Day 58: Catania – Siracusa

Distance: 65.3 km

Time: 3 hours 6 minutes

Average speed: 21 kph

Cumulative distance: 3026.11 km

Cumulative time: 153 hours 35 minutes

Word of the day: ‘colazione’ (col-atz-ee-owe-nay) – breakfast

We’ve enjoyed eating breakfast at local cafés very much on this trip. Today was no exception – once we’d checked out of our very pleasant apartment we cycled into the piazza next to the Cathedral and found a very good spot on an outside table. The coffee on our journey has been excellent – we still talk about the first double espresso on our first day in Saint-Vincent, which instantly reminded us just how good this country is at coffee! Of course it’s also important to load up on some fuel for the day, and some cornetti were duly consumed. We can do this in a guilt-free fashion – our weight loss on this trip has been very noticeable.

It wasn’t a complicated or difficult exit from Catania, we headed for the strada statale and joined it, knowing we had thirty or so kilometres to complete on there before turning off onto more minor roads. The busy traffic didn’t last for very long, though, and we could enjoy looking around. As we approached the airport we speculated whether Ryanair would call it “Rome South”.

The Stoker spotted that we had a fine view of Etna behind us, with a small cap of clouds at the summit which make it appear as though it is erupting.

After about thirty kilometres we began the only serious climb of the day, a relatively gentle ascent of about a hundred and fifty metres, which didn’t take very long. Soon afterwards we turned onto a quieter strada provinciale. We knew from last night’s research that the next dozen kilometres would be heavily industrial, and so it proved – the scenery would only really be of interest to someone with an enthusiasm for heavy industry.

“Darling, look at that fabulous petro-chemical plant.”

“Yes darling, what a divine example of a fractionation tower!”

At least the road was quiet, if heavily potholed in places. What vegetation still existed was limited to olives and prickly pears..

Having completed about two-thirds of our planned distance we thought we should eat, so we stopped in a café in Priolo Gargallo for spaghetti con pomodori. The Stoker requested a small portion and finished hers. The Captain should have requested a small portion too, as he was unable to finish his – as we’ve said before, the heat and exercise really curtail our appetites.

Only one more petrochemical plant to go (yay!), then a short final climb brought us into the outskirts of Siracusa. Almost immediately the surroundings improved dramatically. To our right we caught sight of the archeological park – we’ve visited this before and it was well worth the effort, with a fine amphitheatre.

Siracusa’s streets are elegant, a feast for the eyes after all the heavy industry.

We were heading for the city’s most famous area: Ortigia. This is a small island connected by two bridges to the rest of the city.

On our last visit we had lunch in Ortigia, but failed to make the most of our visit, as the weather was dreadful. There was no such problem today, thankfully, and from what we’ve seen so far it’s rather impressive. We cycled past the Tempio di Apollo and the Fontana di Diana – we aim to take a closer look later this evening.

As we passed through the island we diverted onto a narrow vicolo with beautiful houses built of the local sandy limestone. The street was lined with restaurants, and most picturesque. I suspect we shall eat there this evening.

Today we achieved three thousand kilometres on our journey. Tomorrow we’re heading to the town of Pachino, and passing through Marzamemi, apparently one of Italy’s prettiest seaside towns, founded by Arabs in the tenth century.

Here’s today’s track.

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