Hello. My name is Isaac, 35 years old from Vancouver, Canada. I have set this blog up to document my journey following Mark Knopfler’s 2013 “Privateering” tour, from April 25 (Bucharest, Romania) to July 31 (Calella de Palafrugell, Spain).

Due to Despite the tour’s obnoxious schedule (thanks, Mark), I cannot be entirely sure that I will attend all concerts. That being said, I will try. You are more than welcome to sit back, relax, read, and comment. You can also subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed (see the “Subscribe for Updates” box at the right hand side of the page. For standard RSS readers, select the “Atom” option).

Have fun,

Note: The contents of this blog are also available in hardcover and paperback formats. For more information, click here:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Napoli to Taormina, Italy (July 15–16, 2013)

Almost three months into the tour, July 15 signified the beginning of the Sicily‐Malta mayhem.

Why mayhem? The short period of the tour, from Sicily to Malta and then back to northern Italy, was the hardest period to plan for in the entire tour. Most other destinations were planned out down to the smallest travel detail; a few destinations were planned out, and then altered along the way; but only one period of the tour kept being altered throughout the tour—and it was this period, from Sicily to Malta.

There were simply too many “moving parts” to consider, and too few options for travel—some of which remained unknown until just a few days ago.

Many readers, who were courteous enough to introduce themselves to me during the tour, were interested to know what it was like planning this enormous journey.

Well, here’s a taste. Buckle up: it’s going to be long.

Sicily section

(Image captured from Google Maps. The marked locations, from top to bottom: Napoli; Taormina; Catania; Siracusa; Pozzallo; Malta).

To get to Malta, you can either swim, fly, or take the ferry (if your name is Jesus, you might be able to walk it). Swimming was out of the question as Jeroen isn’t in good physical shape, so we had to resort to either flying or taking the ferry.

Flying would mean selling a few internal organs on the black market, which left the ferry as the only viable option.

The ferry to Malta departs from Pozzallo. There are two ways to take that ferry:

  1. Board a bus in Catania (not far from Taormina), which takes you straight to the ferry terminal in Pozzallo.
  2. Get to the ferry terminal yourself.

Of course, option (1) would make most sense, as Catania is easily accessible by train from Napoli and is very close to Taormina.

This ideal option is available every day of the week except for Wednesdays. Commensurable to my luck in life, July 17 happened to be a Wednesday.

The meaning: after attending the concert in Taormina, we needed to somehow get to Pozzallo—at the very southern tip of Sicily—for the next morning (there are two ferry departures every day. To catch the concert, the 9:15am ferry is the only viable option). No public transport exists in Sicily to take you to Pozzallo from Taormina so early in the morning (just under two hours drive).

So… a car rental was required. One‐way car rentals are almost always a problem: they’re either too expensive or altogether impossible to do (from the point of view of a car rental agency, one‐way car rentals present logistical challenges).

The plan we originally came up with, then, was to head as south as possible in Sicily during the day off—ideally spending the night in Pozzallo. A hotel room was booked in Pozzallo, as well as a car (pick up and drop‐off both in Pozzallo).

The question now became how to get to Pozzallo. It is possible to do this by train in one day from Napoli, but we’re talking about a very long ride with tight connections. Therefore, we decided to do the following: use the day off to fly from Napoli to Catania; take the train to Siracusa; spend the night in Siracusa; take the train early morning to Pozzallo.

Then, another problem surfaced. There was only one car rental agency in Pozzallo: Hertz. Now, Hertz in Pozzallo are open only during certain hours in the day: in the morning until 10:00am, and then from 5:00pm to 7:00pm. The first train from Siracusa to Pozzallo leaves 10:00am, which meant that, once in Pozzallo, we couldn’t pick up the car before 5:00pm. We assumed it would be OK because the drive from Pozzallo to Taormina takes about 2 hours, and the concert was scheduled to start at 9:30—tight, but possible.

To summarize, the original plan was as follows:

July 15:

  • Fly from Napoli to Catania.
  • Train from Catania to Siracusa.
  • Spend the night in Siracusa.

July 16:

  • Take first train to Pozzallo.
  • Check in to the hotel in Pozzallo.
  • On 5:00pm, rent the car and head directly to Taormina for the concert.
  • After the concert (approximately 11:30pm), drive back to Pozzallo.
  • Spend the night in Pozzallo.

July 17:

  • Return the rental car.
  • Board the ferry.

Hectic, but it is what it is: we couldn’t see any better option.

Until Nîmes.

Arriving at Nîmes, we realized that energy levels are going down. The extensive travel over the past few months started taking its toll, so we sat down together to review the rest of the itinerary and see whether we can improve things a little.

Surprisingly, I was able to find a one‐way car rental from Siracusa (where we already had a hotel booked) to Pozzallo. The only problem was, that the rental had to be confirmed first with the local Hertz dealer in Siracusa and the confirmation was said to take a few days. We still held on to the previous plan, but now, an alternate “path” was made possible (pending the rental car’s confirmation):

July 16:

  • Pick up the car in Siracusa (after having spent the night there) in the morning.
  • Drive to Pozzallo, check into the hotel there and put the luggage in the room (for safety).
  • Drive back to Taormina.
  • After the concert, drive back to Pozzallo.

The advantage of this alternate path was that we wouldn’t have to wait until 5:00pm to leave Pozzallo, thus reducing the risk of missing the concert and reducing the amount of time had to be spent in Pozzallo, which seemed to be a dodgy town with absolutely nothing to do in it.

A few days after requesting the one‐way car rental, it was approved.

Still, as you shall see shortly, the plan changed even further later on.

Woke up in Napoli and headed to breakfast. It was a slow wake‐up as the flight to Catania was scheduled to depart at 4:40pm. The hotel, Hotel Piazza Bellini, boasts a really nice patio so I my plan for the day is do nothing except sitting there.

I would, of course, not mind going to see some of Napoli’s attractions—I had heard that their harbour area is very nice—but, knowing how hectic the upcoming couple of days were going to be, I decided to conserve my energy and do as little as possible until all difficult travel is done with. The Dutchman had different thoughts, which prompted him to flee the scene shortly after breakfast as I stayed behind.

Started writing but couldn’t quite concentrate. Remembering that there’s a nice looking cafe right around the corner, in Piazza Bellini itself, I decided to take my backpack, sit there and do some writing while sipping cold coffee.

As I was walking the short (even less than 50 meters) distance to that cafe, something prompted me to just keep on walking. Piazza Bellini is located in one of Napoli’s older, much less touristic areas, so I decided to take a short walk around to see what Napoli would look like without annoying tourists and their even more annoying noisy children.

It was, for some reason, more exciting than I initially expected.


The feeling walking through these narrow, old, crowded, dusty streets wasn’t entirely pleasant: it was a somewhat “rough” feeling. Here is life in Napoli, unabridged. Real, unpolished. No significant attempts to please tourists’ eyes.


In fact, as I was walking down this street—a mere 100m walk; I already said that I wasn’t in the position to take long, excruciating walks—wearing my backpack and holding my camera, I received quite a few suspicious looks from locals. People there were probably asking themselves what the hell would a tourist look for in this place to begin with.


Narrow alleys, showing just how crowded life can get here. A woman hanging clothes to dry on her balcony; the balcony—actually the entire building—is so old that I was wondering what’s keeping it upright. So crowded, you could spit into your neighbour’s balcony.


Small, authentic stores selling fruit and vegetables for ridiculously low prices. All sorts of locally‐made pasta’s are wrapped in small bags and offered for sale, again for ridiculously low prices.

With each and every step, I just felt how old that street was. People here are clearly not in a rush anywhere. Back in Vancouver, when my FiOS‐based Internet connection doesn’t work as fast as I’m used for it to work, I get anxious; here, they probably don’t care at all what FiOS Internet connection means. And, somehow, they live on.



Back to the cafe in Piazza Bellini; ordered cold espresso with milk, got something different than what I was asking for, and sat down to do some writing.

An hour or so later, the Dutchman decided to return from his excursion discovering Napoli’s tourist areas and joined me in the cafe. A small fruit salad for lunch, and headed back to the hotel, where our luggage was stored.

Sitting down at the hotel’s patio, just waiting for the time to pass by, it was evident that nobody was really looking forward for this day to unfold. The preceding few days were very hectic, especially with respect to getting back to our hotels every night after the show. Energy levels were very low.

Alas, a plan is a plan. Got up, grabbed luggage, dialled for a taxi and fifteen minutes later we were in Napoli’s airport.

Through the course of my “normal” life (that is: my life when I’m not following Knopfler’s tours), I fly a lot, both domestically and internationally. During 2012–2013 alone, I visited Israel five times; inside Canada, I fly a few times a year for business. I am no stranger to airports, which is why I have a rule: I always show up at the airport about an hour and a half before departure. That’s because I’m used to Air Canada’s efficiency and the entire airport experience in Vancouver’s, Toronto’s and Tel Aviv’s airports.

In Europe, though, I become a little stressed. I already noticed that public transport companies in Europe tend to be less efficient than their North American counterparts, and in Italy, merely mentioning the word “efficiency” will prompt people to point their finger at you and laugh. That’s why I wasn’t very disappointed to find out, upon arriving to Napoli’s airport, that Meridiana’s check‐in counter wasn’t even open yet.

Oh, talking about efficiency: Meridiana does offer online check‐in, but still requires you to print the following documents and bring them with you to the airport:

  • Your boarding pass.
  • Your seat assignment (if you chose your seat online).
  • Your baggage receipt (proving that you paid for your baggage).

Between Jeroen and myself, we ended up with eight printed pages. Well, maybe I’m crazy, but I thought that the deal about “online check‐in” was to reduce paperwork and streamline processes.

When I fly with Air Canada, all I need to show at the airport is my smartphone, showing a barcode that I received in an email.

Spent about 30 minutes or so standing up doing nothing while waiting for the check‐in counters to open. They were scheduled to open two hours before departure; in practice, it took an extra 15–20 minutes for the staff there to stop chatting between themselves and finally allow people to check in.

Got all airport bureaucracy done, and headed to the gate. Grabbed a short snack from a bakery on the way there—a cannoli filled with cream, a Sicilian “thing”—meh. Not something I’d kill for. Down to the gate, where nothing interesting seemed to be happening with the exception of two particularly noisy kids that were yelling (not crying; just yelling) all the time with their parents (or guardians, I don’t know and I don’t care) not even trying to attend to them.

Time passed slowly, but the flight departed on time. Of course, one of those kids kept on yelling during the entire flight, making a 55 minutes flight feel like 55 hours. Was happy to finally leave the aircraft.

Baggage claim: that’s the best place to realize that, at least in Catania (although this is true to Italy in general), the concept of “personal space” doesn’t exist. You stand by the conveyor belt waiting for your luggage so you can grab it and get the hell out of there, but that doesn’t stop someone else to stand right next to you, hardly leaving you any space to breathe. For them, it seems normal; where I live (sorry, folks: as time goes by, I miss Vancouver more and more so I can’t possibly avoid doing comparisons), such behaviour would be considered extremely rude and intrusive.

Have I lost the ability to adjust to new places, new habits, new values? obviously, one of the purposes in doing such a trip is to experience new things, but how willing am I to actually allow such experiences to sink in?

The answer seems to head in one direction: not willing in the slightest.

Baggage collected. Outside the terminal, a taxi driver wanted too much money to take us to Catania’s central railway station, so we decided to go on a bus instead. €1.00 buys you a one‐way fare from the airport to the central railway station. Took 25 minutes or so for the bus to arrive. Boarded it, and one station later, a group of 5 females—three adults and two kids—boarded as well. The amount of noise this group generated during their 15 minutes presence on the bus was UNBELIEVABLE.

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”—Søren Kierkegaard

The train from Catania’s central railway station to Siracusa was scheduled to depart on 7:08pm, with the next train one hour later. During the bus ride, there were times we thought we were going to miss that train—a rather depressing thought, because all we really wanted was just to get this travel day over and done with. Fortunately, the bus made it to the central railway station on time. Stormed to the platform and found the train, which was just a tad behind the high‐speed trains I got used to, technology‐wise.

Two coaches.


One of them had a 1st class section!


There was no difference at all between the 1st class seats and the 2nd class ones.


“Great, that’s what I needed”, I thought to myself. “To end this long travel day with a train ride in a train that predates most dinosaurs”. Indeed, the ride was slow and very noisy, but on the other hand, it was scenic. The railway tracks from Catania to Siracusa mostly go along the eastern shoreline of Sicily, so the wonderful Mediterranean Sea was visible for a long part of the ride.


At some point, the sun started to set.


When the train finally arrived in Siracusa, it was already getting dark.

I have never heard of Siracusa before planning the itinerary for following the tour. All I cared for, regarding Siracusa, was its location on the map and how well connected it is to the railway network in Sicily. Thus, once I exited the station, I didn’t even bother looking around me. Jeroen already had the map to the hotel showing up on his iFail, so I followed his steps blindly, not caring at all to whatever was around me. It was a long, 15 minutes walk to the hotel; even though it was getting dark, the temperatures were still high and so was the humidity. I was sweating all over and all I wanted was a good shower.

Was happy to finally arrive at the hotel, Grande Albergo Alfeo. With the old, dusty setting surrounding it, it was actually a pretty nice looking one. Checked in, rushed to the room and set the air conditioner to the lowest temperature it could possibly yield.

It didn’t. The room featured very high ceilings, and the air conditioner wasn’t strong enough to cool the room.

“The water taste very bad”, said the Dutchman.


Hungry. What’s to eat?

Where the hell am I? what the hell am I doing in Siracusa?

Down to reception, and the receptionist explained that Siracusa’s tap water isn’t very suitable for drinking. The city does employ machines to clean water before it gets to the tap, but the water in Siracusa are so terrible that even those machines can’t do a good‐enough job cleaning them. Advice: don’t drink tap water there.

None of us had any motivation to look for a place to eat, so we asked the receptionist, who recommended a place called Osteria AmUnì, a few blocks away from the hotel. Started walking there. It was already dark. Dust, grayness everywhere. Passing by a couple of alleys, a despicable scent of sewer filled my nostrils.

Then, I saw the restaurant. Nice setting. A few tables inside, a nice patio outside. Went inside, greeted by staff that could barely speak a word in English. After repeatedly asking to see the menu and not receiving any, we were referred to one of the walls, that had the menu written on it. Of course, the menu was in Italian so it was of no help.

The owner of the restaurant, a cool chap by the name Pio, came by. He could barely say a word in English but really tried his best helping us out. Trying to make things simple, he asked just one question: “what type of an appetizer do you want? meat or fish?”.

We went for meat.

He then proceeded to determine the main courses mostly by himself: all we needed to choose was whether we’d like to have beef, fish or chicken—and Pio took it upon himself to complete the rest of the details.

And it was, hands down, the best meal we have had in the entire tour. A large plate containing 12 different appetizers, each one tastes better than the other. I had a couple of small steaks with truffle sauce, the Dutchman had some chicken bits covered with olive oil, spices and some other vegetables—absolute, complete, utter delight. Service was excellent, the food was simple and perfect. The very thought about that meal makes me hungry.

That’s why I love Italian food so much. It’s not sophisticated: on the contrary—it is very simple. All you need is just pick the best ingredients, make clever use of oil and a few key spices and you got yourself some delightful food.

Pio was very excited to hear that this was the best meal we have had in our entire three months trip (and counting). He was so excited that he rushed into the kitchen and called his cook to come over and hear it directly from us. You should have seen the happiness in these guys’ eyes. So happy they were, that we were treated for another side dish (which was magnificent, but was mostly left untouched. There’s a limit to how much I can eat), as well as a shot of some alcoholic beverage at the end.

What a fantastic dining experience. If you ever happen to pass by Siracusa, don’t dare skipping this place.

As we were consuming ridiculously great food in that restaurant, we started talking about the next day and how horrific it was going to be. Then, as motivation was close to hit rock bottom, an interesting idea came up: how about we forfeit the hotel reservation in Pozzallo (too late to cancel it), and just stay in Taormina instead?

It took a couple of minutes to discuss, and eventually, we decided to make our lives much easier. Upon returning to the hotel, the plan was changed once again:

July 16:

  • Pick up car in Siracusa.
  • Drive to Taormina.
  • Check into hotel in Taormina.
  • Next morning, around 5:00am, drive south to Pozzallo to catch the ferry.

Could hardly get any easier than that. Hotel booked and motivation kicked in. The next day, then, was going to be a great day.

Off to bed, and I realized I can’t sleep in such a hot room. The air conditioner was as useful as an ashtray is on a motorcycle. Took a towel, soaked it in cold water and used it as a blanket. Slept like a baby.

July 16, Tuesday. Got up, quick breakfast at the hotel including some sour milk. Terrible breakfast selection, much unlike what I got used to in Italy already. Got the luggage, checked out and headed to Siracusa’s harbour, where Hertz’s agency is located.


Signed up for a car: a small red Fiat 500L (you don’t see many Fiat’s in North America; mostly in Europe), manual shift. I can drive manual shift, but really dislike it.

I know that some people prefer manual shift because it helps you “feel the ride”; I don’t subscribe to that. For me, a car is a helper object to help me get from point A to point B safely, quickly and with the least amount of effort involved. Beyond that, a car is just a pile of metal cleverly put together.

Of course, the car was parked less than one meter away from the water: an accidental drive forward would mean driving right into the sea. A few attempts to put the car into reverse resulted in the gear shifting to 6th instead, until the Dutchman realized that there’s a hinge you need to pull with your finger in order to allow the gear stick to switch to reverse. Good to know, and I’m happy I didn’t drive the car into the sea.

Google Maps’ Navigator at hand, and within 10 minutes we were outside of Siracusa, heading towards Taormina: three months into the tour, and yet another transportation method was added to the list of methods used for the tour: a rental car.

Now, for some reason, I was expecting Sicily’s roads to be old, narrow and rough to ride. I was shocked to find exactly the opposite: pristine roads in perfect condition. The ride, other than being much easier than expected, was also scenic: many hills along the Mediterranean’s coast, spotted with red roofs and small buildings. Almost no high rises at all.

Less than an hour later, took the exit from the highway, paid the toll and entered Taormina’s city limits. I was looking forward to that, not only because I longed for the safety of a roof over my head, but also because I had heard that Taormina is beautiful.

Taormina is not a big city. It’s actually not even a city: it’s a small town. Still, it has been a major tourist destination, and being there, you’d understand why. The town is built upon hills, rolling down into the Ionian Sea. Most tourists spend their time in Taormina’s “Village”, which is located on a cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea (we’ll get to that later); in lower altitudes, life seems to be simpler and much more “authentic”: beautiful houses, some of which are really old; streets are narrow and almost completely devoid of sidewalks. The Ionian Sea is visible from pretty much everywhere. It is very pretty.

Arrived at the hotel, Hotel Villa Sirina, and was glad to park the car. Got out and took a deep breath of warm Mediterranean air. That’s exactly the same “air” as you get when you take a deep breath along Tel Aviv’s less polluted beaches: in a sense, I missed it. Luggage unloaded and entered the hotel.


Checked into the room to find out that the air conditioner wasn’t really working: fan only, no cooling. Tried to do some writing but couldn’t—the heat was terrible. My “towel trick”—wetting a towel with cold water and covering myself with it—didn’t work at all. Down to reception, where I was informed that the cooling is usually off while housemaids are cleaning the rooms (very strange), and that it should be back within an hour.

And it was. And Isaac was happy.

Hungry, and less stressed over things because I made it to Taormina, it was decided to go grab a bite. Got some instructions from the receptionist and headed outside.

A couple of pictures of the hotel…


As we decided to walk and not use the car unless absolutely having to, we were guided to a restaurant down by the sea.

The walk down was moderately steep, and almost completely devoid of sidewalks. Here, you’re expected to walk on the side of the road, I guess.


Reached down and there was the Ionian Sea in all of its glory.


The restaurant we were guided to was closed, so we settled for sitting in a patio, owned by a different restaurant, by the sea.


Good home‐made Sicilian food, followed by another short walk along the coast, an ice cream from a nearby gelateria and many, many pictures.


Back to the hotel, now in an incline, beneath a scorching sun.


Remember what I wrote earlier about “no sidewalks”?


Arrived to the hotel, sweaty as nobody should be allowed to be. Heat makes you tired, so I decided to go for a nap.

The concert was supposed to start at 9:30pm. The venue, however, was some 2.5km away from the hotel, including a significant elevation gain. We didn’t want to take the car because we didn’t want to mess around with parking at the area (none of us has been here before, and we didn’t want to take any risks), so the only other viable option was to walk up. Knowing it might take a while, and wanting to leave some time to take some pictures of the venue (which, I was told, was magnificent), we left the hotel quite early—not before taking a few shots from the room’s balcony.


When searching for walking directions in Google Maps (at least on Android phones), you also get a graph showing your elevation as you go. A quick peak revealed that the walk is going to be very steep. We really didn’t know what to expect: we were expecting to walk 2.5km, and then arrive at some venue.

We were wrong.

The walk indeed started very steep, providing excellent views over the Ionian Sea:


A short while afterwards, a very narrow walkway forked off the road. Only scooters and pedestrians could use that walkway. Suddenly, we arrived at at intersection that appeared busy.


Nearby, a police officer was directing traffic. Behind him, there was a huge building serving as a parking garage, about 7–8 stories high.


(The last picture in the group above comes to show what the walk was like: essentially, walking on a road, with no sidewalks. Was interesting to see that they still bother painting crosswalks there.)

Despite Google Maps’ instructions, I decided to ask the police officer whether there’s a shortcut to get ourselves up the cliff as it was obvious that that’s where we should be going. Fortunately, there was a shortcut: simply enter the parking garage, look for the lift and get to the 7th floor. Saved quite a bit of time, sweat and blood.

Leaving the elevator and stepping out…


… it felt like a completely different world. As I was expecting to be walking along a deserted walkway and eventually arrive at a venue, I found myself right at the beginning of Taormina’s Village: full of tourists and, just as it was full of tourists, it was absolutely, unequivocally, ridiculously pretty. Being there, walking the narrow streets, you could see why Taormina attracts so many tourists: this is tourists’ paradise. Of course, it looked a little overdone, but you could still sense history. Beautiful, romantic place.


Taormina’s Village is located high up on a cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea. Many opportunities for landscape pictures.


Decided to head to the ticket booth to grab the tickets. Italian efficiency at its best: three people working in the counter. On the left, two women doing nothing. On the right, one man on the phone serving about 4 people at once. Approached the women and informed them that we’re collecting tickets. They had no idea what we were talking about and referred us to the man standing nearby, still on the phone. Waited there for five minutes until he finished talking and taking care of people in front of us in line. Finally, my turn. I showed my ID, looked for an envelope—couldn’t find it. Asked how we got the tickets, I answered that these are fan club tickets.

“Oh, fan club!”, he called, referring us back to the two idle women, telling them “pre‐sale, pre‐sale”. “Oh, pre‐sale”, they called back. Now they were actually willing to do something.

Got the tickets and headed to the venue, some 200m away along a narrow walkway full of tourists and lined up with many gelaterias and other booths. Arrived at the venue, entered and knew right there and then: this is the most beautiful outdoors venue I have yet to set foot in, in Europe.

The venue, Teatrico Antico di Taormina (“Ancient Theatre of Taormina”), is an ancient Greek theatre, dating back to the 7th century BC. Not only it is well‐preserved, to the point that you feel history being injected directly into your brain, it is also situated in such a location that, when sitting in the arena, you see the Ionian Sea and the rolling hills of Taormina right behind the ruins.


Our seats were in the second row, but looking at the venue, it was decided to forfeit these seats and look for alternative seats higher up. Watching a concert in this venue from the front rows is, in my opinion, a completely wasted opportunity. Quickly found my way up, where I discovered a series of unoccupied seats, almost at the center.

What a stunning setting.


The venue felt very intimate. The stage was low, virtually no gap between the front rows and the stage. The stage had to be adjusted to the venue’s peculiar format: no overhead lights, very “thinned‐down” arrangement. That, together with the breathtaking scenery just behind the ruins, were enough to determine: this was going to be the best concert experience in the tour, regardless of the actual performance. I just can’t imagine a more profound, exciting concert experience: perfect temperature, cool breeze, astonishing scenery and a very special arrangement of the stage.


The concert itself was very good, and featured a surprisingly long set, comparing to the last few concerts.


Sultans of Swing made a comeback to the set, sending the audience to the sky, and prompting one of the police officers on site to film the performance.


Good concert, well‐received by the audience.


As the concert ended, it took forever to leave the venue due to the narrow exits. Before heading to the hotel, stopped by a local booth and got a few snacks: the next day was going to be very busy, and it wasn’t clear when we were going to have breakfast, if at all.

One last photograph before leaving the wonderful Taormina Village…


… and a quick walk back to the hotel. The walk wasn’t quick because we were rushing anywhere; rather, it was quick because it had to be quick. The path was downhill, and so steep that it was very hard to maintain slow pace. It was also very dark at times, which is when the Dutchman’s iFail proved useful (using the camera’s flash as a flashlight).

Twenty minutes later we arrived at the hotel, set the alarm clocks for 4:30am and off for a good (but short) night sleep.

Signing off this post from a cafe in Malta. In a couple of hours, will head to the airport to catch a flight to Pisa, then Lucca tomorrow.



  1. Didf you see any evidence of investment in infrastructure like new roads, new factories or anything at all that took money to social housing? What I cannot understand is how this place has remained without any progress since 1950. As part of the EUR it would have had a lot of money thrown at it from 1980 onward. looks like that money ain't got where it should have gone.

    1. My bad.. I read that you note the roads were better than expected so I see some money where it was destined for. But in terms of social housing and jobs..? This place is classed as "peripheral Europe" and in theory should have received the same "development grants" as did Glasgow in Scotland. I can see that tourism is probably a big earner and that involves keeping the place twee and cute...BUT...did you see any factories or any place to work apart from tourist related stuff?

    2. Hi DERG,
      I have only been to Sicily for less than two days, so I have no idea about social housing and jobs there. You have an interesting point there, though. Sicily doesn't look, at least to me, as developed as Glasgow. Walking the streets of Taormina, I did receive the impression that, without tourism, there isn't much there to do. There are, however, many hunks of metal along the eastern sea shore, and I'm guessing these are used for sucking earth's goodies.

      All and all, what I've seen in Sicily looks less developed than Scotland. They still have a way to go. (assuming, of course, that they really want to go there)

    3. Italy is the most amazing place. Part of my family was Italian in todays political border. Devout Catholic always dressed in black. But that was way up north in the Alps. Italy must be hell of a headache to govern from one end to the other. Anyway I really enjoyed the tour you gave us, thanks. I can see why many of them took off to the USA back around 1900.

  2. I had to laugh at your "personal space" comment, thinking of the Canadian version of "near by" being something up to a 2 hour drive (at 100km/h) away :)