After leaving Rome, we travelled through Naples, Pompei, the Amalfi coast towards Tropea to try and escape the rain storm that was following us. We reached Villa San Giovanni port mid afternoon and paid €56 to take the car ferry across to Messina, Sicily. I prebooked a ticket online as I saw other van lifers had overpaid at the port. We headed north off the ferry and found a quiet, secluded park4night spot near San Saba village. Pete had done a few long days driving so we had 2 nights relaxing and swimming in the clearest water.
Having no real plan for Sicily, we decided to head back to the southern coast and started by stopping by Toarmina. There’s a great free car park for campervans underneath the city that’s close to a beach too. We visited the ancient amphitheatre, which had incredible views of Mount Etna from the communal gardens. That night we slept at the worst beach spot so far, it turned out to be a sleazy pick up place, but we were too tired to move on so rapidly left that spot in the morning and headed to the base of Etna volcano.
Driving up to Etna was one of the most scenic driving experiences. You get views over Catania city and the expansive Mediterranean, then volcanic lava fields encapsulated us as we drove through the last village of Zafferana Etnea before making it to the Funivia dell’Etna cable car station. You can pay to park here but if you drive 500m past the station, there’s a layby where you can park for free.
We set our alarms for 6am and saw the most stunning sunrise from the van window. We grabbed our hiking gear and set off up the lava encrusted slopes that are used as ski pistes in the winter. After 9km and 1,000m elevation, we reached the closest point to Etna. There are park wardens stopping you from going closer, but it certainly felt close enough as you can hear and see smoke erupting and hissing from the crater.
After an amazing morning hiking and taking about a thousand photos of Etna, we headed back down to the van and decided to stay at a campsite in Scalonazzo called Mons Gibel Camping Park. We had a mountain of laundry and were desperate for a hot shower. This campsite was really good and cheap too.
With clean bedsheets and an empty laundry bag, we set off back down to the coast and parked up at a Agriturismo Il Baglietto car park near Vendicari beach and stayed here between the bamboo fields for 2 nights. Vendicari beach and Calamosche beach are located on a nature reserve so you have to pay €4 per person to enter for the day. From Vendicari beach you can follow a scenic coastal trail to Calamosche beach which is just under 5km each way, so take water if you also take this route.
I totally recommend visiting this nature reserve, the price on entry helps to maintain the conservation work and the beaches are clean and beautiful. Our next destination was Isola delle Correnti, the most southern point in Sicily.
There is a popular free van parking area that is easy to find and it’s right next to the beach. In the summer I can imagine it’s very busy here, but being there in off season meant we got a perfect park up with stunning views of the sunset. Isola delle Correnti is where the Ionian Sea meets the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean and due to it’s windy location, it’s popular for surfers and windsurfers.
From here we cycled to the lovely fishing village of Marzamemi where we enjoyed a gelato and an apertivo.
This was the first half of our road trip around Sicily and we planned to stick to the western coast for the second half which will be in the next blog.