Dave the motorhome has decided to stay here forever, in Eden Parking, Giardini-Naxos. It’s safe, cheap (although we’re still not sure how much, the signs at the gate contradict one another ), ever so friendly and will (if the clouds ever go) have a stunning view of Etna.
Being in a position of zero commitments for the past umpteen months, we often have only the vaguest idea what day of the week it is. The deep-set guilt I’d feel at not being in the office during the week gradually slipped away over the months to the point I don’t know or care what day it is. The only exceptions are days when we need to do something, get a ferry or some such, when hours of service are reduced. Somehow today’s felt like a Sunday though, and we’ve revelled in it, that feeling of it being Sunday, but of not having to go to work on Monday.
There’s free WiFi here, so we’ve slipped into old habits of spending hours staring at screens, just as we used to when we’d get out of the office at night. This morning Google’s search page changed to show a line of green-clad dancing ladies; it’s St Patrick’s day! Hoorah! We celebrated by finally letting Charlie have some of his tin of Patrik dog meat, after we’d checked that Etna was still cloud covered (it was, and has been all day).
By this time it was 10am. The campsite around us had been alive with Italian and German voices for a couple of hours, and with the horn honks of vans pootling about selling stuff to us some-time itinerants. Our Italian neighbours greeted us as we finally popped our heads into the fresh air; they speak only Italian but somehow Ju manages to translate what they’re telling us, and they speak slowly, patiently, using hand gestures to get across words which would otherwise be completely lost. They live in Florence, a stunning beautiful and terrifyingly narrow-streeted Renaissance to the north, but come here for 3 and half months over winter to avoid the rain. A moped on the back of the van is in constant use as they travel around the place; their life in retirement looks idyllic to us.
Walking along the wide bay of Giardini-Naxos, which looks out to the toe of the Italian peninsula, our next destination and seemingly in touching distance, we had a look in the Estate Agent windows. €200,000 is about the going rate for a sea-front apartment, sadly I would imagine that few Sicilians can afford them. The ragged, unkempt look of the place had turned me off a little when we first came here just before Xmas 2012, but I’ve warmed to it now, as I have Sicily as a whole. There’s a degree of chaos; of god-awful Mafia-controlled grim building work, of ‘I’m waiting no longer and am going to overtake the entire traffic queue causing mayhem’ driving, and that’s just for us ‘light touch travellers’. Living here must be a wearing experience, but the people seem tough to it, retaining a twinkle in their eye. They love Charlie too, which we love.
As we walked we noticed an occasional crunching noise. Looking down the source was obvious: pumice stone from an eruption of Mount Etna a couple of weeks ago was scattered all over the area. The whole place is suffused with the volcano here. Roads, walls and houses are made from black-grey lava. Defences against the sea are made up of tumbled huge black volcanic rocks. Smoothed off lava flows along the dry river bed, awaiting the next torrent. Before coming to Italy and imagined anyone living within lava-flowing distance of a volcano to be nuts. Reality is different, only about 70 people are ever recorded to have been killed by Etna. That aside I don’t think Italians have the same sense of risk as us Brits, as evidenced by their driving and parking habits.
Slow-flowing lava does occasionally wipe away a village, road or section of railway line, but it’s just rebuilt and life goes on. Perhaps the most extreme example of proximity of people to red-hot lava is on the island of Stromboli, where hundreds of people live on the side of an island which is effectively 100% volcano, the inspiration for the Mordor centre of evil in The Lord of the Rings. A couple of folks have recommended the trip over there, and we’ve added it to our bank of things to do when we’re back in the real world, not fancying taking any more winter ferry crossings than we have to.
For lunch Ju grabbed a wood-oven roasted chicken, mushy roasted spuds and a couple of rice-ball things, Italian equivalents of Chinese of dim sum, and we all ate like kings, prompting an afternoon kip for Ju while I perused the pages of www.bestofsicily.com, a fabulous source of info if you fancy coming to Sicily on your holidays.
Our thoughts have turned to Southern Italy and Greece now, our aim to head over into the land of moussaka, ouzo, gyros and Keftedakia as soon as camping on board is allowed on the ferries, from the 1st of April. Our planning so far’s consisted of mainly reading other people’s blogs (helsonwheels and europebycamper so far), which is getting us excited. Our loaned copy of Mit dem Wohnmobil nach Griechenlandis also getting thumbed, which is revealing loads of free camping places, as is Peejay’s collated list of Greek stopovers, yeah baby!
We’re waiting for some post to arrive from the UK, my super-patient folks helping us overcome the barrier between bureacroacy and distance. It will hopefully come tomorrow or Tuesday, at which point we’ll hit the road. Ju’s just got word that some fellow Brits are heading this way tomorrow for a glass or three of vino, so we’ll have some company or our last days on Sicily, fabulous.
We took a video of the parking place here too, in case you want an idea of what it looks like. We can highly recommend it as a place to chill out for a few days (or months if you’ve the time to kill!).