KENNST DU DAS LAND WO DIE ZITRONEN BLUEHN?

“Do you know the land where the lemons grow?” Goethe asks to his beloved. And it’s the fragrance of lemons and tomatoes that takes us to the third part of our journey in Sicily, through the fields and the baroque towns of the south-east.

Petrol and tomatoes

The wind has stopped and the sun begins to hit our skin, so we decide to leave early from Favara. Considering that the first 10 km of our today route are downhill, we trust it is going to be a day of pleasant ride, even the dangerous SS115 seems to have mellowed thanks to the proximity of the sea. The cars and trucks pass us always at high speed, but there is enough space for everyone and we can ride safely. It’s the fourth day of cycling, legs and bicycle are now just one thing, the fatigue of the first day seems to be totally over. We cycle fast through the fields, villages, through the area devastated by ENI petrol refineries, through Gela, a city that seems to have been bombed. The easy ride brings us to cover in one day 116 km and reach far beyond the set point. We look for a place to sleep but the cultivated fields and greenhouses of tomatoes that extend to the sea make us difficult to find a corner for our tent. At Puntabraccetto we surrender to the comfort of the camp, he price offered is truly an occasion: 15 € tent, hot shower, private bathroom and free wi-fi, for the two of us!

The Baroque

TThe morning after we cycle up the 20 kilometers of soft and sunny uphill to the baroque town of Ragusa. It is may the 1st and the traffic of cars going in the opposite direction to sea makes us understand that the city won’t be very crowded. We enter Ragusa at lunch time, the streets are semi-deserted. We pass the impressive Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, in the square just us and a couple of Spanish tourists. But where is everyone? Just following sings to Ragusa Ibla we find them all! Bunch of tourists charmed by this small baroque island, perfectly preserved, built on a spur overlooking the valley of the river Irminio, nestled in the mountains of Gorge Hyblaean. Each tiny street is an art work, a glimpse of this corner of Sicily part of Unesco heritage. The ride in the valley, along the river Irminio, is in the shade and a shelter to the hot Sicilian sun. The landscape is truly inspiring, green, mountainous, few buildings and no cultivated fields as it was the day before, it makes us forget the effort to climb that steep uphill route to another little gem, Modica. We reach Modica from the top and it already appears to be something extraordinary. It has been build along the two sides of a river, rive that does not exist any more. On the left side there’s the ancient city, a perfect nativity scene. Narrow alleys among small houses, where we lose a couple of time and have to push our bicycles down steep stairs to reach Corso Umberto I and the other part of the city. On the other side there’s the triumph of baroque era, the view is captured by the outstanding Cathedral of St. George. It is really a big shame we arrived Modica so late, it deserves much more than a few hours to visit. The cheerful presence of people in the streets, squares, bars makes us want to stay longer.

Modica

Modica

But the train from Syracuse beats unfortunately our time, and we are on saddles again. The road to Sampieri, our night shelter, runs along the bottom of the valley, seems that there won’t be any more uphill. But that curvy steep uphill street that can shorten our route is so attractive! So with more then 60 kilometers in the legs, in Scicli, another wonderful baroque city center, we cycle our last tiring uphill of the day, two kilometers of sweat and swearing for the choice done. The final part of the route to Sampieri is instead, and of course, a restoring downhill through fields of olive trees, so in less then half our we are there, ready to meet Marco’s brother in law to collect the keys of their summer residence. Marco, a good friend of us, is from Sampieri and wish to give us a comfortable shelter for the night! We have cycled many kilometers in the past 3 days and the last two days of our stay in this land with many faces, we can afford less kilometers with more tranquility, enjoying even more the sea and the total absence of tourists, as April is completely out of season.

The land of lemon trees

We leave Sampieri quite late (lunch time), it is a small fishing village, with a characteristic historic center and a surpring new bike path. We decide to follow SIBIT again to reach Syracuse, conscious that it could lead us to unusal path.

Towards the sea?

Towards the sea?

The Pachino area is a desert, no people, no cars, just us cycling along this empty straight road on the sea side. Wind blows again, strong from south, and makes our supposed easy ride quite tiring through this area of tomatoes and cultivated field. In the afternoon we reach Noto, the route to this remarkable town is through lemon trees fields, never saw anything like this! An incredible amount of trees loaded with these yellow fruits, hundreds of them, the bitter-sweet scent of this fruit is everywhere. In Noto we take a good pause by a caffetteria just opposite the grand Cathedral of St. Nicholas, enjoying the view of coming and going people, and tasting a delicious fresh granita accompanied by a croissant. We booked a room with sea view in Calabernardo to spend the night! The south wind brings rain and the night our tent has to protect us from the heavy rain, thanks to the multifunctional plastic tarps we use to pack the bikes, we survive the night.

Arancini

The next morning wind and clouds convince us that we have to postpone a swim. Syracuse is getting closer and closer, as well as our stay in Sicily, and still we haven’t eaten an Arancino! Shame on us! At lunchtime, the sky finaly opens up and we decide to stop by Capo Muro di Porco, to enjoy a well deserved rest in the sun and a restoring swim the cold sea. We are now at few kilometers from Syracuse, at the entrance of the city we meet a bunch of funny and friendly cyclists that decide to escort us thrhough the ancient city of Ortigia, that is actually and island. Showing us its wonders, the old castle, source Arethusa, huge ficus trees, the sea side and the best Arancini we have ever had! Time to catch the train again. Back on the platform the scene is always the same: the conductor scratches her head to find a place for us and our luggage, and of course, she find a good solution. The train departs and also does our memories of this wonderful island, where every corner is different, an island of hospitality, nature, food, sea and mountains. We’re glad we’ve been here before heading to the world!


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