Sardinia

Sardinia was full of surprises for us. We were both looking forward to seeing a part of Italy that neither one of knew very much about. The island was full of surprises for us starting with the geography. I expected a very rugged island with difficult drives. The coastline is very rugged and a lot of the beaches are surrounded by steep cliffs and mountains, but the center of the island is a broad and relatively flat plain.

Driving in Sardinia turned out to be very easy. The island has a very good network of free high speed roads, one of which runs along the entire spine of the island. The quality of the roads were generally good, and the traffic volumes were low. In many ways Sardinia was one of the easiest places to drive in Europe. Totally unexpected.

The people are a little more reserved when you first meet them than in other parts of Italy, but when you break thru the initial greetings they are charming, helpful, and good fun with a dry sense of humor. We really enjoyed the people.

The food is also something like the people. It is not flashy on the surface, but the tastes are wonderful and unique. After our lunch on the last day in Sardinia Ton said that the island was 100% on meals, meaning we did not have a bad meal there, high praise from Ton. We learned about a couple of new wines that we will be looking for in the future that are unique to Sardinia.

Sardinia is not a place to look for history. If you are looking for Roman ruins this is not the place to come, but if you are a beach bum, or like hiking in the mountains, or trying new tastes that are unique to a specific area, then you will love Sardinia.

October 15, 2023 Barumini IT

One of the most important cultural symbols of Sardinia are the Nuraghes. These are bullet shaped stone buildings built without mortar. There are many of

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October 10, Orgosolo IT

Tonight we are staying in a bed and breakfast in Orgosolo. We picked Orgosolo because our friends Ovi and Cory recommended it for visiting central

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October 19, 2023 Bosa IT

On our next to last day on Sardinia we planned a short trip down the coast from Alghero to Bosa. The drive along the coastal cliffs is touted to be one of the most spectacular on Sardinia so we were looking forward to it.

A stretch of the highway between Alghero and Bosa. It reminded us both of the Pacific Coast Highway in Oregon and Washington.

Part of the reason I had rented the car was so that we could do this trip. When I looked at the map the road looked very intimidating and I expected it to be narrow. While it was winding and hilly, it would have been very doable in François. We have found driving in Sardinia to be very easy. The roads are generally wide in the country, the towns have pretty well marked and wide thoroughfares so you can get thru them easily. There is a freeway that runs north to south that is modern and makes long distance drives quick and easy, and it is not tolled. The main roads are not that busy and Sardinians are much more laid back than the rest of Italy. I would recommend Sardinia as a good place to get your feet wet on driving in Europe.

Bosas main bridge with the castle overlooking the town.

When we arrived in Bosa it immediately struck me as looking like a very small version of Porto in Portugal. The town started at the river and immediately began climbing the steep hills on either side of the river. It is a town that you are either walking up hill or down hill. Also, like Porto, the river used to be the main port for the town as it is only a mile or so in land from the ocean, and was safer in the past than the harbor by the coast.

A pretty stretch of street, the photo doesn’t capture how steep the road is.

Ton had a little debate with herself about whether we should climb up to the old castle on top of the town. She went back and forth with herself for about 5 minutes while I stayed out of the argument. She finally decided to go when she realized that the restaurant she wanted to eat in didn’t open for another hour.

Looking down on the city and out to sea from the castle above the town.

Ton had a restaurant in mind for the day, it had been threatening rain all morning and a cloud was approaching town so we headed down to the restaurant. We arrived just as they opened and were the first customers. Right after we sat the rain rolled in, but only lasted about 10 minutes. The meal was fantastic, we have not had a bad meal on Sardinia, but this one was the best. Ton had a hearty seafood soup with saffron that gave it a curry like look. I had a Sardinian Lasagna, made from local cheese and vegetables with a cream and pesto sauce. We paired it with a local white wine made from Vermintino grapes which are only grown here, Corsica and Provence in small numbers. The wine was superb, after the meal we went out and bought a couple more bottles of Vermintino from the region. Also, like Porto, Bosa has its own locally produced sweet wine. After the meal Ton tried a glass of Malvasia di Bosa, and while she is not a big sweet wine fan she liked this one quite a bit.

Vermintino was a new wine for us, we fell in love with it.

With lunch done we headed back to Alghero to stock up on some of favorite Italian staples in Lidl. I wanted some Red Orange juice which you can only get in Italy, and Ton wanted to add some more pasta to the pantry.

A fisherman bundling his nets in Bosa.

October 18, 2023 Olbia IT

We were very interested in visiting Olbia as it is in one of the five blue zones in the world. A blue zone is a region that has a very high concentration of people who have lived to 100 years with minimal amount of health problems. We had been in another blue zone without realizing it when we lived in Okinawa. We were surprised to learn that a third one was in Loma Linda California where a friend of ours lived when we were in California.

A cafe scene in Olbia, no 100 year olds in site.

When we pulled into Olbia, which is a pretty town we saw a large cruise ship. So despite our best efforts to find a centenarian the only old people we saw were Americans and Northern Europeans.

Another street scene, no centenarians, just a bunch of tourists like us.

We enjoyed walking around Olbia, but the crowd from the cruise ship put us off a little. Fortunately we quickly learned that if we ventured just off the main shopping street we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

Ton liked the humor of this Ferris wheel, the one black gondola on the all white wheel.

We stopped and had a coffee on the main street, but quickly decided that we were not going to learn why people from this area have such healthy lives and moved on.

We both liked the way the cloud appeared to be sitting on top of the mountain in the background.

Close to Olbia is the Coasta Smeralda which is one of the most high end vacation spots in the world. It was largely untouched until the 1950’s when Prince Aga Khan cruised by on his yacht and decided to develop it as an eco friendly resort.

Part of the shopping experience in Porto Cervo.

The center of the coast is Porto Cervo, so we headed there to check on the rich and famous. Besides having housing for 460 permanent residents it has hotel rooms that can handle thousands including one of the most expensive hotels in the world. So we expected a bustling place with lots of rich people doing whatever rich people do on a sunny October day in Sardinia.

Looking out at the harbor in Porto Cervo which is supposed to have berths for 700 luxury yachts.

When we arrived instead of finding the Clooneys and Obamas and their friends lounging about as we had been lead to believe, we found a very quiet place with a few other tourists and many decidedly bored looking shop keepers tending to empty Cartier, Rolex, and Gucci stores.

A very quiet shopping mall.

When we first arrived Ton took a quick look around and said it looks like Sedona on steroids. The buildings were all very stylish but felt contrived and sterile to us.

The small church in Porto Cervo.

Ton mentioned a church in town that people said felt like it was built by Gaudi. He is an architect that built the famous modernist Cathedral in Barcelona that we both enjoyed. So we headed up the hill to find it.

The front of the church in Porto Cervo.

It was a good climb and we were beginning to wonder if it was going to be worth it, when I spotted a short cut through the grounds of another high end hotel that saved us a lot of climbing and walking. We must have looked richer than we thought because no security descended on us when we cut through the hotel to the church.

Ton said these towers reminded her of Casper the friendly ghost.

When we reached the church I liked it. The lack of angles and the use of natural rocks as pillars were very Gaudi like and I thought it worked. As I was admiring it, Ton came by and said it looked like something Fred Flintstone would build. So I guess she was not as impressed.

Ton was not overwhelmed by the architecture at Porto Cervo, but she did like mother natures work there.

At the end of the day we didn’t find any 100 year olds in Olbia, or any rich and famous people in Porto Cervo, but we did enjoy ourselves. We also had a nice lobster spaghetti dish at a roadside diner in the mountains above Porto Cervo so we were a happy couple on our drive back to François for the night.

Ton loves all of the carousels you find in French towns, since Olbia is a departure point for Corsica we figured they put in the carousel to make the French feel at home when they arrive from Corsica.

October 17, 2023 Castelsardo IT

We have a pretty set morning routine, I get up first and make the coffee for the day. We have two travel mugs that I fill with coffee, in addition I make Ton a cafe aulait to help her get up and going. When I am done with the coffee I get dressed and go on a walk with my coffee. Ton uses the time I am gone to prepare for the day. As the days are getting shorter, my walk is beginning to be around sun up. This morning when I got up the sunrise was spectacular. So much so, that I told Ton she had to stick her head out of François and take a look. She was skeptical but with some encouragement came to the door, I got this one right as she immediately grabbed a jacket and came out to get some pictures.

The sky was really brilliant as it reflected off the broken clouds.
The campground is next to a salt water lagoon, so the reflection of the clouds on the lagoon added to the colors.

As we have gotten older we have begun to look for how to make things easy. In the spring on Crete for the first time we rented a car, rather than pack François up every day and set out for the day on mountain roads. Now we have a budget that we have set in both price and accessibility that makes sense for us, and when we get to a place we look at the options for renting. In this case we are located 15 minutes by city bus from the main airport, and because it is off season we could rent a car for less than €20 per day. By renting a car we can cover a wide area radiating from our campground, as the rental car is both faster, and more importantly much more agile than François. We can head without fear into the center of cities which cuts down our walking considerably and allows us to cover more ground per day. So over the next three days we will be covering northern Sardinia in our Lancia Ypsilon.

Our Lancia Ypsilon can negotiate this road without stress. Something we obviously cannot do in François.

Our first stop today was Castelsardo about 70 kilometers from where we are staying. It is a small town, but has been voted as one of the most beautiful in Italy. The name of the town is literally Sardinian Castle, as the town spread out from an old castle that occupied a major bluff jutting into the Mediterranean. It is a beautiful site for a town.

The problem with old castles on imposing head lands overlooking the ocean is the climb to get up to them. The climb from our parking near the port to the top of the castle was the equivalent of 80 floors according to my fitbit.

The climb from the parking area near the port to the castle overlooking the city was only about 650 meters. The problem was it is also about a 500 foot gain in altitude. The old town has long stretches of steps you follow to get to the top. So we got a good workout in climbing up.

Looking down from the top of the castle to our parking lot next to the park.

But when we got to the top it was worth the effort. The old town is small but we both felt like we stepped back in time. There were not too many people running about so we could stop and explore the churches and alleys without anyone at all crowding us. We often felt we had the place to ourselves.

Looking back at a walkway under some buildings. The sign near the arch said that this building reflected the Spanish influence on this area.

The local people we encountered were clearly trying to drum up some business for their shops/restaurants, but they did it in a charming way without any pressure. Even after we told them we had eaten or were not looking to buy anything they continued to chat with us about the significance of the town, and how their business reflected the culture of the local area. They seemed happy to help us understand the local history and not just looking at us as a source of revenue. At the end of our visit Ton paid Castelsardo the ultimate complement of saying it was as pretty as any of the cities in the Cinque Terre which is her favorite spot in Italy.

This lady spent about 10 minutes talking to Ton and I about the significance of the baskets as well as talking about the local food and what dishes we should try while we were here. Ton said her face looked stern but she was friendly and charming under the stern facade.

We also wanted to visit Sassari which is the second biggest town in Sardinia. We arrived during the afternoon break, so even though it is a big town we had the streets pretty much to ourselves. It was almost spooky walking down a major commercial street near the city center with all of the businesses closed up and very few people in sight.

These are the first gargoyles we have seen on this trip. Ton loves gargoyles.

We spent about an hour walking around the center of Sassari, but it was pretty quiet. I think Sassari is a town that will grow on you if you stay there for a few days, but it didn’t make much of an impression on us at first glance.

A statue to King Victor Emanuelle. He was the first king of the united Italy we know today.

October 16, 2023 Alghero IT

We were looking forward to our visit to Alghero. Our friends who had visited here really liked it, and the guide books raved about its mixture of Catalan and Italian culture. It is referred to as little Barcelona by some of the local inhabitants. Since we both enjoyed our visit to Barcelona immensely, and we love Italy we were thinking that we were in for a real treat.

The cathedral had a strong Catalan influence, including an altar made from silver from the new world, probably Mexico.

For the very first time on this trip we were faced with the prospect of rain. So instead of debating how many windows and vents to leave open to try to keep François cool, we buttoned everything up when we left for town.

While we were not rained on during our visit to town, it did rain in the campground while we were gone.

Alghero was conquered by the Catalans around 1340 and remained under their rule until 1700 when it was ceded to Spain. In the early 1800’s it was ceded to the House of Savoy in Italy and has been part of Italy since. It has retained its Catalan roots as 28% of the local population speaks a dialect of Catalan as well as Italian.

For me the streets felt more Italian than Catalan, not that that is bad.

It is a pretty town, but as much as I tried I couldn’t see the Spanish/Catalan influence. Ton said I was being too harsh, but that’s not what I mean, Alghero is a beautiful Mediterranean city, but I was expecting it to feel different than the many beautiful Mediterranean cities we have visited over the last two years and it didn’t, it felt Italian to me.

Looking out on the port and the new city from the ramparts of the old town.

Ton thought the city was really nice, and she took the lead in exploring it. She enjoyed window shopping and looking at the red coral jewelry that comes from this area. The town is very upscale with a lot of high end European brands lining the main street. It reminded me a bit of Taormina in Sicily which also had the same upscale feel to the shopping.

An example of the red coral jewelry from the area.

We walked around for a couple of hours, and while we saw a couple of Spanish restaurants, we ended up with a seafood pizza which was really good. We finished the day by walking the battlements of the fort covering the harbor. They had an interesting displays of the types of weapons that would have defended the walls from catapults to trebuchets to cannon. On a different day with a different set of expectations I think Alghero would have been a high light for me, but not today.

Old cannon on display from the wall of the fort.

We headed back a little early as we had to make some decisions about our next couple of weeks. As we get closer to November, more and more of the campgrounds are closing down so the logistics of moving around is getting a little more complicated. I spent the next few hours looking at our options for camping, ferry schedules, hotels, and rent a cars to try to plan our next 8 to 10 days. So our first decision was to rent a car from the airport and base out of our very expensive campground for the next four days to explore northern Sardinia. The second is that we are going to take a ferry Friday for Corsica because of limited ferry options that I did not anticipate. It turns out the ferry I had planned to take which runs on a frequent schedule does not take motorhomes and we are limited to a single ferry that runs every three days, so our time in Italy is going to come to an end very soon. Corsica is going to be complicated also, but I will save that for later.

These are recycled plastic water bottles and bleach bottles. Very well done.

October 15, 2023 Barumini IT

One of the most important cultural symbols of Sardinia are the Nuraghes. These are bullet shaped stone buildings built without mortar. There are many of them in Sardinia. Today we chose to visit one of the most prominent the Su Nuraxi di Barumini.

Ton standing at the base of Su Nuuraxi di Barumini.

It was a quick hop from Vilasimius to Barumini. The roads in Sardinia are generally excellent and not crowded. We are enjoying driving here. The only way to visit the site is with a guided tour, which worked out well as we bought our tickets and had time for lunch.

Part of the bronze age village outside the Nuraghi.

The site of the Nuraghe was excavated in the 1950’s. The Nuraghe itself was visible, but the village surrounding it had been covered over time. It is believed the Nuraghe was inhabited between 1300 and 600 BC when the Carthaginians conquered Sardinia. Some Nuraghe are believed to go back as long as 1900 BC.

Another section of the village that was uncovered in the 1950’s.

The main tower of the Nuraghe at Barumini was approximately 60 feet high. Nuraghe are built without mortar so a building of this height is quite an accomplishment. It is partially collapsed but still quite impressive.

Looking across the valley gives some idea why the Nuraghe was built in this location. The fort visible on the next hill is much newer, probably medieval.

After the initial tower was constructed 4 additional smaller towers were added to the site. The consensus is that the site was a fort, and the village which held approximately 1000 inhabitants was built after the fort.

Entering the interior of the Nuraghe.

The inner courtyard has entrance to all five towers and a well that still supplies water today. One of the towers appears to be for food storage, one tower is believed to be the main room for the local VIP, and the rest of the towers were for the garrison.

Looking up to the top of one of the Nuraghes. It is amazing that these rocks are held in place without any form of mortar, but by the weight of the surrounding rocks.

The site was very impressive. We took the English tour, though we were the only day to day English speakers in our group of about 20. The majority were German or Swiss German speakers, with a Dutch and Ukrainian couple.

Looking up from the inner courtyard to the top of the Nuraghe. Initially there was one more story on the top.

After we finished our tour of the Nuraghe it was only 2pm. Initially we planned to stay in a nearby village which has a parking lot where you can buy electricity 6 hours at a time. But as I said earlier the roads in Sardinia are very good and uncrowded so we decided to go ahead and drive the 200 kilometers to our next destination for the trip.

Sunset near our very expensive campground in Alghero.

Our initial plan was to use Alghero as our base to explore the north part of Sardinia. But when we checked in we choked on the price. This is the second most expensive campground we have ever stayed in in Europe. So we are rethinking our plans.

October 14, 2023 Villasimius IT

We had a very quiet night at our agritourismo in the hills above the coast. It even cooled down enough that for the first time on the trip we had to use our comforter. It is really weird but the weather is still very hot. During the days the temperatures are still getting up to the mid-80’s and there is very little wind. We haven’t had any real breeze in over a week. So by the evening the temperature in François is in the low 80’s which is just a little uncomfortable.

We decided to head down to the coast for the day.

The debate in the morning was whether to move down to the coast, or just drive down for the day and return to the agritourismo for the evening. We were inclined to the later, because the reported costs for the ocean front campgrounds were quite a bit more than our agritourismo. The problem was that there was no good place to park François that didn’t involve hiking a couple of kilometers to the waterfront. And as I mentioned it is hot, so we ultimately decided to bite the bullet and go to a big campground near the sea.

The beach near our campground. Remember Ton takes the pictures.

It was a short drive down to the coast, so we were at our new home within 30 minutes. Fortunately the cost, while high was not quite as outrageous as we had feared. After checking in and getting François set up we decided to take a short hike out to a fort nearby.

An old fort nearby. The climb up the bluff from the beach was a little steeper and technical than I thought, but we made it.

We decided to walk over to an old fort. It was a fairly short walk with a couple of climbs. But by the time we got there I had worked up a good sweat and even Ton was wiping away some sweat.

The water along the beach was incredibly clear. Sardinia is a beach lovers dream.

We looked around for a bit, but by now it was the heat of the day, so we decided to head back to François for a rest. We both settled in for the afternoon and dodged the heat by having a nap, at least I did.

The marina next to the campground.

After dinner we decided to head down to the beach for sunset. Ton saw a road heading in a little different direction than we had taken this afternoon and suggested we see where it led us. It led us to a really beautiful and long beach which was perfect for watching the sunset.

Spiaggia di Campulongu.

Ton was in her element as the combination of the sea, the sunset, and about 40 sailboats offshore gave her a lot of directions to point her camera. While she took off snapping pictures I settled down on the rock and enjoyed people watching and watching the sailboats as they all made for the marina we had walked by this afternoon.

Looking back towards the marina. Clear water and a beautiful woman. A beach bums dream.

Ton finally settled down for a few minutes to relax and sip on her wine. But as the sun approached the horizon she was back in photography mode.

The sun approaching the horizon.

In the end the sunset was gloriously red and vibrant. All of the boats trying to get into port added to the beauty.

This boat is advertising the local Sardinian beer.

After sunset we headed back to François for the night. Though I am going to be tempted to head over to the bar a little later to see if the USA v Germany soccer game is on.

Ton loved the bright orange/red sky.

October 13, 2023 Castiadas IT

Today was a lot of driving. We left Ogosoro about 9:30 and drove back to Cagliari to pick up François. We double checked the three minor repairs we had done to him, and then were quickly back on the road again.

We enjoyed our three day stay in Orgosolo.

Initially we planned to head to a posh seaside campsite, but luckily when I looked at the reviews I saw on the latest review that they got the last site and the place was fully booked until October 15. I reached out to them and they did confirm that there was no room in the inn. I was now a little worried as we usually do not bother booking campsites in October. So I contacted an Agritourismo near the coast, but a little inland. They got back to me quickly and said they could accommodate us.

One of the crops at the agritourismo. Ton was very sad that all of the peppers were too far gone to pick. We did get some nice tomatoes.

We arrived early and were the only camper on site. The place looked new so we had a nice relaxing afternoon. Later in the day we went out into the fields and had a look around. They had tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. They were all a little past their prime, but the tomatoes still looked eatable. We asked if we could pick some and they said of course, they are just rotting anyway.

Mirto an aromatic plant important to Sardinian cuisine. It also makes a mighty fine liquore.

Ton had been reading up on mirto today while I was driving. We had tasted some mirto liquore on our first stop and liked it. It is an aromatic plant that the Sardinians use for seasoning, tea, and of course to produce liquore. Ton often reads me articles about interesting facets of a regions culture or cuisine when I am driving. So we were both thrilled to find the plant in the fields next to our stop tonight.

October 12, 2023 Orgosolo IT

When we went down to breakfast Peppina the host at our B&B asked what our plans were for the day, we both looked at each other, then looked at her and shrugged. She liked that, she said she liked guests who knew how to relax.

Cliffs leading down to the waters edge at Cala Gonone.

We went back up to the room and decided to take another drive thru the countryside to a beach town called Cala Gonone. It was about 10 kilometers past yesterdays destination of Dorgali and about 40 kilometers from Orgosolo. We largely retraced our drive from yesterday, but we enjoyed the drive yesterday, and we enjoyed it again today. We stopped to take a look at the entrance to the Gola Su Grouppu which is a 1300 foot deep gorge and is quite beautiful.

The Flumineddu River entering the Gola Su Gorroppu. One of the deepest gorges in Europe.

As we were going around Dorgali we came to a hilltop view point that had great views back to the valley we had just driven thru. Ton asked me to stop because she wanted to get some pictures. It was a spectacular view, in a place with spectacular views.

Dorgali in the forefront and the Punta Corrasi in the background one of the highest mountains in Sardinia.

The drop from Dorgali to the coast at Cala Gonone was steep and curvy, and much more fun in the Panda, though we passed several motorhomes coming up the hill from the town. There are two campgrounds in town and they both looked pretty busy.

We contemplated doing a 2 hour cruise on this boat but finally decided to pass. Ton loves the Sardinian flag on the front of the boat.

We walked along the beachfront of Cala Gonone for an hour or so taking in the sites. It is a picturesque coast line, but it would have required signing up for a day cruise to really see it, and neither of us were interested in spending several hours on a boat. Ultimately we decided to head back to Orgosolo for lunch and a siesta.

These flowers were next to the beach in Cala Gonone.

We are starting to adapt to the Italian meal schedule, which is a lightish breakfast, a huge lunch, and a late/light dinner. After siesta we decided to walk to the grocery near the B&B to get some salami to go with the cheese we had bought a couple of days ago for our dinner.

Ton decided that this is the prettiest bank and ATM she has seen.

For a small town the amount of traffic passing thru town at 7 pm is really impressive. The rest of the day traffic is pretty light, but at 7pm rush hour kicks in. Since pedestrians and cars share the road the volume of traffic affects the speed you walk at. We have been trying to figure out where all of the cars are coming from and where they are going as we are basically on a mountain top 20 kilometers from the next town. The population of the town is only around 4000, but at 7 pm a large number of them are driving around.

Ton is calling this one bird on a wire.

At the grocery Ton decided to stock up on salami from this area as it is quite delicious. We picked out 2 that looked good to us and ordered 100 grams of each one. Ton wanted one more so I asked the girl slicing the salami to recommend one more, she pointed to the one she had just finished cutting for us and said this is the best so we ordered 100 more grams of that one.

Another one of the street murals in Orgosolo.

Walking back Ton found several more murals she really liked and kept stopping to take more pictures when she wasn’t dodging rush hour traffic. We have enjoyed our stay in Orgosolo.

There are a couple of murals of sheep shearing. I’m pretty sure she wandered into someones courtyard to get a picture of this one.
Ton can’t make up her mind if the sheep is smiling or frowning in this mural.

October 11, 2023 Ogosoro IT

Today we explored the mountain valley around Ogosoro. We didn’t have a set plan except to visit the local costume museum in the regional capitol of Nuoro.

A photo showing an example of the regional dress for this area. Surprisingly a lot of the photos in the museum of Sardinian dress date from the early 1960’s, though I am not sure about this one.

We arrived at the museum and the ticket seller asked if I was over 65 I said yes and she nodded, she then pointed at Ton and asked if she was over 65, I said yes, and in a skeptical tone, she asked again over 65?, I said yes again, she then asked a third time and I said yes and told her Tons age. She then gave us both the senior rate. I don’t know if I should be insulted, but Ton was also annoyed instead of flattered not because the lady did not believe she was a senior, but because I told the ticket taker her age.

Each village in this region has its own variation of dress.

The museum had a nice explanation of the local history here in the most sparsely settled part of Sardinia. While Sardinia has had many rulers over its history, many of the rulers didn’t make much of an effort to assert much control over this region due to its inaccessibility and small population. So the people of this region are known for their strong sense of independence to this day.

This painting of a shepherd in the mountains seemed to sum up the independent spirit of the people in this area.

The museum was very well done, and the exhibits were fun, but it was small and we were thru it pretty quickly. We had driven thru a lot of the city to get here, and while Nuoro was the center of government for the area and the largest city we did not see anything else that we were particularly interested in, so we decided to move on.

This sculpture is a work of an artist from Dorgali named Salvatore Francello. Neither of us had heard of him, but he was important enough to have an entire museum dedicated to his work.

We headed to Dorgali because it is the one of the centers for Cannonau wine which is the dominant grape on Sardinia. There is some debate about whether the grape is native to Sardinia or was brought here when the Aragonese from Spain controlled the island, it is very similar to the Grenache in Aragon. Prior to our wine search we had another very good lunch in Dorgali which maintains Sardinias 100% record for good meals.

Our target for the afternoon. The mountains in the background are the tallest in Sardinia.

After lunch we set out for a winery Ton had found on line. When we arrived at the winery after a lovely drive through the Sardinian countryside we missed the turn into the tasting area, and came across a worker cleaning winery equipment. He flagged us down pointed us in the right direction, and then met us at the door to pour us wine.

These two cute kittens, and an old dog met us at the entrance to the winery, and provided entertainment while we were there.

The wine was excellent, and thanks to google translate we were able to enjoy conversing with the owner. We have been using a lot of google translate on this trip, particularly in Sardinia. The hostess of the bed and breakfast doesn’t speak English or German, so this morning at breakfast some German guests and us enjoyed speaking to her, but it was done using Google.

The logo of Mastro De ‘Inu Winery. Ton really likes the logo.

By the time we finished our tasting it was time to head back to Ogosoro. Today I really enjoyed driving around in the mountain valleys in our little Panda. The traffic was very light, the countryside with the wide valley framed by high mountains was beautiful, and the roads were very good.

Our Fiat Panda, she is not fast or sexy, but will fit into very tight parking spaces and squeeze down very narrow roads without too much stress.

We returned for another roof top dining experience. I went down to the local market, and managed to order 100 grams of salami in Italian, though my bluff was called when the lady behind the counter hit me with a blast of Italian which required googles intervention to sort out. It turns out she was asking if I wanted a bag to put the meat in.

We ate a little earlier today, so tonights view is at dusk.

October 10, Orgosolo IT

Tonight we are staying in a bed and breakfast in Orgosolo. We picked Orgosolo because our friends Ovi and Cory recommended it for visiting central Sardinia.

Looking down on the valley from the center of Orgosolo.

The drive over was much quicker than I expected as all but the last 20 kilometers was on a good freeway. The last 20 kilometers were on narrow mountain roads where I appreciated being in our little Fiat car, instead of our big Fiat camper. The roads in the town were really narrow, but I was able to zip around relatively easily in the Panda, which is the basic economy car of Italy.

You never know what you will be sharing the road with in Italy.

Orgosoro is high in the mountains of Sardinia and is historically famous for being an area that is difficult to rule. There are many tales of rebellions, vendettas, feud’s, and just plain old thievery. One of the recent tales of a Robin Hood character was a guy from the 1930’s who stole from the rich and took care of the poor sometime. He was eventually caught and sentenced to prison for murder. After his release he returned to Orgosolo and retired from stealing and began to work as a tour guide. They even made a movie about his life.

This region is famous for its sheep cheese so we visited a manufacturer in town.

The other thing that Orgosolo is famous for is murals. In the 1970’s an art teacher moved here from Northern Italy. He got the idea of having his students paint murals on the buildings in the center of the town to help re-vitalize the city.

One of the many murals in Orgosolo.

He started them off by painting a mural in support of the local shepherds who were trying to prevent the Italian army from opening a military training area in the mountains around town. He taught that all murals must include art and words. So most of the murals have political or social themes integrated into them.

This is another famous character from the region, unfortunately we don’t understand the writing that goes with the mural.

There are hundreds of murals throughout the town, done in different styles from primitive, to cubist, to highly realistic. It was fun to walk up and down the streets taking in all of the different murals.

One of Tons favorites a very realistic portrait of a local man.

This region has long been a stronghold of communism, the founder of the Italian Communist party was born here, and the teacher who began the mural project was a communist. So a lot of the murals reflect that history.

A street of murals.

Tons favorite murals were a series of paintings of more portly ladies on a side street. In this case there were no words to go with the pictures, just the ladies.

Part of a series of about 8 murals of ladies working in the village.

After walking for a while we were ready for a lunch and saw an interesting restaurant. We walked into the courtyard and there was a bell hanging there that said in Italian and English to ring the bell for service. We rang the bell and a young man stuck his head out of a third floor window and asked how many. I told him two and he said come on up. The restaurant was beautiful and the food was really excellent and interesting. So far Sardinia is 100% on good meals.

An anti war, or anti military mural. But it is cute.

We settled into the bed and breakfast for the evening. We decided to eat in tonight so we went to the local grocery store and picked up some ham, cheese and cheap wine and ate it from the roof of the B&B with a French couple from Brittany.

The view from our rooftop meal.

October 9, 2023 Cagliari IT

Tonight we are set up in the parking area of the RV dealer in Cagliari. We had a couple of minor issues that have cropped up on François and the on line reviews of Dott Camper were very good, and they offered both rental cars and storage so it was the perfect fit for our plans.

Ton likes the Sardinia flag. This one is from the port area where we parked our rental car.

The spine of Sardinia is very mountainous, so we made the decision to rent a car for a few days while we explored the mountains as it will be a lot easier in a small car, than in François. We are going to use a B&B in the mountains on our trip as a base and to get our mid- trip hotel break in. So being able to rent the car where we will store François killed 2 birds with one stone.

Looking out at downtown Cagliari from the castle.

We have two minor issues with François, one was an annoyance rather than a problem, and the other one could become a problem if not fixed pretty quickly. When I showed the technician the problem he looked at it for a few minutes and then went to get the manager (who turned out to be the technicians father), they had a discussion in Italian for a couple of minutes, before the father looked at me and said in English we can fix it, and then took the offending part off and to the shop. About 20 minutes later the technician came back out and showed me their solution. It was simple and ingenious and solved the problem. The annoyance which is part of the bed frame they said also was no problem, but since we were leaving François with them they would wait until we were gone to work on it.

The shopping arcade near the waterfront. These arcade style buildings are very common in Spain. Since Sardinia was under Spanish rule for a couple of hundred years we guessed that influenced this style. We have not seen it in Italy before.

While the technician was working on François I went inside to have the office manager (the managers mother) fill out the rental car contract. She was a charming lady with limited English but was curious about our travels in Europe. When we went out to look at the car it had a couple of minor paint chips that I pointed out. She told me to take a video of them and send them to her. I couldn’t get a good internet connection so after several attempts to send her the video she looked at me and said I saw it, you saw it we are ok. I agreed and we moved on. Later the technicians grandfather came by and did a quality check of the grandsons work on the window frame. It is a real family business. Ton was so impressed that she kept asking me is there anything else we need to get fixed? But I couldn’t come up with anything.

The traffic in Cagliari was lighter and less aggressive than Palermo.

Once we had the rental car we headed into town to take a look around. We ended up parking in a lot right next to the ferry dock we landed at last night. The climb up to the cathedral was quite steep, but when we got to the top we were rewarded with some nice views.

Is there a point when graffiti becomes art?

The cathedral was integrated into the old castle for the town. We visited a very spacious redoubt that had a good field of fire back towards the port area. (Sorry, the old infantryman comes out sometime.) In the past I imagine there would have been many cannons on the platform, but today it was full of tourists.

Looking down on one of the old city gates from the redoubt of the castle.

We didn’t spend too much time at the cathedral, but the architecture was very different than Sicily. It was less ornate, I mentioned earlier that the Rococo style didn’t appeal to me as it seemed too busy. So when faced with older more traditional architecture I was thinking where are all of the waves and intricate stone work. So maybe experiencing Rococo in person in Sicily gave me a better appreciation for it.

The facade of the Cagliari Cathedral. Much less ornate than in Sicily.

The building was still impressive, and Ton really liked the artwork above the three entrance doors to the Cathedral. We didn’t enter because there was a big tour group at the entrance.

The artwork above the main entrance door to the Cathedral.

We hadn’t had a proper meal in a couple of days so we had our first Sardinian meal. We had a charcuterie plate as an appetizer that came with three meats and three cheeses and would have made a meal in itself. For our main course we had two types of stew typical of Sardinia. The food here appears to be heartier than in Sicily. This is sheep country as Ton informed me that there are two sheep on the island for every person. It’s not quite up to New Zealand for sheep to people ratio, but it is still pretty good.

Our charcuterie plate. Three types of sheep cheese, and three types of pork.

At the end of the meal the waiter asked if we wanted some limoncello or mirto on the house. Ton perked up and said mirto please. It is a flower based liqueur unique to Sardinia and Corsica. The drink is made from the berries of the myrtle plant. It was very interesting and different than anything I have had before because it berry based instead of fruit based. It was a nice introduction to Sardinia.

October 8, 2023 Cagliari IT

We have changed islands and are now in Sardinia. We had an early ferry departure and for the first time on this trip set an alarm. But because we live an alarm free life, we both tossed and turned all night afraid we would miss it. I ended up waking up at 5:30 and Ton a few minutes later so we went ahead and packed up François and headed out for the Ferry terminal.

The center of Palermo from the ferry. Garmin needs to review their maps for driving here.

Driving in an Italian city at 6:30 am on a Sunday is a little surreal. The usually full and chaotic streets are empty. This came in handy as Greta was having a particularly bad day. The map set for the center of Palermo is in need of an update, because she kept trying to send us down dead end streets, and twice when I turned on main 2 way traffic avenues, instead of following her down an ally, she shouted at me that I was going the wrong way on a one way street. Fortunately having the streets to ourselves I was able to stop and sort it out. Just as I was about to fire her and break out google maps Ton saw a sign for the port and we just followed the signs the old fashioned way to the ferry.

François parked in our RV line waiting to board. How boring.

The Italians board ferries in a very boring manner. You are funneled into an entrance way where someone looks at your ticket and directs you into a line of vehicles where you wait until someone from the crew tells you to drive on board. Not nearly as entertaining as the Greeks, but much more efficient.

An on time departure from the ferry port.

Our ferry departed pretty much on time at 9 am and arrived pretty much on time at 9 pm. The only issue was for some reason one of the crew knocked on the door at 7 pm and told us we had 10 minutes to leave the room. We hastily packed thinking we were arriving early, but no, we just sat in the lounge with the rest of the guests and watched the local soccer team Cagliari lose to Rome.

Tonight is our first wild camping night of the trip, as we are parked up in a dirt lot across from a RV dealer/Sosta where we are going to have some minor repairs done to François and use as our base for exploring central Sardinia.

October 7, 2023 Palermo IT

We were off early to try to get ahead of the Saturday crowds in the center. Ton really liked Palermo yesterday, so she spent some time researching the town. After her research she told me that she wanted to go back to the cathedral and look for the meridian line on the floor. The meridian line is placed on the floor of the cathedral so that at exactly solar noon the light from a window in the cathedral is directly on the line. Solar noon is when the sun passes a locations meridian and is at its highest point in the sky for that day. Palermo has the last functioning meridian line in Europe. When we arrived at the cathedral Ton sent me off to find the line while she shot some more photos. I found it faster than I thought as I had no idea where to look and it is a big cathedral. Fortunately based on Tons description when I saw it I knew I had found it. The line runs at an angle across the floor and there are signs of the zodiac imbedded in it. Our quest for the day completed we could move on to the markets as we had originally planned.

Part of the meridian line across the floor of the Palermo Cathedral.

When we were leaving the cathedral Ton stopped because she wanted to get a shot of one of the walls of the cathedral. Yesterday we showed the entrance to the cathedral which is done in a Rococo style. But what had caught Tons eye the day before was that the wall next to the entrance was done in a very Islamic style. She wanted to get a shot because it was a good example of the blending of cultures that is part of Sicily.

This wall leading from the entrance of the Palermo Cathedral done in an Islamic style. The Cathedral blends multiple styles of architecture in a very beautiful way.

Our next stop was the Mercato del Capo which is the fish market for the town. It is an open air market that extends for about 300 yards along one of the streets in town. We always enjoy walking thru these to see the different fish and how they are displayed. The markets are always lively places and we enjoy the vibe.

Approaching the fish market in Palermo. Sicily has always been a cross roads of cultures.

We enjoyed the fish market, but didn’t buy anything there. The route into the fish market is busy, and other vendors have set up business there. There was about a 50 yard stretch with tablecloths and other linen goods. We did walk away from there with a nice table cloth.

The table cloth market.

It was a little early for lunch so Ton asked me what we should do. I told her we had not been to the waterfront yet, she looked surprised because in her research of things to do in Palermo, going to the waterfront was not in there, but we decided to head that way. We later learned that the reason no one mentions the waterfront is that it is not interesting at all. But walking down there we made two interesting discoveries.

The road down to the blah waterfront in Palermo.

The first thing we came across was a puppet theater. It was tucked into an ally that was our route to the ocean. As we were looking at the posters and peering into the theater itself a gentleman came out and was kind enough to spend about 5 minutes explaining the art to us.

Some of the puppets and props for the puppet theater.

A little further down we came upon a small square with a church fronting it. Ton was shooting the exterior when I ran up the stairs to take a look in the interior. I immediately waved her up as it was one of the prettier churches we have seen in a while. The interior marble was dark, but the color made a great contrast to the floors. The art work was also very beautiful. It was a real find and we enjoyed poking around inside while they were setting up for a wedding later in the day.

The interior of St. Ignacio’s church. A great example of Sicilian Rococo.

We made it down to the water, took a quick look, found out why no one talks about it, and decided it was lunch time. So we were back up the hill to another outdoor market to the restaurant Ton had picked out for the day. We wanted to taste a dish called Pasta Con le Sarde. They have a saying in Thai that you judge a good restaurant by its Pad Thai because it is a simple dish using basic ingredients that is a staple of the country. Some Sicilians say the same about Pasta Con le Sarde. The dish is supposed to combine elements of Arab, Spanish, and Italian food in a way that is unique to Sicily. When we sat down the waiter was a little gruff but when we told him we wanted Pasta Con le Sarde he smiled and said that was a good choice, and would we like him to pick out the rest of the meal to go with that. We took him up on his offer. In addition to the Pasta con le Sarde we received another pasta with Tuna and a mixed plate of calamari, prawns, and octopus. The Pasta Con le Sarde was a big hit with both of us as the sauce was delicious and very different than the tomato based sauces we associate with Italian food. The other dishes were also very good, and we walked out of the restaurant stuffed but very happy.

Pasta Con la Sarde. I messed up Tons shot by grabbing a bite before she took her picture so the presentation is not up to standard, but the dish is wonderful.

We headed up the street to another food market that we had walked thru yesterday. But after our meal I did more people watching than food watching. Ton on the other hand was fascinated with the different food on display and kept stopping to get a closer look.

Some of the food on display in one of the cafeterias.

Fortunately we had a long walk back to François as we had some calories to burn off. We spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in a very hot François. Thought it is October it is still very warm out.

Ton loved the mosaics from this chapel in St. Ignacio’s church.

October 6, 2023 Palermo IT

We made a quick jump along the coast to Palermo. The drive was short, and I was nervous as always when I have to drive in big cities, one missed or wrong turn can lead quickly to some very tense situations. Fortunately this time Greta picked a good route and I did not screw it up. So we arrived in our campground/parking lot for the night with no adventure.

This mountain suddenly loomed up as we came around a turn driving to Palermo. Sicily is a rugged island with lots of mountains running down to the sea.

We settled into our Sosta for the day, got a tour of the facilities and hooked up the electricity. After our beautiful seaside campground yesterday with beach bar, big pool, and a great view of the Mediterranean, today we are parked about 3 feet from two other RV’s in a parking lot surrounded by apartments. But the location is fantastic for exploring Palermo and the services are clean and the internet is fast so we are content.

This gate into the old city in Palermo is about a 10 minute walk from our parking spot for the night.

Palermo had definitely gotten mixed reviews. Somewhat like Naples people either tend to love it or hate it. After our first day we are definitely in the love it category.

Scenes like this captured our hearts for Palermo.

Palermo is the capital of Sicily and its largest city so we decided to give it two days. It won’t be enough. Our plan today was to take in all of the tourist sites, and tomorrow to take in the markets.

The entrance to the Cathedral.

When we first arrive in a city we tend to start at the Cathedral as they are usually the center of the attractions. Ton gave me a list of things to look at including the cathedral, some churches, a couple of fountains and squares. We covered them all today and they were uniformly beautiful and a little different. Sicily has a real mix of influences including Spain, France, Roman, Greek, Moslem, and of course Italian. Because of that the architecture is different than anywhere else we have visited.

Ton was really taken with this church. While it was built as a Catholic Church the Islamic influences on the design are obvious.

The architecture is lively here with the Rococo influence and the intertwining of the various cultures. While the themes are very similar to those we have seen throughout Europe, in Sicily and particularly Palermo they are done with a flair that we both enjoy.

Part of a fountain with more than a dozen statues of gods from antiquity.

Ton had two foods she wanted to try today. Sicily has a dish called Arancini which is fried dough stuffed with rice and a filling made of cheese, meat or vegetable. They are usually served as appetizers and are bite size, but in Palermo they are meal sized, that was number 1 on her list. The second thing was a desert called Cassata Torte Setteveli which is made from marzipan. As we were walking down the main street in the old town she saw a bakery that served both and had two chairs and before I realized what happened we sat down and had ordered.

The Arancini are in front of me, the Cassata is next to the coffee. The chocolate cake was me not being able to resist the waitress upselling me.

Later in the day Ton saw a sign for one of the three markets in Palermo and decided we should take a quick look before tomorrow. When we arrived she was in heaven. The market really reminded her of Thailand. In Sicily they have a restaurant style called cafeteria where they lay all of the food they have prepared for the day on a big table and you point at what you want. They then take it into the kitchen and prepare it for you. She was in heaven just looking at what was available and thinking about what we were going to be able to eat tomorrow. We passed some nice Arancini on display and ended up buying two more for supper.

A “cafeteria” in the market in Palermo.

Our last stop for the day was the theater. We covered a lot of ground on foot today, and the town was teeming with people so at times it was difficult to move. But Palermo has won us over, and Ton can’t wait to head into the market for our lunch tomorrow.

Ton will be dreaming about this tonight.

October 5, 2023 Cefalu IT

We spent today wandering thru the beautiful sea side town of Cefalu. The first thing we noticed is that the tourists in this town were significantly younger than in any other town we visited. While there were plenty of seniors and cruise ship tours, we were slightly outnumbered by 20 and 30 somethings from all over the world. The beach fronting the town is beautiful and that may explain the attraction for the younger set. Anyway it gave the town a more lively vibe and we enjoyed it.

One of the many pretty streets in Cefalu. This cat sauntered into Tons picture and posed until she was done.

The old town is pretty small, as these old towns tend to be. While there was a lot of space given over to restaurants and tourist stores, a great deal of the homes were still occupied by people. We enjoyed this aspect of the town as well, as it made the streets more lively.

100 years ago there was a guy with a donkey and a cart going thru the streets delivering vegetables. Today the donkey and the cart have been replaced with an Ape.

We saw the vegetable guy going thru town delivering food, the fish guy pushing his cart and singing to let people know he was coming, and a guy going around delivering gas canisters to homes on a scooter.

This guy had a unique call to let people know he was going thru the streets with fresh fish for sale.

Another interesting place that we have not seen anywhere else is the laundry for the old town. There was a designated place to wash clothes near the ocean. It was built to purpose and there were different stations in it for particular actions. There was a fast running stream, and several pools, and workspaces with shaped stones. We could not quite figure out what they were but we were fascinated. The exit for the water from the laundry went straight into the sea to get rid of the dirty water.

The old city laundry.

We spent a couple of hours just walking up and down the streets enjoying people watching. We were getting hungry and Ton had picked out a couple of places she wanted to try. The first was a bakery and when we got there, there was a handwritten sign on the door in Italian and English saying they were on vacation until October 15. The other was a restaurant and they must have went on vacation also, but that is only conjecture because there was no sign, it just wasn’t open.

Taking a short cut between two streets. We wouldn’t have noticed this ally if a lady hadn’t popped out of it right in front of us.

We found an alternative place for lunch and it was ok. We have become spoiled with the food here in Sicily and our expectations when we eat out are quite high.

Another beautiful street scene in Cefalu.

We wound up our day trying a couple of the local wines out. After finishing our wine we headed over to the bus stop to take the bus back to the camp, and when 3 pm came the bus rolled up, we all boarded and we arrived at the campground 20 minutes later right on time. Our first uneventful bus ride on this trip.

The best way to get around these narrow streets.

October 4, 2023 Cefalu IT

Today we left Catania and shifted across the island to Cefalu. We were not in a hurry to get going as we wanted to let the rush hour traffic die down in Catania before setting out. Our plan worked as the traffic was much less than we had faced in the previous two days. I also now knew the route out of the city so I did not have to pay attention to Greta to make all of the correct turns.

A mountain village from the freeway.

We had about 180 kilometers to cover today to shift from one side of the island to the other. A lot of the drive was over the mountainous spine of Sicily so I didn’t know how fast it was going to be. It turned out to be a piece of cake as it was all on a good freeway. So we ended up covering the distance in slightly less than 3 hours which is flying for us.

Driving thru the mountainous spine of Sicily.

When we pulled onto the side road for the campground we came face to face with two competing campground entrances. We were amused because as we came down the ramp each campground had a person at their entrance vigorously waving for us to pick their campground. We picked the one I had plugged into Greta, but I told Ton that it must be pretty quiet here today.

Looking down the coast towards Cefalu from the campground.

It turns out the campground was pretty full. The interesting thing for the first time on this trip there are a lot of children in the campground. Everywhere we have stayed up to now has been mostly retirees with a couple of 20 somethings working remotely. Ton was concerned because she wondered why these kids weren’t in school. Then she decided they must be being home schooled.

The beach at the campground just before sunset.

Today we relaxed, Ton cooked two nice meals, and for the first time on this trip we had rice instead of pasta so Ton was very happy and full at the end of the day.

Ton liked these dried flowers with the tall cactus.

October 2, Val di Noto IT

Today we tried to take in the Val di Noto which is in the southeast corner of Sicily. There are several good sized towns in the Val di Noto, and it would probably take three days to explore them all and it would be worth it. Unfortunately, we only had today so we had to limit ourselves to three of them, and we were definitely on the run to get that done.

The cathedral in Noto which is very similar in size to the cathedral in Modica at the top. Artistically we preferred Modica.

Our first stop was Noto which is the city the valley is named after. We arrived fairly early, and parked down the hill from the old town. The walk up the hill from the modern town to the old town was good exercise to get us ready for the day. We came into the old town right at the cathedral. The cathedral was originally built in the 1700’s in the Sicilian Rococo style. The dome to the cathedral collapsed in 1996 causing extensive damage. It has been rebuilt now and it was hard for me to tell what was rebuilt and what was part of the original structure, so kudos to the restoration team.

The interior of the dome that collapsed. I’m not sure if the art is a reconstruction of the original, or a modern interpretation of Catholic art.

The main street in the old town is quite monumental with very large and interesting buildings stretching for maybe 500 meters. The town has been used in the past for movies, and the posters of the movies filmed in Noto were featured as street art. The buildings lining the street are also done in Sicilian Rococo which is why Noto is a world heritage site.

Ton really liked this movie when she saw it many years ago. She didn’t know until today where it was filmed.

We would have liked to have given Noto some more time, but we were feeling under time pressure. So after about an hour of walking the main street we decided to push on to our next destination.

The main government building in Noto. The first floor was built by an architect named Sinatra in the 1700’s. The top floor was added in the 1950’s.

Our next spot was Marzamemi which we had selected because we wanted to experience fine dining. We usually go for street food or moderate priced restaurants, but today we decided to go upscale. We picked a place that was Michelin rated that had been owned by a niece of the last queen of Italy. It was our first experience with a Michelin rated restaurant.

The front of the restaurant we had lunch in today.

Marzamemi is famous for its tuna, so I leaned heavily towards tuna. Our appetizer was seasoned raw tuna and it was quite good. I went with a tuna and artichoke pasta dish, and Ton had a mixed fish of the day. The service and presentation of the food was very good, and the ingredients were all fresh and first class. Overall we enjoyed our special meal, and though it was more than we usually spend, it was in line with what we would spend at home for a restaurant meal.

Street scene from Marzamemi.

We now had to run from the coast up into the hills of the Val di Noto for our last stop of the day in Modica. Ton was really looking to visiting Modica after she read about the chocolate from the city. Her way of selling Modica to me was by telling me a story from WWII where an American pilot who parachuted from his damaged plane was hanging from a tree after he got snagged in it coming down. A local girl from Modica saw him and he offered her a Hershey bar if she helped him. She left with the Hershey bar, but instead of returning with help, she returned with a bar of Modica chocolate for him, because it was so superior to the Hershey bar.

Giant clock built on a castle in Modica. The building on the left also had a clock built on it. Ton said that the people here must have been very punctual in the past.

The climb up to the old town was again pretty steep, but since we had just finished a big lunch, we had plenty of energy to pull it off. The town was quite striking with houses perched on steep hills all around the old town. It reminded me of Porto in Portugal which also had a section of town built on extremely steep hills.

Some of the homes climbing the hill above the cathedral. The picture does not do justice to the steepness of the hill they are built on.

We stopped in one of the chocolate stores. Ton bought a chocolate granita that was delicious, and I had a lemon granita which was also quite good. A granita is a kind of like a slushee but nicer, made of ice, sugar, and a flavor such as chocolate, lemon, coffee, …you get the picture. Ton read that it is sometimes served for breakfast in Sicily.

This guy was weaving baskets in Noto. I liked the hat but I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off.

In the end we bought about 15 chocolate bars as gifts for our friends at home. We will see how many of them actually make it back to Oregon.

Our Lancia Ypsilon we rented. Not as powerful as François, but much more nimble. We had never noticed this car before, but today now that we have rented one we saw them everywhere.

It was getting near dark and we had about 120 kilometers to cover to get back to the campground. We were doing pretty good until we got near Catania and ran head long into the evening rush hour. It turns out rush hour is later in Italy, we assume because of the siesta, it was going full tilt at 7pm. The last 20 kilometers were bumper to bumper cars, with every traffic circle being an absolute free for all. But we made it back unscathed, but tired.

Mt. Etna from the freeway, right before we hit rush hour traffic and came to a complete stop. It looks like it is venting gas from the left side.

October 1, 2023 Siracusa IT

We are still parked up in Catania, and we made a decision to use Catania as a base to explore this part of Sicily. To make the process easier for me we decided to rent a car, because to see the places we wanted to see it was going to be a lot of city driving, and while François is small as motorhomes/rv’s go it is not a city car and finding places to park can be stressful. Yesterday we arranged for a rental car for the next three days, and promptly at 9am our Lancia showed up. It is the perfect size to drive in Italian cities and find places to park.

The entrance to Isola di Ortiga, a small island that is part of Siracusa.

Today we visited the Isola di Ortiga which is the historical center of Siracusa, or Syracuse as it is known in the English speaking world. We started here because Siracusa is a substantial city and I thought we would avoid a lot of the week day traffic if we went on a Sunday. I was mostly right but we were glad we were driving our tiny Lancia and not François as we approached the city center as I forgot to account for the fact that a lot of the local families would take advantage of the perfect weather to go downtown and have a nice meal so the traffic was still substantial.

A really nice pedestrian street on Ortiga.

When we arrived we were startled by how busy it was. There were multiple tour groups being guided thru town, and there was a small cruise ship docked, as well as the local people who were enjoying a good Sunday meal and day out. In a few places it was difficult to walk, but as the day went on the crowds thinned out and we enjoyed ourselves more.

The Cathedral in Ortiga. It is another nice example of Baroque architecture.

Most of the buildings in this region were built in the early 1700’s after a large earthquake caused massive damage thru out Sicily. At the time Sicily was ruled by the Spanish, so the style is different than that found on the mainland because of the Spanish influence.

Ton really liked the planter on the right of the photo made of old PVC pipes.

We spent a great deal of the late morning and early afternoon aimlessly wandering thru town. But our walk was not aimless, we were really looking for the perfect restaurant. After much searching we settled on a sea food place near the cathedral and got one of the last tables. Right after we sat down people suddenly descended on the place and within 20 minutes of our arrival there was a substantial number of people waiting for a table, so our choice was vindicated.

One of the restaurants we considered during our search, but ultimately passed on.

The staff seemed a little overwhelmed by the sudden surge in customers and we had a difficult time getting our order put in. The guy who seated us came by and I started to give him our order, but he told me that he did not take food orders, only beverage orders, so I did manage to get a beer from him. I finally got the guy who took food orders attention and we ordered a mixed seafood platter for two.

Another place we considered because of the center piece.

I was a little nervous about our choice, but when our food arrived we were thrilled. The platter was immense with a great variety of fish, some served on bread like Pinxtos in Spain, probably the Spanish rule from the 1700’s influencing not only the architecture, but the food. Our Italian neighbors were impressed and asked to take a picture of it. Everything on the platter was excellent and after our two hour search for the perfect meal we were very happy with our choice.

Ton does not think this picture does justice to the quality of the food or the presentation. The serving board is shaped like Sicily.

We needed some more exercise after our lunch so we decided to walk the perimeter of the island. Ortiga has been a fortified harbor since the Greeks and it is surrounded by walls all the way around. But the fortifications and walls did not impress Ton as much as the clear green water of the Mediterranean.

The water is crystal clear, and the old fort is now used as a swimming platform.

As we walked she would stop every few feet to take another picture and talk about the clearness and the beautiful green color of the water, then take another picture because the water had changed to a perfect blue color. She was in heaven. We really enjoyed strolling along the top of the wall and looking at the sea.

Looking back at the main part of the city from the wall.

We finally decided to head back to Catania for the evening as we had put in a good walk for the day. We really enjoyed Ortiga and while we did not get out into the modern part of Siracusa we enjoyed the old town very much.

The people who live in these medieval towns still need to have their garbage hauled away. Everywhere we have gone on this trip we have seen these little garbage trucks going up and down the narrow roads. Sometimes we forget the practical things that need to be accounted for like garbage disposal don’t go away even if you are living in a postcard.

September 30, 2023 Catania IT

Today we used the morning to shift about 120 kilometers to Catania. Catania is the 2nd largest city in Sicily, but is the economic hub of the island. It was founded by the Greeks around the 8th century BC, but like much of Sicily it has had many rulers. We are going to be using it for a base for the next few days while we visit the surrounding region.

The main square of the city with the Cathedral in the background, and the black elephant fountain column in the center of the square.

It is famous for a fountain with a black elephant on it. The Black Elephant was carved in Roman times from a single block of lava from Mt. Etna. It has been placed in its current location in the mid 1700’s as part of a fountain in front of the cathedral. Having an elephant as a prominent landmark already stood Catania in Tons good graces.

The main street leading towards the square. It was very busy on a Saturday afternoon.

Catania has a reputation of being a little rough around the edges and some of reading on the internet talked about buildings being covered with graffiti and the streets being dirty. So we were surprised that in the areas we walked around and we saw from the bus ride there was very little graffiti and the streets were fairly clean.

Some of the worst graffiti we saw downtown, and this is not bad at all. Some places would call this street art.

Our first impression was of a prosperous and vigorous city with a real positive vibe. We enjoyed walking around and looking at the crowds out seeing the sites on a Saturday. The people were mostly Italian, with a healthy mix of foreign tourists mixed in.

The crowds were not overwhelming but the area was busy.

We messed up a little by having a late light lunch before we left François, so we were not hungry when we arrived downtown. By the time we were hungry lunch was over and most of the restaurants were closing down. The restaurants generally close from about 3pm to 7 pm, there were a few places still open but none of them appealed to us.

A nice street of restaurants that were closing down when we arrived looking for some food.

Since we couldn’t eat, we decided to go look at an area that is devoted mostly to religious institutions and is considered to be one of the most beautiful streets in Catania. Via Crociferi includes the second largest monastery in Europe, and several churches. It was pretty quiet compared to the area around the cathedral. But the buildings were beautiful, and we enjoyed the walk. Someone has done a good job of putting explanations about the buildings in both Italian and English so we took our time reading the histories of the various buildings as we strolled along.

One end of Via Crociferi, near the monastery.

At this point we decided to head back to the campground. It was around 4:30 when I told google maps to get us back home. We walked to the bus stop guided by maps, and there were a group of Italians waiting there. There was a sign that told you when your bus was going to arrive. One of the options google gave us was due to arrive in 17 minutes. It counted down to 7 minutes and then the time to arrival went blank. After a while we noticed a bunch of googling going on among the Italians and after some discussion among themselves the crowd at the bus stop began to disperse. We were kind of confused. Finally, a gentleman from the crowd came over and spoke a burst of Italian into his phone and held it out to me. In English it said that this bus stop was not served after 5pm and we need to move to another bus stop on a different road. He asked where we going and when I told him he said that was the same bus he was taking. He then proceeded to spend the next 45 minutes with us walking to the next bus stop, getting on one bus, and then transferring to our final bus. The whole time he was going out of his way to help us he was apologizing because he an Italian in Italy could not speak English. I told him that since this was Italy, it was our fault for not speaking Italian, but he waived his hand dismissively at this thought.

A nice view towards the waterfront in Catania.

Once again Italian busses confounded us with there mysterious schedules, but also, once again Italians came to the rescue to make sure we were not left in a lurch. This willingness to help strangers is one of the things that has really struck both Ton and me about traveling in Italy, it is really special.

When we walked by later in the day trying to find our bus stop the wedding party was out in front.

Catania is a beautiful city with a very lively center that we both enjoyed a great deal. Our only regret is we mis-timed our meals so we did not experience the local food. But, we have many days to make up for that mistake.