Stage 50: Scilla to Giardini Naxos

Distance: 66.1 km

Time: 3 hours 36 minutes

Speed: 18.4 km/h

Ascent: 572 metres

Total distance: 2561.4 km

Total time: 139 hours precisely

Wordle scores: Captain 3, Stoker 4

Word of the day: “stretto” (stret-toe) – strait (as of Messina)

The Stoker writes:

Having arrived in Scilla at lunchtime (almost!), we had a quick shower, changed into our civvies and walked back and up into the old town. It sits right up above the road on which we’d ridden through, and it was only when we got to the top of all the steps that we realised there was a lift from the car-park!

From above it’s a stunning landscape of terracotta roofs, with the cobalt sea and Sicily beyond. The castle is now a ruin, but must have been a substantial fortress in its day.

We had a good lunch in a little osteria, and then a mooch around the narrow streets, full of cacti and succulents just growing outside as if it’s normal!

There were amazing views back along the Costa degli Dei, we could see Palmi, past which we had ridden that very day, but also the road on which we stopped when we saw our first glimpse of Sicily, and even Capo Vaticano, the headland sheltering Tropea, two cycling days back.

On the way back to our hotel we went into the castle, Castello Ruffo, which dates originally back to Etruscan times. It was part of the military defence during the Saracen invasion period, and has an ancient lighthouse…

… and a much newer one!

The views from up there were spectacular.

We didn’t fancy much for dinner, so we headed out around sunset time along the beach. The Captain mentioned yesterday that this coast is known as the Costa Viola, the violet coast, apparently because the sunsets have a violet hue. “I shall be expecting a violet hue”, I joked as we walked down to the beach, thinking it unlikely, but then…

The sea really was the most incredible shade of violet. Absolutely beautiful. It arises because the sea is very blue, and the setting sun colours any clouds bright red, which reflect in the sea and produce the violet from the combination of blue and red. Gorgeous.

We had a simple dinner next to the beach, and then turned in.

A good breakfast in the hotel, and we were on the road efficiently, enjoying the sunshine and our last view of Stromboli. It’s been a constant presence these last few days.

Sicily looked close enough to touch, and after a scant few kilometres into Villa San Giovanni, we rode into the port and I hopped off to buy our ferry tickets. The ticket seller was very confused by our two person, one bicycle approach, and charged me just three euros for all of us, but they let us on anyway, just five minutes later.

It was a rapid, smooth crossing, and before long we were racing off the front of the ferry to get ahead of all the traffic. We couldn’t keep up with these two though!

Messina was as busy as we both remembered, and it took nearly an hour of threading carefully through the traffic, concentrating fiercely and shouting ‘ATTENZIONE’ at pedestrians before we were done with it. There were some handsome buildings in the centre, but the suburbs were a bit grotty.

We rewarded ourselves with a huge bottle of water in a café, and then enjoyed the seaside road, much quieter, with views of the receding Italian mainland, and occasional little towns.

Lunch was arancini in a little seaside hotel in Roccalumera – we’ve been eating them occasionally since about stage three, actually, but it seemed appropriate for our first lunch in Sicily.

We ploughed on, passing sculptures in Santa Teresa di Riva and the Castello di Sant’Alessio Siculo.

We stopped in Mazzarò for more water, and heard more different accents in twenty minutes than we’d heard for weeks! English, American, Dutch, German, Irish… Mazzarò is located below the immensely popular Taormina, and we’ve stayed in and visited both before, they have always been ridiculously crammed full of people in summer months, so we’d decided not to stay this time. Taormina is probably even more popular now after appearing in the very successful and hugely entertaining drama “The White Lotus” last year.

One last push to Giardini Naxos, and we’d made it. We’re installed in a Marriott, which is exactly as you’d expect, but has a nice private beach where we can swim tomorrow one last time in the Ionian sea on our final rest day. We’re really spinning this out, eh?!

After that we will ride to Catania and find a way to get the tandem packed up ready to fly home. I’ve heard there’s a bit of a heatwave going on?!

Here’s today’s route and a short video

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