was a short, but enjoyable, 30 minute crossing. 20140227-153153.jpgArriving in Cefalu, we located the Artemis Hotel and I ran in while Harv circled the block, there being no obvious place to park. The underground parking garage is reserved for ‘suite guests’ – not the regular room we had reserved. But I charmed the young man at the desk into letting us park there – I’m sure it was my charm, not the fact that it is low season and the majority of the suites are probably empty. 20140227-153405.jpgThe hotel and our room are lovely. After settling in, we headed to the ‘old town’, just a couple of blocks away. I’ll give more details on Cefalu tomorrow.

It was a very pleasant evening and the local people were out for the evening passeggiata, strolling the streets and visiting with their neighbours. Many of the children were in costume, carrying bags of confetti. We believe this has to do with it being carnival season, but must delve into the custom a bit more. 20140227-153635.jpgWe joined the stroll for a while, checking out restaurants, which of course were not open at this early time of 7:30 pm?!? At around 8, we chose a likely looking place that actually already had some other patrons (probably tourists as it was still a bit early for locals). It was an excellent choice. We were quite hungry at this point, having had a panini at 1 pm and just a couple snacking items since that time.

We shared appetizers of bruschetta and an extremely flavourful Carpaccio of mushrooms, tomatoes and rocket with Parmesan gratin. I then enjoyed ‘Risotto ai Frutti di Mare in Cartoccio’ – and it was abundant in Frutti di Mare – shrimp, mussels, clams & squid. Delicious! Harvey meanwhile tackled his Spaghetti alla Vongole – spaghetti and clams enhanced with olive oil, garlic & parsley. It was also superb. Accompanied by the house red wine and followed by complimentary chilled limoncello, it was a great meal! The only odd thing was the background music – Frank Sinatra – nice, but Jingle Bells??? The staff spoke little English so perhaps had no idea…..20140227-153921.jpgWe strolled back to the hotel and called an end to a good day!

Cheers,

B&H