Staying in a house made packing easy. We packed the van the previous day, so all we had to do was pack our wash bags, dirty laundry and load the bikes. We said goodbye to our wonderful hosts, who loaded us up with citrus fruits from the garden and waved fare well.
Sicily is shaped a little like an arrowhead, with its four major cities more or less at the four apexes, Palermo at the sharp end, Catania at the inverted apex, Messina at the northern apex and Syracuse at the southern apex. The island’s three main motorways are: along the northern coast – Palermo to Messina, straight down the middle – Palermo to Catania, and along the eastern coast – Messina to Syracuse.
I wanted to take the central motorway to Catania, then turn south to Noto. The sat nav had other ideas. It wanted to take me all the way to Messina, then south to Noto. I was in a defiant mood. As we approached the junction Mr Satnav said “Now keep left”, “Daddu, now keep left” echoed Ben. I manoeuvred right. Once the sat nav realised what I’d done, it rerouted me off the motorway, round a series of hoops, and back on the road to Messina.
“Now turn right” instructed Mr Satnav: “Daddy, you need to turn right”, echoed Ben. I went straight ahead.
Mr Satnav is usually polite, and always upbeat, even when ignored, but he then said the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard him say, and I think I have him verbatim, “Traffic delays ahead due to closure of the A19, no alternative route found.”: “Daddy, there’s no alternative route” said Ben rubbing it in. “Follow the road for 63 kilometres”: “Daddy, follow the road for 63 kilometres”. I had no choice, with Mr Depressing Satnav predicting an arrival time of 3am I followed the road for 63km.
The road was both closed and open. The motorway went down to one lane, we came off a viaduct onto a temporary road, then back onto the motorway viaduct a couple of miles further on. No real delay. And a more upbeat sat nav predicting a 3.30 arrival time.
On our approach to Catania we had our first view of Mount Etna:
We have booked into an Airbnb apartment in Noto for two weeks at €25 per night plus €50 cleaning fee. It’s small but perfect for our needs. Three floors, kitchen/living room, then bedroom and bathroom, then a restricted height bedroom for the boys. The temperature in this part of the island is forecast to hover between 18 and 15 degrees daytime max, a degree or two cooler than Catania in the rain shadow of Etna, but warmer than Palermo, and interestingly, warmer than the south of Spain at the moment. We are very lucky.