28 June 2023

Bike Trails and Cultural Delights: A Sicilian Adventure

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Sicily is a land not for all… We love it and really wish to be Sicilians but we arrive from the continent and totally can not understand what it means.

Riding this unique island and going deeper inside its folks, streets, monuments, shops, smells and whatever we find, we feel closer and closer to be part of it but it’s a joke, we have to much to learn to just “touch it”…

So let’s enjoy a cannolo or a granita sitting down in a bench and have a look to what the locals do in they daylife: it could be such a good movie.

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Cento has been telling me about Sicily ever since we met.

Finally he takes me there, he draws the trail, I arrive, I slip into cathedrals, churches, museums, he waits outside for me… Sometimes he snorts but still he waits.

“Miles are miles and with the bike one can’t stop ‘at every dog piss’” he says :). Here he has learnt how to deal with dogs, when they come running and bark proudly, he in return approaches them back, looks them straight in the snout, after that they stop and lower their tones… I, instead, slip quickly and cowardly to the side.

Palermo is tanta cosa (a lot), too much to visit on a bike. I have fortunately already gotten to know it this summer, by sea and by land. We set off immediately for the hinterland and say goodbye to it from the hairpin bends of Monreale.

‘Not one killer goes by bike!’ Giuseppe tells us in Sciacca (he is an ex-marine, Italo-American from Colorado…), he approaches us as we enjoy our lunch in the sun, facing the sea, sitting beside a garden laden with ripe orange trees. He is happy to see us with our bikes, he tells us about him and he asks about us.

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We ride up the ramp to Corleone and take two delicious oranges from Francesco’s Ape (he is Ciccio to us by this point…).

The Cemetery in the morning has us wandering about, looking for some graves. I trivially took a few photos of my bicycle in front of the tombstones of some particular characters…. ‘Say the name but not the sinner’, so they say, and so I do.

Ghibellina Vecchia at sunset is surreal, Ghibellina Nuova still remains hard to stomach (after almost a month): we should have stayed overnight and visited it leisurely. It is vital to understand it.

Alfonsina di Favara is sitting in front of her house’s door, she is happy. ‘I was born without teeth and I will die without teeth,’ she tells me as I take her portrait. She used to live in Germany (she still pronounces the name Dusseldorf in an unspeakable way that leaves me melting), now she has returned ‘al paese’ (to The country). She wishes us well and a good trip. We liked her and she liked us, in return.

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There was much to be liked about the mixed fried food served by Father Christmas in the square in Selinunte, too. We arrive in the evening with the fog and the cold and we find the Christmas Festival organized by the Pro-Loco, many approach with the desire to understand us…. We are not the Three Kings.

Salvo, on the back of his excavator, ploughs a broken road that is being resurfaced. We ask him if it is possible to go through to reach our destination and he replies: ‘In Sicily by bike is OK!’. Good.

Palermo, Ghibellina Vecchia and Nuova, Corleone, Selinunte, Sciacca, the Scala dei Turchi, Mazzarino, Ragusa, Modica, Porto Palo di Capo Passero, Marzamemi, Noto, Siracusa, Catania, Mount Etna, Aci Trezza…

The croissant with granita is almost impossible to find in winter, in alternative I recommend taking advantage of the cannoli.
The granita is a good excuse for me to come back in the warm weather.
For the Scala dei Turchi returning is not enough… it is just to be looked at and no longer to be touched, it’s sad, but fair enough. Every good game is short-lived and too many have treated it badly.

Things always change quickly, I wish Sicily would never change.

– Nadia
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