When you’ve had enough of the gritty realness of Catania, I recommend hopping aboard a sailing boat and spending the day cruising the rocky coastline north.
On a sunny day in June we did just that as we joined five other hopeful sailors plus two crew, and set sail with Sicily Sailing Experience, destination Aci Trezza.
There wasn’t much wind as we left the port with Mount Etna smoking away behind us, so we motored close to the shore.
Because of the volcano, the coastline is entirely rocky, with no beaches. But that doesn’t stop people from sunbaking on the rocky platforms and jumping into the sea when all that black volcanic rock gets a bit too hot.
But fear not sun seekers! It’s not your only option! Every summer temporary beach clubs are erected all along this coast. Essentially wooden platforms that turn uncomfortable rocks into a pleasant beach club experience, with sun lounges, umbrellas, a bar and sometimes a DJ as well. Come summer’s end they’re packed away, and you’d never know they were ever there.
Along the way we looked into lava caves, and stopped several times for a dip in the beautifully clear but breathtakingly cold water.
One of the things I love about boat trips in southern Italy is the food. Having done similar trips in Australia you always get fairly standard fare (cheap bread rolls, a BBQ chook and Woolies coleslaw). But in Italy food is so important that even on a boat it’s great!
Come mid-morning we were served beautiful antipasti, we had fresh pineapple for afternoon tea, real coffee, loads of wine, beautiful bread and freshly cooked spaghetti with mussels for lunch.
So enough of the food, and back to the sailing…
Soon we passed Aci Castello with its ruined castle …
Then the faraglioni (pointy rocks sticking up out of the sea) or ciclopi as they’re called here, came into view. It’s a marine park and the rocks are protected. Just as well because there’s something magical about them. The name comes from the legend that these rocks are the stones thrown by the Cyclops Polyphemus against Ulysses in flight, as narrated in the Odyssey of Homer. For more information about the ciclopi.
We moored in Aci Trezza’s harbour and had an hour or so to look around. It’s a small village and there’s not much to see, but what there is, is picturesque and quirky in that southern Italian way.
Then back to the boat in time for a lovely lunch prepared by the crew, which we strangely ate while moored in the harbour. Not the most atmospheric of locations, but I guess they had their reasons.
We spent the next four hours sailing, very slowly (not much wind) out to sea and then along the coast back to Catania. The highlight was seeing a flock of flamingos go by (yes flamingos!). It was relaxing, but after a couple of hours I’d had enough. The sun had gone, I was cold and my bottom was sore.
But, all in all a lovely relaxing day, and a great antidote to Catania.
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Until next time, safe travels,
The Travelling Pantaloni