Don Crione and his Sicilian Adventure.
Part #5: Termini Imerese to Castellammare

As you may have guessed, there was no bus from Termini Imerese to Caccamo the day I needed it. In fact I felt a bit like a ping pall ball being directed by a group of cab drivers, train station information, local bar and a newspaper stand to gather information at any of other 3 places. As usual they believed the bus was coming in the morning but nobody could share anything more specific.

Screw them. It was getting dark, so it was high time I started searching for a place to sleep. After all I spent all day hiking Madonie mountains.

Since there was only one main road, I followed it towards ‘the centre’, which actually turned out to be an old part of the town with a large theatre and few Brighton Lanes like shopping streets. It looked pretty nice and it reassured me it was not a bad place after all. There was only one problem — I couldn’t find any B&B, hotel or case vacanze!

After 30 minutes of walking in circles and growing more and more desperate, one of locals, who by the way looked like someone who just finished his shift at a building site (still wearing one of those reflective yellow vests) decided to help me!

Couple of minutes of exchanging made up Italian words and sign language later, he figured out what I was after. 23kg on my back was probably a good indicator as well. He considered the possibilities for few longs seconds and showed me to follow him.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but he was clearly in the hurry and running with a damn heavy rucksack after a day spent on climbing and mass-producing calluses is not something you want to do. Yet I did. Just to be rewarded with a view of probably the most expensive place in this part of Sicily — Grand bloody Hotel! Without thinking much I followed the guy inside.

Grand Hotel delle Terme

You should have seen the disgust on the receptionist’s face. It was priceless! I can’t really blame her for claiming they had no rooms during the lower season, in the middle of the week, in the middle of nowhere — after all I was sweating like a pig after few minutes of running through the town, I was rather smelly after my earlier backpack adventure, and, I imagine, slightly dirty in places(;

Luckily, at this point my guide was determined to find me a place to sleep; I suppose it was a matter of Sicilian male pride, which I really appreciated. At least until he returned to his Speedy Gonzales mode…

I could tell he was struggling with ideas, fortunately he bumped into one of his friends so now it was two of them running through shopping lanes with me following. It didn’t last long for a third guy to join in our small pilgrimage and at this point I became a literally touristic attraction for all locals — imagine 3 trotting guys ranging from Lauer to Hardy, waving their hands and loudly discussing the subject of a bed, followed by a future owner of that bed, who looked like he just came back from a jungle, barely holding on his legs (yet keeping the pace), with his body dangerously bent at 10° under the weight of his rucksack, in fact slightly bigger than the guy himself… People were actually stopping by to look and point fingers. I wouldn’t be surprised if they took photos. In fact the only thing missing was Benny Hill’s theme tune.

They eventually found me a B&B! Sure, they led me through the most dodgy alley I’ve ever been to, and I was almost sure I’d get robbed, but the way I looked probably saved my skin.

Hotel Picollo was a luxury shithole you don’t really want to stay for too long at, but it was kept clean, the bed was decent enough and the room was considerably large with a view at someone else’s flat 2m away with an elderly woman inside constantly shouting at someone else. As it later came out, it was also the only place to stay in the whole town…

Anyway, I thanked my saviours and quickly went to the room. After all this excitement I was starting to feel really hungry. One shower later I was ready to eat. When I asked the owner for directions, she happily pointed me further down the alley, which actually ended 15m later with… railtracks. I suddenly realised with relief that if not for the Sicilian ridiculous public transport I’d have a sleepless night. Fortunately I knew the trains were as frequent as me vacuum cleaning my room.

But back to the subject of food consumption, yes — there was some kind of restaurant/pizzeria next to the tracks but after wondering through all those nice shopping lanes for the last hour, I couldn’t believe there was nothing better out there!

How wrong I was… 30 minutes later and not a single food venue, I could hear my stomach protesting. Few lone souls wandering now completely deserted streets could only think of the same place. Having no choice I came back to the beginning and had a surprisingly nice pizza.

Feeling satisfied, my stomach allowed me to lose consciousness soon after I laid down on my bed.

I should probably mention that one last thing that I actually managed to accomplish that day, was finding a bus time table from 2009. Yay for accuracy.

7AM I was waiting in front of the train station surrounded by a small army of school kids generating the usual health hazardous noise levels. The bus I was after arrived 30 minutes later.

I originally considered staying in Caccamo overnight and walking around neighbouring Rosmarina lake and San Leonardo river, but my extended stay on Etna and in Cefalù made it rather impossible. I’m actually glad it happened like this – the village was rather unimpressive. Sure it had a castle, few nice streets and buildings but the lake itself was rather disappointing. Nice, but without the WOW factor I was hoping for.

Panoramic shot of Rosmarina lake from the top of Caccamo

I had 6 hours to my return bus, so I decided to reach the lake anyway. I did not expect a complete lack of a road leading to it, though. Asking at few open groceries and cafeterias gave me completely opposing versions or just a headshake.

Not giving up easily I tried following down one of the paths leading to the lake, but after a longer while it ended with private property. It was a good enough reason to eat a banana, read few chapters of a book and just enjoy the sun. You may find it a waste of time, but I should probably mention at this point that my feet were in some serious pain having double and triple layers of calluses under calluses after adventures of a previous day. I like to think it was a well deserved regeneration break. Plus, give me a break, I’m old 31 in two weeks time;P

Caccamo Castle and western walls of the village

Eventually I came back up, wandered around empty streets for a while and caught the return bus. I collected by rucksack from Termini Imerese and boarded train to capital city — Palermo.

I was planning to stay there as short as possible, just to figure out how to proceed to my next destination — Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro. That, unfortunately, wasn’t given to me that easily.

Upon arrival I spent 20 minutes queuing in front of tourist information to learn that I had two options: either take a city bus to another train station at the opposite end of the city and continue my trip from there, or grab a couch 50m away from my current location. Simple, right?

Wrong. The couch station (or something that looked like it) was completely empty – neither coaches nor people. By pure luck I noticed 2 drivers on a cigarette break and they told me that I want to go to Piazza Marina 10 minutes in that direction. As it didn’t sound too bad I decided to give it a go.

10 minutes turned to 20. Through a bloody China Town. In Sicily.

Piazza Marina turned out to be a rather dodgy place, with a bunch of suspiciously looking homeless people curiously eyeing my backpack. I tried to ask few passers-by but they had no idea about any couches. So I had to return back to the train station.

On my way back I managed to assault a mailbox, rendering a beautiful junkie-like cut at the back of my elbow. It quickly turned purple, clearly confirming my n00b skills with heroin syringes…

I also found a street where all the couches were stationed — the information guy must have forgot to tell me not to follow the signs. But why? That would be too easy, right? Of course there was no couch towards Zingaro anyway. I had no other choice but to try that other train station.

The journey took me over half an hour through your usual crowded, noisy and dirty capital city. Many pretty buildings, but after so long living in London… I couldn’t be bothered. The train station, on the other hand, was completely abandoned with a next connection in 3 hours!

Resigned I sat at local bar and emptied a litre of fresh, delicious lemonade. Again by pure luck I noticed couple of cab drivers sitting nearby, so I thought: why not ask them?

They were surprisingly helpful and they confirmed I should go back to Piazza Marina as the couches are 100% leaving from there and the next one was actually in 1 hour! Damn it, really?!

My trip back was annoyingly slow – the city bus took forever and rather than following main roads it was crawling through some narrow streets. And the clock was ticking.

When I arrived at the central station I didn’t have much choice but to catch a cab, and although its owner drove me all around the world, he managed to arrive at the other side of Piazza Marina just on time to literally stop in front of my already moving coach! Both drives exchanged polite series of swear-rich poetry, I tipped both of them generously and felt relief first time that day. I was on my way to pretty places again! Frakking hate big cities…

2 hours later I arrived at Castellammare del Golfo — the closest town to the reserve. I was hoping to reach Scopello, a small yet tourist-friendly village 2km from the park entrance but although I phoned few B&Bs neither of them would agree to pick me up from my current location — 11km away. There were also no buses at that time. I had no choice but look for accommodation in Castellamare.

I did not expect it to be difficult as apparently it was a nice spot during summer time, not only because of reserve but also a quietness and vicinity of Palermo, so it must have had plenty of beds to offer. What I didn’t consider was its popularity outside of the high season — I visited literally every single B&B, hotel, hostel and case vacanze I could find and everything was booked! At some point I turned to a bunch of senior lads sipping amazingly aromatic coffee at a small bar and, although we could not understand each other, we had a laugh (not sure about what, but I assume thay were laughing at me;) and they referred me to their friend’s place ordering me to use their name as a discount trigger. Nice!

The place turned out to be locked behind a pair of massive, beautifully decorated wooden door in a dark alley. Using a knocker didn’t do any good and I almost left, when I heard voices inside.

Few long knocking minutes later the door opened to one of the residents, who informed me that the owner was not there. They did allow me in to recharge my phone for few minutes and try to reach their landlord though, which I found very kind of them.

Small port at Castellammare del Golfo

They were from Sweden, travelling around Sicily and they simply fell in love with that town. We had some interesting conversation and when I finally reached the owner of the establishment, who gave me the same reply as all previous ones, they offered to lead me to a main piazza at the sea side, where I should be able to find few bigger hotels.

After over an hour of searching, thanks to my Scandinavian friends, I managed to claim one last room in a very well organised, cleanly furnished and maintained La Piazzetta Hotel. For some reason the bathroom was larger than the bedroom itself, but who was I to judge it — the important thing was a perfectly comfy mattress for a change.

Anyway, I took a quick shower, changed, after a rather active day, and went downstairs to find a place to eat. A unquestionably hot receptionist very enthusiastically pointed me to, apparently fantastic, restaurant just behind the corner. Egesta Mare, that’s how it was called, was indeed a source of intense experiences — the place was completely packed with Sicilians, I could not see a single tourist, which was a good sign in the first place. The service was awful, super slow and seemed like they couldn’t care less, but the food was simply brilliant. I can’t remember what I had but I’m sure I’d normally enjoy it thoroughly.

Wait, what?

Yes, well… opposite my seat there was a very long table occupied by either 1 large or 2 families, who were having a lot of fun with mountains of deliciously looking food and rivers of wine. I’d probably ignore them completely if not for that single woman… she was definitely at her late 30s, rich black, slightly curly hair, dark eyes, slightly slutty yet classy at the same time makeup, perfect body. I’m not an expert in female body language, but, without going into details, the way she was looking at me and with all that dirty stuff she was doing with her hands while going for a smoke with her friends was far from accidental.
I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it, if fact I did a lot, but how on earth do you approach a woman, knowing that you have to get up at 7AM and you’re not coming back after that. Especially when she’s surrounded by her family(;

So I did nothing. I hated myself for it for the following week, but after so much exercise in the previous days, I probably wouldn’t do her much good anyway(; Still — a fail is a fail.

Since fails usually go in pairs, I also failed to get up at 7. I fought with my eyes for 15 minutes and then I realised that resistance is futile (you see what I did here?;) and gave myself another 90 minutes of snooze before catching another bus to reserve.

I’m afraid I don’t have too many shots to offer this time as most of the day I spent on the bus, train or running. But if you wait few more days, you’ll be rewarded with amazing views from Riserva Nat­urale dello Zingaro. For now please watch the gallery below, or head to my Flickr account.

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