Arrivederci, Sicilia

Days 16 - 18: New Year's Eve in Pollina, New Year's Day ferry ride back to mainland Italy, Scigliano, and Amalfi Coast

The morning of December 31, we woke up to glorious sunshine. With no particular plan in mind, we dressed and packed our bag for an excursion (on foot). As we made our way through the campsite, we noticed the proprietors were in the midst of renovations. (This was actually pretty common throughout our travels -- such is camping life during the off-season.) A man splitting stones, presumably to construct stone walls, stopped his work to ask us, in German, if we were going to go for a walk.

"Yes, yes. Um, but you can speak with us in Italian."

"Oh? I saw your plates from Sankt Gallen and figured I should speak to you in German."

Bless that Sicilian man's heart for trying to speak "our language." I explained the whole "we're Americans living in Switzerland" spiel. I then asked if he had any recommendations for us. He mentioned that the town of Pollina offered beautiful views all the way to Céfalu and Palermo, so we decided to go there.

Because a road sign indicated that Pollina was 12 km away via the main road, Isaiah was convinced that if we could find a more direct path originating in Finale di Pollina, we'd be able to cut the journey down to around 7-8 km. Mind you, we had no idea if such a path existed, but we sure hoped it did. We wandered around for a bit before we decided to follow a small road leading out of town and into a hillside residential area.

Miraculously, we were able to follow this road all the way up to Pollina -- a miracle I tell you. No helpful Wanderweg signs reassuring us we were heading in the right direction. No, we were following Isaiah's gut feeling and, well, it worked. We ended up hiking through a national park, kaki (persimmon) trees, orange groves, country homes, and a little stream. At one point I thought we were trespassing onto private property.

"Ciao ragazzi," a group of men called to us.

"Ciao. Buon giorno," I nervously replied. We kept walking.

"Chi siete?" one of them called after us. (Who are you?)

"Stranieri," I called back, flashing a friendly smile. (Foreigners.)

"Oh, OK. Have a nice trip!"

When we finally made it to Pollina, around 750 meters above sea level, we agreed that the couple of hours it took to make it there were well worth it. We looked west and enjoyed this view toward Céfalu.

Looking east gave us this view. See that little white speck? It's snow-capped Mt. Etna!
Pollina was actually built around a Norman castle. All that remains today is this tower. In the late '70s, the town built a modern amphitheater below it.
Not sure how much it gets used as a theater, but we did see a family park their car here to unload their groceries. Then everyone had to chip in and carry everything up into one of these charming houses.
We bought some picnic items at the ONLY shop that was open in the whole town. We also asked about buses that went back down to Finale. Thank goodness there were two more scheduled to run that afternoon.

That evening, while making a pasta dinner (again), a lovely French couple handed us two flutes of champagne and some sweets (including yummier-than-usual panettone and an amazing cannolo). They wished us a Happy New Year and returned to their camper.

The next day, we returned the flutes and wished them an enjoyable vacation. It turns out, they had retired a couple of years before, and this was their second winter in Sicily. In fact, they had two more months of "vacation" to go. Actually, the whole campsite was dominated by French pensioners. Each morning they greeted us with a bonjour, not buon giorno. Once, I attempted to initiate the greeting and ended up wishing one woman bonsoir at 9 am. TOO MANY languages in my head!

That afternoon, we packed up camp and headed to Messina to catch the ferry. Although we were extremely sad to leave Sicily, I have a feeling we'll go back there someday...

Late in the evening, we arrived in Scigliano, Calabria, as a stopping point with the goal of doing some sightseeing there in the morning. We did catch a fantastic living nativity (presepe vivente), but the next day was cold and rainy and yucky, so we decided to get an early start to our second visit to Rome.

Have any of you ever visited a living nativity? This was a first for me, and I loved it! The whole center of Scigliano had transformed into Bethlehem. Townspeople role-played different parts including scribes and metal-workers. It was lots of fun!

The next morning while we were grabbing a quick coffee, the townspeople began asking us, "Do you have family in Scigliano? What are you doing here?" (They're not so accustomed to tourists 'round those parts.) I explained that it was a stopping point for us, but that we very much enjoyed the living nativity from the night before.

"You did? Don't you recognize me? I was the one holding the cane..."

On our way to Rome, we took a detour along the Amalfi Coast in Campania and stopped in Amalfi for a seafood lunch. We also stopped in Minori, below, to buy some limoncello for R & F!


  1. Oh, that is so lovely! It's so wonderful to see all these places and reading about your experiences. I would love to visit Italy.

  2. I enjoy reading your narration. Exceptional pictures as always. The view from your hiking excursion was breathtaking and your last picture, WOw, it looked like a postcard!

  3. Hi HT - thanks for stopping by!

    Elisa - Thanks for your always welcome compliments!!! :)


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