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Thread: A 1600 Km tour through Sicily

  1. #11
    Robert Nixon's Avatar
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    Here's the FIAT USA Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/fiatusa/
    2013 Rosso Abarth with 68K miles, Koni yellow shocks, Madness springs, Neu-f rear sway bar, EBC Yellowstuff brake pads, DOT4 brake fluid, K&N air filter, autocross 17 inch Ciao Milano wheels with Bridgestone Potenza RE71R, daily wheels stock 16 inch Dunlop DZ102. 2017 1st place HS Tidewater Sports Car Club: 2016-2015 1st Place TSCC GS class; 2014-2013: 2nd place in SCCA South Carolina Region G Stock.
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    50+ yr Abarth Lifetime Member MrFiat's Avatar


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    Capo Di Orlando


    We left Cefalu early Wednesday afternoon after sharing a long chat and some Fiat car photos with our LaGiara host Archangelo.




    Great folks, these. The La Giara is a wonderful place to stay!




    Our stay at La Giara was brightened all the more by the grace and charm of the lovely senorina at the front desk. Ciao Bella! Grazie!




    heading out of the city


    Our next destination -- Capo Di Orlando, about an hour away on the Autostrada along the northern coastline and on to stay at The Capo Baia Verde resort.






    Interesting road as it changes speed limits from 40 km/hr to 120 and back again as the terrain changes. Most Sicialian drivers take this as mere suggestion and usually ignore the speed limits. That goes double for the busses and semi's. The road has a surprising number of bridges and tunnels that connect or bore through the northern edges of the Msdonie and Nebrodie mountain chains.





    Many of these bridges are close to a mile in length and many hundreds of feet in height. Not at all unusual to enter a tunnel from a bridge and find another bridge waiting as you exit. Many of the tunnels have very little shoulder room and have many curves, so staying well in your lane is a must. Some of the tunnels are well lit and some are not lit at all. The longer ones go on for a mile or more and are not all that easy to navigate in the dark. Still it doesn't stop the trucks and busses from passing at speed, even through the narrow tunnels. Kinda scarey until you get used to it.




    Yep, that's the autostrada up there and those are tunnels at the end of the bridges.
    Imagine the size. Each strip is a two lane highway !!




    Many of the tunnels are long and not at all straight. So well lit and some not at all.




    We made it! Capo Di Orlando was a one night stop for us though in retrospect it would have been nice to stay longer. The Capo Baia Verde resort was beautiful and a ten minute drive from the town itself. The tourist season was over when we were there so we had the entire place to ourselves. The beach was perfect, the staff relaxed and ultra friendly after a busy summer season.













    Unfortunately the hotel restaurant was closed for the season so we made our way into town. Didn't have a lot of time to explore but the sea front was very nice. In Sicily, none of the restaurants open for dinner until 8 o'clock at night. So we had ample time to watch the sunset over the sea and to watch the parade of vintage Fiat 500's going about their business. There were a lot of them and they were all in great condition. These were no doubt someones daily drivers.











    Almost missed that one.




    Who knows just how many more beautiful little cinquecentos were hiding just around the corner ???


    One of our goals while in Sicily was to prowl through as many old car junkyards as possible. Turns out that it was IMpossible !! Those yards were fortresses. guarded better than Fort Knox. Sure looks like the Italians value their scrapped cars and parts as much as they value spaghetti and pizza !! And that's a LOT !


    After an early continental breakfast on the terrace overlooking the sea, (mega-relaxing by the way) we pointed our brave little Fiat Cabrio up the resort's steep driveway to begin the most awesome drive ever from the valley floor to the tops of the Nebrodie mountains. over and across to our next destination, Taormina. I'm going to break up this leg of the trip into two parts. The first is the drive through the mountains, and the second is Taormina itself. The drive getting there is well worth its own description.










    Capo Di Orlando -- beautiful resort -- gorgeous beaches -- Fiats, Fiats, and more Fiats.


    Coming up --- over the mountains --- Don't miss it !!
    Last edited by MrFiat; 10-19-2016 at 01:09 PM.
    I spent most of my money on fast cars, guitars and pretty women. I somehow managed to waste the rest of it.

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    500SW (10-21-2016), Amacento (10-20-2016), Lil Blue (10-19-2016), Robert Nixon (10-19-2016)

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    Senior Member Amacento's Avatar
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    This is one of the best threads I've seen here.
    http://cc5club.blogspot.com/

    https://www.pinterest.com/CC5Club/

    https://www.facebook.com/CC5Club

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    50+ yr Abarth Lifetime Member MrFiat's Avatar


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    Quote Originally Posted by Amacento View Post
    This is one of the best threads I've seen here.
    I have some neat video clips of the mountain crossing for the next post . Still trying to figure out which video formats will work.
    I spent most of my money on fast cars, guitars and pretty women. I somehow managed to waste the rest of it.

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    Thank you SO much for the post. So envious of your trip. My wife and me did a tour last year for 17 days and can't wait to go back since Sicily is the one thing we had to sacrifice. Would love to drive a Fiat on your route. Fantastic!

    Steven

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  11. #16

    50+ yr Abarth Lifetime Member MrFiat's Avatar


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    Capo di Orlando to Randazzo and from there to Taormina

    Capo di Orlando was the halfway point in our trip. Time was going by faster than the busses on the Autostrada. Taormina (according to our somewhat confused tour guide, Siri of Iphone fame, was 2 hours away on the Autostrada. But we had a choice. Do we take the highway with its bridges, tunnels, and scenic coastline vistas ?? Nah! We were going to take the shortcut inland. It was the local scene for us. Straight south on Stata Stradale, SS116 through the Nebrodi Mountain chain, over the top, across and down to Randazzo where we were to pick up SS120 toward Taormina. The Cinquecento was primed for the drive. We were as well. Spoiler alert --- it was fun but not the shortcut we expected.

    The weather was warm and sunny as we dropped the top and headed east along the coast to pick up SS116. Just outside of San Gregorio Bagnoli, Siri blithly announced a turn onto what looked like someone's driveway. It probably was, but we took it anyway. The road got narrower and more crater marked from there but after about 15 minutes or so and having traversed at least 2 parking lots and somebody's front lawn we finally arrived on what looked like it might just be some semblance of a real road. Turns out it was. The winding side roads through San Gregorio Alto began to climb and dip as the Nebrodi chain began to form. Just the kind of roads the Fiat 500 was made for. Like driving a roller coaster...Glorious! In a mere 15 minutes of sheer Mille Miglia Euphoria we arrived at the junction of SS116 just before it crossed under the E90 Autostrada. Will wonders never cease ---- SS116 is real two lane paved road !!






    SS116

    SS116 was great fun. Winding it's way through the Nebrodi Vally floor with no traffic in sight, we did what every Fiat driver that ever lived dreams of doing. We floored the Cinquecento and did our best to make as straight a road as possible out of the twisty one. We might have succeeded in doing this for the duration of the trip to Randazzo, but brain dead Siri suddenly announced a left hand turn and our brain dead driver (that would be me) listened. That ended the Capo to Randazzo Rallye then and there. Siri says "turn left". Left it is. Up the mountain we go. A 30 mile detour over a one lane semi-paved road that rather quickly turned into a cow path. (Quite literally, I may add).



    I'm still trying to determine our exact route as the less than reliable GPS tracker app running on the phone the entire way lost the data from that leg of the trip. Drat !! What is clear is that the cowpath eventually rejoined SS116 in the town of Favascuro about 30 miles later. So it was quite a detour. In retrospect, it was a fantastic detour as we passed several small settlements, several farms that had an abandoned look but obviously were not --- unless the cows owned them ? None of the settlements had a grocery store or a gas station but they all had several Ristorante, Trattoria, Osteria, Gelateria, Bars, and Pastaceria. We Sicilians LOVE our food. It should be noted here that in Sicily, bars are not solely drinking establishments. The average bar serves food, sells tobacco, probably has a meat cooler and a section that sells anything else ranging from items of clothing to kitchen ware and TP. A few of them that we saw even had a couple of slot machines that swallowed coins like Sicilians swallow Vino. While we were watching, none of them paid back a Euro.

    Back to the mountain detour. The road was steep and zig zagged its way up the mountain side. We topped out at roughly 5000 feet in altitude before the drop back down to Randazzo. The road was not very well maintained and significant portions of what was once pavement was now missing. Quite bumpy.



    Mind you. this was a one lane road for 30 miles with many steep grade sections and a plethora of 180 degree switchbacks. Due to the grade, much of the 30 miles was made in First gear. Thank goodness for the switchbacks as the road widened a little at the turns. These were an absolute necessity as two cars passing one another was quite impossible otherwise. If you encountered another car coming the other way, someone had to back up.

    Many sections of the road were just narrow paths with steep cliffs rising on one side and a sheer drop (often a thousand feet or more) on the other. This was driving for survival 101. Put one wheel off the road and off to the afterlife you go. Eventually though, we reached the mountain tops and entered into long meadows complete with cows, sheep, goats, dogs, chickens and even a person or two.





    Notice the windmills on the mountaintop in the above video.
    Closer to Favascuro were the windmill farms atop the mountain peaks. We still had a way to go to reach them. The windmills were huge. We passed right along their base. When we got there we knew we had made it as high as we were going to go.



    5 more minutes and we were back on SS116. Excellent roads again. Still well into the mountains, SS116 wound it way through the hills, overlooking the little town of Santa Domenica Vittoria where the mountain stood at the edge of town like a giant in the midst of dwarves. It was sights such as this that made you feel as if you were in a story book world.



    A quick stop for fuel in Randazzo, and back on the road around the nothern base of Mount Etna (Sicily's active volcano). One notable event occurred on that leg of the trip. We saw our first vintage 500 Abarth parked along the main street in the town of Solicchiatta. We, of course, stopped to take photos. I looked for the owner to no avail. Would have really liked to talk with him/her even if just to hear the motor come to life. Here are some pictures.











    Nebrodi mountains --- country roads --- cows -- windmills -- breathtaking scenery -- unexpected detour.

    Taormina is next --- and the tale of how yours truly got thrown out of a streetside cafe because of an illegal conolli !! Honest !! And by the way, questions and comments are always welcome.
    I spent most of my money on fast cars, guitars and pretty women. I somehow managed to waste the rest of it.

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  13. #17

    50+ yr Abarth Lifetime Member MrFiat's Avatar


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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Nixon View Post
    Here's the FIAT USA Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/fiatusa/
    Thanks for the link. It's posted.
    I spent most of my money on fast cars, guitars and pretty women. I somehow managed to waste the rest of it.

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    50+ yr Abarth Lifetime Member MrFiat's Avatar


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    Quote Originally Posted by VerTigo4564 View Post
    Thank you SO much for the post. So envious of your trip. My wife and me did a tour last year for 17 days and can't wait to go back since Sicily is the one thing we had to sacrifice. Would love to drive a Fiat on your route. Fantastic!

    Steven
    Thanks heaps, I really hope you get to make the trip. Late September and early October are both great times to be there as the weather is still wonderful and the tourists have mostly gone home. They say the rest of the summer is rather hot and crowded.

    Save your nickels and dimes. You'll get there.
    I spent most of my money on fast cars, guitars and pretty women. I somehow managed to waste the rest of it.

  15. #19

    50+ yr Abarth Lifetime Member MrFiat's Avatar


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    https://www.abarthz.com/images/map6.jpg

    Part 2. Randazzo to Taormina.

    The drive from Randazzo (pronounced Ron-dot-so) very much fun. Passing through several small towns, many of which were more than a thousand years old, we got the true flavor of what old world Sicily was really like. The route took us along the northern base of Mount Etna, Sicily'sactive volcano. The peak was engulfed in clouds so we couldn't see the grand view. However the roadsides were littered on each side by ancient floes of lava, a chilling reminder of the constant danger that the residents of the area face on a daily basis.



    Taormina "the crown jewel of Italy"

    Evidently the Italians think it is. I suppose it all depends on your particular point of view. If you're of the opinion that expensive shops on tourist crowded narrow streets is wonderful, then Taormina is the place for you. Otherwise, not so much. Make no mistake though, Taormina is a beautiful city with charm and spectacular scenery wherever you go. But I had come to see as much of "Old World Sicily as possible. I just found this place a little too touristy.



    As it was nearing the end of the season, the locals were getting fed up with the tourists, and it showed. Can't blame them though. Taorimina gets more tourists than mosquitos and they can be just as pesty. This is not to say the Taormina doesn't have its bright spots. It indeed does. However all in all it was a bit too much like a Disney resort to suit yours truly. With that said, let's step back and focus on the bright spots. There were many.

    Closer to Taormina the road suddenly began to rise dramatically. Not surprising as Taoarmina is built on a hilltop high above the Ionean Sea. From a distance the town looks like a hairy mountain with a shaved head. It resolves itself the closer you get into a pleasant looking little walled town with massive stone walls that were built a thousand or more years ago by the Greek and Roman empires.



    Approaching Taormina



    Entering Taormina via the Catania Gate (Porta Catania) to Corso Umberto, the main street.



    Massena gate at the end of Corso Umberto (Porta Massena)


    Taormina, high atop a mountain as it is, is not the highest settlement in the area. Others around it are much, much higher such as the city of Castelmola. For some reason though, Taormina got top billing and holds the title to this day. Two stone gates are the only access points to the town. The Catania gate and the Massena gate were so named because of their positions relative to the two largest cities in the area.




    Looking up at Castelmola from Taormina

    Once inside the gate, your first impression is that you've just entered a Disney creation. But unlike the Disney parks, Taormina is authentic. Narrow cobblestone streets are lined with wall to wall shops until you reach the Piazza Umberto where the large town square leads to the entrance of the church. That's the hub. Our B&B was the the Porto Del Tocco (Sicilian translation -- "touching the gate"). Not quite, but pretty close -- just inside the Catania gate.



    Our B&B was just inside the Catania gate.




    Living the good life.

    Unlike the banks of today, the churchs were the largest and most dominating structures to be seen. Buildings were generally small and close together creating small, close knit communities. The piazza was the central meeting place and every one we passed had people making use of it just as they must have done hundreds of years ago. Taormina was no exception. Wherever we went in Sicily, you could feel the sense of community.





    The hotel recommended the "Tischiy Toschi" as a good place to eat. They were right. We ate there both nights and by the end of the first night we were family complete with an after hours bottle of Grappa with Luca Casablanca, the owner (and chef), his son Ozzie and his toy terrier he calls "putana" (you can ask someone who knows Italian to tell you what that means). When they found out my entire family came from Sicily and that this was my first visit, we were treated like royalty. Luckily we didn't have far to wobble back to the hotel after that meal. Wonderful time. Wonderful people. Wonderful memories.




    Luca and his crew treated us like family.





    Taormina has several notable attractions. A short walk to the working remains of a second century Greco-Roman amphitheater is a main tourist destination. It's still being used for concerts to this day.








    A cable car takes visitors down the hill to the sandy beach of Isola de Bella, a popular swimming spot.













    Isola de Bella, a popular swimming spot.


    We arrived in the afternoon and did the obligatory walk through the town and topped off the evening with a late dinner at the Tisci Toschi.. The next morning I was up at 4:30 and out for coffee and a pastry. Just outside the Catania gate I found the O'Sciality, named one of the top ten best Gelateria in all of italy. Being one of the ten best in a country that has at least 100 Zillion such establishments is a very big deal. --- Connoli Heaven here I come--- but as luck would have it, their coffee maker had a problem, so no coffee to be had there. No problem, said I, I'll take my connoli and go next door to the Luraleo bar and get coffee there. So off I went. I sat down for less than two minutes when the owner came storming out wagging his finger at me. "You bought the connoli next door -- you can't sit here -- leave now -- no coffee for you!" !! No amount of explanation or apology could change his mind, and I was summarily evicted. No coffee here either. Strangely enough, getting tossed out of an Italian streetside cafe over an imported connoli remains one of my most treasured memories of the trip !!



    The owner of this bar protects his pastry seriously ! Live and learn.



    On Saturday morning, Oct. 1, we took our leave of Taormina and headed south to the ancient city of Siracusa. We enjoyed Taormina greatly for what it is, but Chris and I both agreed that it would be low on the list of places to visit if we ever returned to Sicily. And that, my friends, says a LOT about the rest of the Island of Sicily.



    view south from Taormina








    view north from Taormina

    Taormina -- Greco Roman amphitheater -- nice beach -- too many tourists.

    Next stop -- Siracusa, an absolute must, especially for a couple of Syracuse N.Y. visitors.
    I spent most of my money on fast cars, guitars and pretty women. I somehow managed to waste the rest of it.

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  17. #20
    Robert Nixon's Avatar
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    Great story with the cannoli, glad you didn't start an international incident!
    2013 Rosso Abarth with 68K miles, Koni yellow shocks, Madness springs, Neu-f rear sway bar, EBC Yellowstuff brake pads, DOT4 brake fluid, K&N air filter, autocross 17 inch Ciao Milano wheels with Bridgestone Potenza RE71R, daily wheels stock 16 inch Dunlop DZ102. 2017 1st place HS Tidewater Sports Car Club: 2016-2015 1st Place TSCC GS class; 2014-2013: 2nd place in SCCA South Carolina Region G Stock.
    My Car blog: http://www.nms-racing.net/

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