Having scheduled the installation of our solar panels in Marina di Ragusa we had set ourselves a deadline to be somewhere by a set date. As seasoned sailors will know that can be a challenge as the weather does not always place nice in those situations. Well we felt like we had plenty of time in the lead up to this date, and then all of a sudden we didn't... I feel like we barely scratched the surface of Sicily but looking back on the photos we still managed to see some great stuff, and I have shared some of those gems in the slideshow below.
We arrived early morning into the Egadi Islands after the dream crossing that I wrote about earlier. We had hoped to spend at least one night here, and go ashore. The islands look so wild and beautiful from the water. We motored around looking for a good spot to anchor, and try to get internet reception to check the weather. The south side of the island is quite exposed though (as is the whole of the South Coast of Sicily, which has few protected anchorages). When we finally were able to check the forecast we could see some nasty weather on Sunday and we really did need to get to Ragusa on Saturday, a day earlier than scheduled. Ragusa is on the south eastern end of Sicily, and we were now on the South Western end, so we upped anchor and started scouting for our next anchorage to take us further east along the coast. We ending up sheltering behind the breakwater at Mazara del Vallo. The town is meant to be quite nice, however we had to up anchor early to keep moving along the coast. There were no marinas that could take us that night so we anchored off near San Leone, a rather exposed beach. Initially the breeze held us into the swell so it was fine, however it dropped overnight and we swung beam on. Not much sleep was had after that so we upped anchor about 4:30am and made for Ragusa. The coastline is quite spectacular in places, the white cliffs around Agrigento in particular. Also spotted a couple of large oil rigs and had the Guarda di Finanza shadowing us for a spell. It was a long day but we made it around 4 in the afternoon to a warm welcome for the local live-aboard community.
We decided to hire a car for a few days and try and see some of the countryside while we were port-bound. It was a good week to be in a marina as it did rain and blow all week. First trip was to Siracusa, on the east coast. Just outside the town we stopped at an archeological site that had a large, well preserved Greek Amphitheatre, and underneath that a cave (Ear of Dionysos). Legend has it that prisoners were kept in there and the acoustic properties allowed their captors to listen if they were plotting any escape. Then we moved on to Ortiga, and island that is connected to the mainland with 2 bridges, where we could see the ruins of the Temple of Apollo, Fountain of Diana, the Piazza Duomo and Cathedral, Maniace castle and wander the narrow, maze-like streets of the old town. The morning markets were just wrapping up but we arrived in time to have some yummy pasta.
Later in the week we drove to a small town not far from Ragusa called Scicli. This was an amazing gem of a place, UNESCO listed for its multiple, well preserved churches and public buildings, as well as being the film set for a popular, local detective TV series. The village is nestled in a valley but spreading up its sides with, of course, castles and churches perched on its highest points. Beautiful baroque style ceilings and facades.
We chose Saturday to do our furthest foray from Ragusa, and it turned out to be the worst weather of the year in Sicily - trust us! We drove through heavy rain and hail, and detoured around mudslides. Sadly there were numerous fatalities from these storms, which even made the news back in Oz.
Our first destination was the Valley of the Temples, near Agrigento, that we had passed on our run along the coast. Using Google Maps for navigation our dear Ms G, with her impeccable Aussie accent, seemed to assume that the shortest distance between 2 points was the fastest and best route to get anywhere. We had to take matters into our own hands after she led us down potholed and flooded farm roads, but in any case it seems that the road system in Sicily has been somewhat haphazardly designed. One minute you are on a pretty basic local road, the next you are on a freeway that abruptly ends. We finally arrived at the Valley of the Temples, after having to pull over with zero visibility due to pea sized hail. The place looked deserted, maybe its just because its lunch time and its raining. We decided to head down to town to eat and then come back after lunch, hoping the rain would have cleared. It was then that we discovered that the place was closed because of the bad weather! Shame they hadn't mentioned that on their website, which I consulted in the morning before we left! We tried to sneak in but were spotted and given short shrift! Oh well, best we can do is drive around it and take some photos from the outside - we weren't the only people doing that!
Well as it is sort of on the way back, we decided to take a look at a place called Villa Romana del Casale. More back roads/freeways/potholes/detours and we finally made it 1 hour before closing time! This place was incredible, a Roman bath-house dating back to the 4th century with mosaics on the floors of the dozens of rooms that were amazingly well preserved. Each scene telling a story, but my favourite is the bikini girls who are actually female athletes practicing the different sports from decathlon of the time. This was really worthwhile place to visit, but it was a long day - 9 hours in total, 6 of them driving!
So we really have only seen a sliver of Sicily and added another place to our list that we need to come back to!