Stage 49: Sant’Elia to Scilla

Distance: 34.86 km

Time: 2 hours 31 minutes

Speed: 13.8 km/h

Ascent: 637 metres

Total distance: 2495.4 km

Total time: 135 hours 24 minutes

Wordle scores: Captain 4, 4 Stoker 4, 4

Word of the day: “mozzafiato” (moh-tzah-fee-ah-toe) – breathtaking

The Captain writes:

We’d decided to cook for ourselves on the first night of two in Sant’Elia, so we clambered (slightly wearily) back on to the tandem and rode a couple of kilometres to a small supermarket to purchase the necessary ingredients. This turned out to be a fortuitous move, as on the way back, with a pannier heavily laden with food, bottles of water and wine, we noticed that the back tyre was under-inflated, and appeared to have a slow puncture. Much better to spot that before the rest day than afterwards.

So the first order of business on the rest day was to investigate, and having removed the tyre and deployed the usual ‘immerse the inner tube in water’ tactic we found a small split in one of the seams of the inner tube. They tyre itself was declared fine after careful inspection, and our kind host lent us a track-pump so that we could re-inflate it, after fitting a new inner tube.

Sant’Elia is a sleepy sort of place, and that suited us just fine – we caught up with the weekend newspapers, sat outside in a shady spot and enjoyed the rest. In the afternoon we strolled down to the beach, only 300 metres away, for a swim. The beach extended a long way in both directions, and gave spectacular views of our (already-completed) route from Tropea in the north, of Palmi to the south and the hills which surround it, of Scilla and, of course, of Sicily and the straits of Messina.

We did notice a lot of tsunami warning notices around, and markings on the road to indicate a safe boundary zone.

This is because the area is prone to underwater landslides, the last of which occurred in 1977 and resulted in 5m high tsunami waves which caused extensive damage (and thankfully no loss of life) in the port area of Gioa Tauro, just 5km away from Sant’Elia.

Happily we had a quiet night! Much to our surprise when we opened the shutters this morning it was cloudy and humid. We breakfasted by the swimming pool on cornetti filled with lemon cream, then set off. No warm up at all today, we were climbing straight out of the blocks, the last big climb of the trip, amounting to more than 600 metres. We were mostly on a reasonably busy SS road, but the traffic was largely free of big lorries and buses, so (apart from the gradient!) it was fairly relaxing.

The climb was divided into two sections, separated by a flattish road through the town of Palmi. The cool temperatures helped us, and after 40 minutes of steady work the first part was complete, and we celebrated with a delicious bottle of water. Oh, the luxury! Back on the tandem, then, and a steeper section, fairly unrelenting, brought us to the summit.

We remembered that there was a water-fountain soon after the top, and we found it fairly easily, next to a helpful bench where we sat for a while. It was unusual to be in cloud, and, it has to be said, a little cold! So we didn’t hang around for very long and set off on the downhill section. After a short while inland we found ourselves at the top of the steep cliffs above the ‘Costa Viola’ (violet coast). A series of sweeping, undulating curves…

…brought us to the town of Bagnara Calabra, a place we remembered from last time for the steep, tightly-wound hairpins which descended through the town almost to sea-level. Good job I checked the brakes before setting off – it was something of a white-knuckle experience!

Halfway down the hairpins we stopped at a viewpoint next to a church to take some pictures.

Thereafter we followed the coast road, separated from the sea by the railway line, huge steep cliffs to our left, until we could see Scilla in the distance. Last time we lunched there, and somewhat regretted not choosing it as a place to stay. This time we weren’t making the same mistake.

It’s a dramatic spot, the ‘rock’ in the ‘rock and a hard place’ of Scylla and Charybdis. I wrote all about that in 2018, so I shan’t repeat myself. I will say that it’s a very beautiful town in a striking location, and when you turn the corner past the castle the coast of Sicily seems but a short distance away.

That’s where we are going tomorrow – a short ride of 9 kilometres will take us to the ferry, and once on the other side we’re cycling to Giardini Naxos, just south of Taormina.

Here’s today’s route and a short video.

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