Iggy the Hymer is still sitting by our little bit of paradise outside Punto Prosciutto. Tomorrow we will move on again, but this little spot has captured out hearts and frozen Iggy’s wheels in place. It is so quiet here apart from the waves. A residential area of beautiful villas that are clearly just used in the summer. A man comes every two days, wearing waders and carrying large bait buckets. He peers into the crystal clear water of the little river and follows it upstream a bit. On our first night we saw a shoal of large fish swim away from him upriver.
It is an oasis for us this place. A resting place to let Sicily slide off our bones before we carry on. Back on the road again. Tomorrow. I don’t feel ready yet. But then I haven’t finished writing about Sicily. Perhaps I need to move it out of my head to move on.
After our night out in Balestrate we had planned on spending a day in Palermo before moving on to meet up with Fran and David in Cefalu. We try not to drive into cities if we can avoid it, especially the ones that have a reputation for horrendous traffic. Palermo definitely has that reputation so we chose a little spot in a town called Santa Flavia to park up Iggy for the day. It was far enough out of the city to hopefully be safe, but close enough to be a cheap, quick train journey away.
The journey passed right through the outskirts of Palermo and we stopped by the auotoroute to stock up at Lidl. It’s rare for us to worry when we leave Iggy, but neither of us felt comfortable this time. There was an edgy air to the area that we didn’t like, although the only access was the autoroute, and we shot round Lidl in record time. Back in the carpark Iggy was, thankfully, still there. Motorhomes do get broken into, and stolen as well.
It’s not something we spend time worrying about, but we’d be heartbroken if we came back one day to find him gone. Having belongings stolen we could deal with – but not Iggy! As a general rule of thumb then if we feel uncomfortable leaving him we move on. It doesn’t happen very often, but we don’t question it. Feel uncomfortable? Move. Immediately.
Unfortunately for our planned visit to Palermo, uncomfortable is exactly what I started to feel as we made our way through the streets of Santa Flavia. The route to the parking at the harbour was narrow and lined with parked vehicles. As we got closer to our destination I had to jump out and walk backwards in front of Iggy – guiding Jay down through the gaps. The apartment buildings clung close together and screamed poverty from their dingy, fading exteriors. A side street had junk for sale laid out all along the ground on the pavement, in a scene straight out of the medinas of Morocco. The air reeked of deprivation and rubbish.
My discomfort turned to anger as we reached what should have been an incredibly picturesque little harbour. Rubbish littered the ground next to where a Christmas Fairground had been set up. Stray cats clustered, eating, among the refuse bags. The rusted railings along the harbour wall were mostly missing. Red, plastic builders fencing hung pathetically across the lethal gaps. And men fished from the breakwaters. No doubt looking to add their bit to the family pantry.
We had seen many people in the streets of Santa Flavia and they all had that look of decent, hard working people. Crumbling balconies sported flowers. Faces and clothes were clean. We could only assume their hard earned taxes were filling the pockets of the self named Cosa Nostra – the Sicilian Mafia. The money certainly wasn’t being spent on keeping the harbour wall safe for the children.
It hurt my heart to be in this place, and I disliked myself for not trusting the town to be left with my van. It would probably be safer here than in many a place. I still couldn’t leave him here though, but we stayed and ate our lunch on a bench by the harbour. Afterwards we got out the instruments and played for the fishermen on their rocks. I wanted to give something to this place that was having so much taken from it. This was all I had to give.
After we had played we decided to leave Palermo for the next trip – we had already decided we will return to Sicily one day – and drove on to Campofelice for the night. We exchanged messages with Fran and David and agreed to meet in Cefalu the next day.
If you’ve been following our blog you already know how things went in Campofelice from our Stray Dogs post. It was a fitting end to an edgy, eyes in the back of your head day, and we were glad to head on to Cefalu in the morning. But nowhere near as glad as we were to arrive at the, in your face, “How pretty am I then?” haven of the Cefalu marina.
The location, like so much of this part of the world, oozes fabulous film set. So much so that one is almost tempted to walk round everything to check it’s all real. To look for the wooden stands on the backs of the scenery. Only you can see that it is. Real that is. Your brain just can’t quite fit it all inside. The poet in me wants to try and paint it for you with words. The photographer snaps, image after image. It’s no good. It can’t be done. Artists of all kinds have been trying for thousands upon thousands of years. All I can do here is walk on tiptoe, whisper in awe and shout in wordless joy. The greatest cathedral of all is the planet itself. Gaia. Mother to us all.
I will always hold the two days that followed dear in my heart. Cefalu is the epitomy of picture postcard Sicilian town. Whatever you want from an Italian holiday you wouldn’t go wrong with a visit here. The cathedral, the lighthouse, the massive rock and ancient fortifications that the town sprawls at the feet of. The crumbled ruins of the castle, the beguiling archway to the beach. The avocado trees lining the pretty, ever so Sicilian, streets. The fascinating old wash house. The, arguably even more fascinating, stories of the infamous Aleister Crowley.
Crowley – as David delightfully informed us – had moved to Cefalu in 1920 and set up an Abbey here. The Abbey of Thelema, – a small villa still crumbling to dust in the town today – was the centre for the practice of the religion Crowley founded. He remained there until Mussolini had him thrown out of the country in 1923. It certainly made the stay more interesting knowing Crowley had walked these streets before us!
Fran and David were the perfect company for our last couple of days on the island. We’re both so grateful that we bumped into them at Eden Parking way back at Christmas time. It was great to catch up, and much wine and chat was consumed into the early hours on both nights. It’s a joy to meet people like them when you’re on the road. Instant friends for life, and so great to be able to swap stories and just chat to a fellow fluent English speaker for a few hours. Especially ones as all round excellent and fun as these two.
The days sped by with a few months worth of chat crammed into the few hours we had at our disposal. And then it was time for us to head off. The road was calling and we were answering. Plus which it was time to empty that darned toilet again. There was a place near Barcellona Pozzo di Gotta we could empty it and stay the night on the beach. Fran and David had stayed there before coming to Cefalu and pronounced it “Okay”.
So with much hugging and waving we said goodbye to the guys and turned Iggy’s nose up the switchback hairpins out of Cefalu. Messina was waiting. And the ferry, back to Calabria.