‘Watch out!’ My knuckles turn white from gripping the car’s roof handle tightly. It’s our first night in Palermo and we are on our way to our first hostel in a rental car. The traffic is insane. 5 cars are driving next to each other in a two-lane street. There seem to be no rules. Everybody is rude and there is honking, a lot of honking. We decide to put ourselves in ‘Palermo-Mode’ and suddenly we get the hang of this Palermo driving. Key is to not hesitate and keep honking while driving.
While we are looking for a parking spot a man signals us with a flashlight. He seems to be the parking help. We don’t trust the situation but somehow there is no way back. The man walks in front of the car and point out a place where we can park our car. It is right in front of the towing sign. We point at the sign but the man assures us it’s ok to park there until 9 am the next morning. Tired as we are we agree to give him the parking fee he asks for. (8 euro) He gives us a paper in return to put behind the front window. When we get our suitcases out of the car the man has left and we realize he gave us a piece of paper from a notebook with nothing on it. Welcome to Sicily!
We came to Sicily without any plan. What we do know is that we definitely want to climb the Etna. Because of the fact that the weather is not good enough to climb the Etna the first days we decide to travel east. We visit Cefalu and spend the night in Castelbuono. The next day we visit Madonie national park to hike.
On our way back we come upon a traffic jam, which seems to take forever. We change our plans, turn the car around and drive over inland roads more east. It turns out to be the best decision. It’s a beautiful drive over winding mountain roads with some splendid views, along picturesque villages. When the sun sets we see the Eta for the first time. It’s a stunning sight.
We spend the night nearby and have an early rising to drive our way up the Etna for the start of our climb. The landscape changes in nothing else than pumice stone. The base station of the Etna is on 2000 meters. The cable cart isn’t in use. We don’t know why but we have to wait on more people who want to go up. When they arrived we got put in a bus-jeep like vehicle, which takes us up the mountain.
At 2500 meter there is a short break of 20 minutes. We notice that our thick clothing isn’t a unnecessary luxury. It’s cold, very cold. But it’s nothing compared to what is in front of us. The second part of our journey up the Etna bring us to 3000 meter. A guide takes us for a half an hour walk. The wind is so strong we can hardly stand and it’s freezing. To take a picture is torturing. But somehow this extreme weather seems to fit the scenery. The smoking mountain, the black pumice stone, snow and above us perfectly blue sky and super white clouds. It’s overwhelmingly beautiful this roughness of mount Etna. This visit makes our trip to Sicily an instant success.
While we experience the island the rest of the week we slowly fall in love. The view alongside the road is beautiful, the villages are simply stunning. Driving this island together makes us fall in love with Sicily and with each other once again.