Category Archives: Uncategorized

Malcesine/Monte Baldo Cableway

 

Cable car

 

I had been standing in line for over a half hour as the line moved glacially up the stairs to the entry platform to the cable cars, trapped in a tourist trap. The  thermometer on the wall above the wide and stuffy staircase kept inching up and the sweat kept dripping off of me. I was lodged among a couple  hundred tourists mostly Germans waiting to board the noted Malcesine-Monte Baldo Cableway http://www.funiviedelbaldo.it/en/# . Being of German descent, I fit right in (In Europe I’m often mistaken for a German) except I didn’t understand a word of what they were saying. The cableway offers sweeping views of Garda on its way up and back from Mt. Baldo.

Italy was suffering through its hottest summer in 130 years. My Italian sister-in-law in Milan advised  us to go to Lake Garda, contending it would be cooler there with refreshing breezes. She was only partially right. The thermometer hovered at about 96F instead of 98 or 99  in Milan during the hottest part of the day, but the breezes just blew hot. We spent a lot of time in our air conditioned hotel room.

 

Hazy day over Garda

 

Lake Garda,  Italy’s largest,  and the surrounding mountains are, without a doubt, appetizing eye candy. The crowds of tourists, mostly German, made me want to escape. During the height of the tourist season, Germans vastly outnumber Italians in and around the northern end of  Garda. They were mostly families and well behaved. My Italian in-laws and the guidebook warned me.  Surrounded by German speakers in Italy, not so much fun.  However, we had booked a couple of nights in Malcesine and I had researched  thoroughly the Cableway with its panoramic views, hiking and mountain biking possibilities.  I walked the  1.5 kilometers from our hotel to the cableway and long line to board. By the time I was jammed into the cable cabin with about 30 other hot and sweaty bodies, I was hot, tired and feeling somewhat cranky. The views were indeed spectacular, but marred by a heated and hazy atmosphere hovering over the lake and environs.

At the top

 

When I finally exited the cable cabin, cool mountain air greeted me. I stumbled around the summit for about 10 minutes enough to get some views and decided I had had enough. I caught the next car down the mountainside and headed back to the hotel just in time to collect my wife for a very late lunch. We spent the evening watching TV in our room. So much for Malcesine during the height of the tourist season.  Had I not been so obsessed with riding the cable car, I might have heeded the guidebook’s well stated cautions. We checked out the next morning and drove south along the lakeshore before the temperature and traffic congestion climbed to annoying levels. It was good to get back to Italy.

Visit Lake Garda; just don’t go during the height of the tourist season.

 

Biking the “arginelli” surrounding Sabbioneta

 

 

Villa Pasquali from a distance
Sabbioneta

One of the greatest advantages of traveling in Italy is that one finds history, agriculture and nature intertwined in almost any corner of the country. I’ve been fortunate to be embedded in the Northern Italian countryside for the past several summers in Villa Pasquali a small agricultural community just down the road from Sabbioneta which is about half way between Parma and Mantua. Sabbioneta , a world heritage site, is a fortified  community once ruled by the famed Gonzaga family of Mantua.

Farm fields from the “argine”/levee

 

Wheat fields

The two communities are surrounded by farm fields of corn, soybeans, wheat, tomatoes, watermelons, zucchini, peppers and cantaloupes. This is part of the fertile plain of the Po valley. The “arginelli” or embankments are a flood control system of levees designed to keep the farm fields and communities safe from flooding.  The levees are complimented by a system of irrigation and drainage ditches. Farmers use the water from the ditches to irrigate their crops and drain their fields. The system is hundreds of years old, but it doesn’t always work as the Po has a long history of disastrous floods.

 

Ready to go
Typical “argine”

 

My nephew, Alessandro, left a mountain bike at our digs in Villa Pasquali. It is ideal for riding along the levees. I first ventured out along the back roads around Villa Pasquali staying on or near the 40 plus kilometer bike way leading from Sabionetta to Mantua. Part of my route traversed the “arginelli” and one day I discovered a sign outlining a route surrounding Sabionetta and totally dedicated to the levees. Thus I began many hours of solitary riding along the tree lined “arginelli’ and completing the circle after several abortive tries. The route looks great on the signage, but the actual directions don’t deliver at several points along the way. Getting lost was part of the fun and speaking Italian guaranteed I wouldn’t ever be lost for long.

 

Map of the Route of the Levees
Ringneck pheasant

One thing that does deliver is the diversity of the flora and fauna that the route offers. I encountered lots of birds, large and small, the largest being the Airone, a large heron that looks a lot like our great blue heron. Every so often I chanced across a nutria which is a large rodent that somewhat resembles a beaver. Nutrias have been imported from South America and are now pests that have in many areas destroyed aquatic vegetation, marshes and irrigation systems. The first nutria I ever saw was a road kill and h of ad me wondering, “what is a beaver doing here in Italy?” I subsequently learned what an unwanted invader the nutria is in Italy. Occasionally I saw a European hare of scared up a pheasant or two. I saw lots of egrets, crows and the ubiquitous Merlot, a black bird that is a relative of our American robin. Their song,if not their appearance, is sweeter than our robin’s.

 

Airone

 

Nutria

 

Merlot

 

If all goes well, I’ll be back next year and I plan to obtain a field guide to European birds.

 

Useful Websites

This is a short post with some very useful travel websites, several of which apply to Italian travel and a couple of websites for seekers of vacation rentals worldwide.

Useful Italian travel websites:

http://www.italybeyondtheobvious.com/ – One of my favorites,  it has lots of information and advice about Italian travel and especially useful for obtaining a travel planning service. This site is especially useful for the sophisticated Italian traveler.

http://www.wanderingitaly.com -Edgy writing about Italian travel and lots of information about several different destinations,

http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/planning/index.htm – Loads of information and pointers to different travel guides and literature about Italy.

http://www.lifeinabruzzo.com/ – Lots of information on one of the least known, most interesting and varied regions of Italy. It is virtually undiscovered by most Americans.

The following are a couple of lodging websites. After using and booking lodging from these sites, you may severely limit your hotel stays. Staying in an apartment, condo or house has lots of advantages over hotels and in may instances, it is more economical.

http://www.homeaway.com – This site has thousands of vacation apartments, condos and houses worldwide. I’ve used many times and never had an adverse experience.

http://www.VRBO.com – Another good vacation rental website.

For bikers interested in cycling tours around the world. Even if you don’t go, surfing for great tours is still fun.

http://www.biketours.com/

 

 

 

Encanto/Palmcroft – A beautiful historic neighborhood

Typical street scene in Encanto-Palmcroft
Typical street scene in Encanto-Palmcroft
Street sign - Encanto-Palmcroft Historic Neighborhood
Street sign – Encanto-Palmcroft Historic Neighborhood

It’s hard to imagine a more attractive neighborhood so close to a major city center than Encanto-Palmcroft. Its palm lined streets accent some of the most attractive housing in Metropolitan Phoenix.

Encanto-Palmcroft is one of about a dozen historically designated neighborhoods scattered around Phoenix’s central business district. It is the most upscale of all the historically designated locales in the City of Phoenix. These areas were designated in order to preserve Phoenix’s past as well as enhance the image of the city. To encourage investment, properties are taxed at half the rate of residential property throughout the city. Tight restrictions are in place limiting property modifications.

Probably the best way to see Encanto-Palmcroft is to stroll its quiet palmed lined streets that are filled with a wide variety of housing types mostly built in the 1920’s and 1930;s. There are no cookie cutter sticks and stucco tiled roofed boring tract homes here.

Dutch Colonial
Dutch Colonial
Southern Colonial
Southern Colonial
Monterey Spanish Colonial
Monterey Spanish Colonial

Monterey Spanish Colonial, Dutch Colonial, Tudor Revival and  International are a few of the housing styles represented in Encanto. Every 2 years there is a home tour. This year the tour will take place on March 29th from 10AM to 4PM. Tickets can be purchased online for $18 or at the site for $20.

International style
International style

A fixer-upper in the neighborhood can be purchased for about 250K. A more typical price would be 500K with some of larger homes going for 2 million or more. In total there are about 330 homes in Encanto-Palmcroft. Encanto Park (including golf course), one of Phoenix’s largest,  borders the neighborhood on the north.

If you have a bit of time to spare and would like a visual treat, check out Encanto-Palmcroft. You won’t be sorry you did.

 

 

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No free lunch, a free museum

Old Arizona State Capitol Building
Old Arizona State Capitol Building

Tucked away in plain site is the Arizona Capitol Museum. It’s housed in the old state capitol building smack in the middle of the state capitol complex. It’s open 9AM to 4PM weekdays and 10AM to 2PM on Saturdays, closed on state holidays. Guided tours are available arranged in advance for groups of ten or more.

I stumbled upon this little gem while wandering around the central city and the state capitol.

What a great way to step back into the past and the history of Arizona. It’s housed in the original state capitol building complete with shining copper dome. The halls are lined with paintings of Arizona’s natural wonders  by an Arizona landscape artist David Swing.

Arizona desert scene
Arizona desert scene

The first floor has a great exhibit featuring the USS Arizona and its story. It was the largest ship sunk in the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941 with over 1100 American casualties.

Model of the USS Arizona
Model of the USS Arizona

The upper floors house the original  offices of the secretary of state, governor and other historic offices. The ends of the building of the third floor hold the original state house of representative and the senate. One can almost hear the echoes of past debates. It all reminds one of simpler and more innocent times. The men’s and women’s rooms are labeled Gentlemen and Ladies. Maybe that is only wishful thinking.

Original Arizona State House of Representatives
Original Arizona State House of Representatives
Recreation of Arizona Sanitary Livestock Commission Office
Recreation of Arizona Sanitary Livestock Commission Office

One of the rooms on the third floor traces the history of Arizona since before territorial days and on up to statehood. I was surprised to find out that Arizona was a part of the Confederacy in the early days of the Civil War.

This site is definitely worth an hour or two  of exploring the history of Arizona and its government.

 

 

Vico del Gargano and the Gargano promentory

Prior to our sojourn in the Trullo near Castellana  Grotte , we stayed several nights in Vico del Gargano, a relatively small community up the hill  overlooking the Adriatic on the Gargano Peninsula.  The Gargano promontory is one of the most picturesque, inviting and undiscovered parts of Italy. No crowds, no tourist traps, just a warm and inviting place full of scenery, delicious food,  and friendly people  all at very reasonable prices.

Old town Vico del Gargano
Old town Vico del Gargano

Vico del Gargano is a very pleasant place.  I choose it because of its location and promotional efforts of Giuseppe Romondia whose family owns and runs the Bar Pizzicato in the center of town and  in conjunction with Pizzicato B and B(http://www.pizzicatobeb.com). When we arrived in Vico our first stop was at Bar Pizzicato to arrange for our accommodations. Giuseppe greeted us with a welcome drink and appetizers. It was more than I expected. Bar Pizzicato is the local hub in Vico where both locals and visitors hang out.

Tempting treats at Bar Pizzicata
Tempting treats at Bar Pizzicata

Bar Pizzicato offers an amazing array of drinks, sweets and  local products along with comfortable tables, both inside and out to enjoy the available goodies.

Giuseppe preparing a specialty of Bar Pizzicato
Giuseppe preparing a specialty of Bar Pizzicato

After giving us a choice of staying in a studio apartment in the center of town or one a bit further out and a bit quieter, we opted for the later. Another surprise was Giuseppe’s offer of a free half day tour of nearby points of interest the next day and a free lunch at his uncle’s farm. Only an ingrate or an idiot would have turned that offer down.

We settled in and rested until evening when we ventured out to the old part of town and It Trappeto , subterranean restaurant that once housed a medieval olive press. There by chance, we met our fellow tour mates for the next day, a couple of American journalists/bloggers who were checking out the area and Giuseppe’s establishment.

The next day began with bright sunshine and breakfast at Bar Pizzicato. After breakfast  Giuseppe drove us down the hill to one of the many beaches dotting the coastline. Since it was April and too early for swimming, the place was essentially deserted. I have to admit I prefer my beaches deserted or sparsely populated, but that’s not something one is likely to find in Italy in high summer.

Deserted beach in April before the season
Deserted beach in April before the season

After the beach it was going to get very interesting. We next stopped at Il Trabucco di Monte Pucci. A trabucco is a fishing apparatus jutting out into the sea. Nets are suspended on long wooden poles. These sites dot the coastline of  the Gargano Peninsula in Puglia and Abruzzo to the north. They make it unnecessary to go out in a boat to face the wind and waves. This trabucco had a restaurant onsite to cook the freshly caught fish and seafood. That morning the crew was retrieving one of the long poles that had been lost in a storm a couple of months previously. We returned that evening for a fresh seafood dinner accompanied by generous amounts of white wine.

The entrance to the Trabucco di Monte Pucci
The entrance to the Trabucco di Monte Pucci
The trabucoo from a distance
The trabucoo from a distance
The Trabucco
The Trabucco

 

Pulling the lost pole out of the water
Pulling the lost pole out of the water
Lunch at the farm
Lunch at the farm

We made our last stop at Giuseppe’s uncle’s farmstead where his aunt and uncle prepared a feast for us in the open air. They served us prodigious amounts of fish, seafood, vegetables and bread, all locally caught or grown. Wow!, we were treated just like family. This is  the Italy I have come to know and love, far from its more well known and frequented sites.

 

 

Trullo Yours

We had heard and read about the “trulli” in Puglia for several years.  Trulli are white washed domed roofed dwellings  native to Puglia, a southern region of Italy with a long coastline on the Adriatic Sea. Last year we decided to explore Puglia and check out my wife’s father’s home town of San Fernando di Puglia. More about that latter.

Trullo
Trullo we rented

I found this trullo located in the countryside on HomeAway.com, my favorite website for vacation rentals. What made this property special outside of its immaculate and renovated condition, was its location. Italy is a crowded country and its hard to find a property that doesn’t have some close neighbors. The only close neighbor’s this trullo had were olive and cherry trees.

View from patio of trullo
View from patio of trullo
Cherry orchard
Cherry orchard
Olive trees
Olive trees
Our access road
Our access road

Puglia gets very hot in the summertime and the beaches are crowded. For these reasons, we decided to travel there in April when the everything is green and the spring flowers are in bloom. We choose a location about 20 minutes from the coast near Castellana Grotte.

Our proprietor, Francesca, met us in the nearest town in front of the church. She drove up in an old sedan with her coworker, Abdul a hippie looking Moroccan. I have to admit, at that point I had a few doubts as to what we where getting into. We followed them along a dirt road for almost a kilometer until arriving at our quarters. Any doubts that I had were dispelled upon entering the charming trullo complete with a bottle of wine and a bowl of fresh cherries on the dining room table. Abdul turned out to be an engaging and educated fellow who enjoyed English conversation. Before we left he told me the story of how his family had migrated from Morocco to Italy.

Trullo- dining room
Trullo- dining room
Trullo - bedroom
Trullo – bedroom

We situated ourselves near some very interesting attractions, namely Castellana Grotte, a large and beautiful cave and Alberobello, the noted Puglian settlement full of trulli.  Obviously, our isolation required having a car. In addition, our nephew Alessandro, his companion Angela and her eleven year old nephew Matteo joined us after a couple of days. Now we had two cars at our disposal and I had a native Italian to do the driving leaving me free to enjoy the scenery.

We first stopped a few kilometers to the west at Castellana Grotte. The name “grotte” means caves in Italian and we took a two hour tour. I was surprised to learn that there are lots of caves scattered throughout Italy and also surprised that my Italian was good enough to understand 90% of what the guide was saying. It was a cool, damp and rainy day. Consequently, touring a cave with a constant temperature of 18C was a good decision. The cave, it seems was used as a garbage dump until the 1930’s when the town fathers realized its value as a tourist attraction.

Grotte Castellan
Grotte Castellan
Grotte Castellana
Grotte Castellana
Castellan Grotte - natural opening
Castellan Grotte – natural opening

As if living in a “trullo” wasn’t enough we had to visit Alberobello, the world’s capital of “Trulli”. It was a cold and windy day, but we enjoyed it all the same and the weather kept the crowds away.

Alessandro, Angela, Ada & Matteo
Alessandro, Angela, Ada & Matteo
Alberobello - Trulli
Alberobello – Trulli
Typical street in Alberobello
Typical street in Alberobello

Alberobello was not the end of our Puglian adventure. We were yet to meet some of the relatives in San Fernando di Puglia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Away in a stable just outside of Florence

Florence on a rainy day from Piazza Michelangelo.
Florence on a rainy day from Piazza Michelangelo.

You can spend hours searching  online for rental properties in Italy. More and more appear every year. Every once in a while something interesting pops up. Several years ago when planning a trip to Umbria and Tuscany with my wife and sister and brother-in-law, I came across a listing for a rental just outside of Florence.(http://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p71745)The place, Residenza Strozzi,  was part of a picturesque aristocratic villa (Villa Strozzi-Ricardi) that shouted bygone class and elegance. The price was surprisingly reasonable.

Residenza Strozzi
Residenza Strozzi
Villa Strozzi ariel view
Villa Strozzi-Ricardi

Making a reservation online proved easy; finding the place in a driving rainstorm was not quite so simple. With the advent of GPS driving guides in Europe getting around by car without getting lost has become much easier. That being said, there are always a few bugs in the system. Our auto trip in the rain from our quarters in Umbria was uneventful. We set our Tom Tom to the given address of Villa Strozzi- Ricardi and arrived in a dead end street in a pouring rain to the confident announcement “you have reached your destination.” It was raining hard with no villa in sight. I was elected the scouting party to extricate us out of this spot, Luckily I found an Italian speaking German guy in a bar around the corner who knew how to get there. Sensing how his directions were confusing me, he offered to guide us by following him in his car. After several twists and turns, bypassing the main gate, we turned a couple of corners and sided up to the front inner gate.

Entry way and reflecting pool to Villa Strozzi-Ricardi
Entry way and reflecting pool to Villa Strozzi-Ricardi

The lodging located on the southeast edge of Florence  is  part of Villa Strozzi- Ricardi. We literally stayed in a restored stable. Our bedroom area was a former stall. No self respecting Italian, tourist or otherwise, would be caught dead in such quarters.  Any ghosts haunting here would have been, most likely, equine. We didn’t encounter any.

The "Scuderia"/stable from above
The “Scuderia”/stable from above
Bedroom area in stable stall
Bedroom area in stable stall

The place was advertised as having two bedrooms. The second bedroom was an open upper mezzanine that afforded little privacy. It is an ideal space for a young family, but not so handy for two couples with  a loud snorer in the group. I was more than a little embarrassed at not having discovered the lodging’s shortcomings.

Mezzanine bedroom area
Mezzanine bedroom area

The gods were with us. Upon showing us the place, our host Guido Casalone, seeing our predicament said there had been a cancelation of the Chapel apartment and he would offer it to us at a reasonable discount. My sister immediately relegated my brother-in-law, the snorer, to the chapel and we all breathed a sigh of relief knowing we were in for a quiet night.

The Chapel - sitting area
The Chapel – sitting area
The Chapel - decorative wall (probably where the altar once was)
The Chapel – decorative wall (probably where the altar once was)

 

Courtyard and entry to the "Scuderia" - stable
Courtyard and entry to the “Scuderia” – stable

 

Garden looking out from the "Scuderia"
Garden looking out from the “Scuderia”

Not only were the villa and grounds beautiful, the location was fantastic. We stayed where it seemed a world away from the hustle and bustle of Florence in a tranquil and bucolic setting,  yet a short walk to the bus stop and a 15 minute bus ride to the center of town. We had a secure place for our rental car behind two separate security gates and we were able to make day trips to the Chianti wine region, Sienna and San Gimginano. With Guido’s guidance, we found  some really nice neighborhood eateries within walking distance, including a locally popular pizzeria that was packed with neighborhood people, some with their dogs. Waiting and drinking amber beer in that atmosphere made the pizza taste even better when it finally arrived.

Viva Villa Strozzi-Ricardi!

Abruzzo – Off the beaten path

Abruzzo is probably one of the least known or explored regions of Italy. Yet, it’s only a couple of hours from Rome. We are fortunate to have family there or perhaps we might not have stopped there last summer.

Coastal Village south of Pescara
Coastal Village south of Pescara

One sunny June afternoon guided by Marta, our grand niece, we explored the costal area south of Pescara. Bouncing from site to site we immersed ourselves in an area rich in history and natural beauty.

Americans hear much about our role in taking Italy from the Germans during World War II, but we are generally ignorant of the role our allies played in that effort.  The first place Marta showed us was the Moro River Canadian War Cemetery. It was completely unexpected  experience and a spot I’m sure I would have bypassed if we hadn’t had a local guide.

Entry to Moro River Canadian War Cemetary
Entry to Moro River Canadian War Cemetary

Inside the entryway is a short history of the cemetery and the campaign to retake the eastern side of the Italian boot.  Our Canadian, English, Australians and other allies captured this side of the Italian peninsula.

Graves at Moro River Canadian War Cemetary
Graves at Moro River Canadian War Cemetary

 

Cross in the middle of the cemetary
Cross in the middle of the cemetery

This is a sad place and a poignant reminder of the terrible costs of war. We viewed a particularly touching  photo of a young Canadian and his fiancé attached to his grave marker.

Marta drove us along the coast on winding roads, stopping at several places overlooking the sea. We spotted several “trabocchi” in route. Trabocchi are wooden fishing platforms built our over the sea. Most of them are not in use, but restored to preserve the historic character of the area. We visited  a working  “Trabucco” (it’s along the same coast to the south) a couple of years ago in Puglia, but that’s another story.

Trabocco - fishing platfrom
Trabocco – fishing platfrom

 

Trabocco from above
Trabocco from above

For our last stop we visited the Abbey of San Giovanni in Vernere. This hilltop structure,  built in 1165 overlooks the Adriatic coast and has a park that is a great spot for a summer picnic. We encountered a couple of other Americans there and, like us, they were connected to family.

San Giovanni in Venere
Abbey of San Giovanni in Verere
VenereIngresso
Main entry of the abbey

The cloister pleased us the most as it was full of flowers and green plants. The interior of the abbey, although spacious, was rather plain.  Best of all there we had the place to ourselves and only a few other visitors.

Cloister of abbey
Cloister of abbey
Roses in the cloister
Roses in the cloister
Looking south along the coast from the abbey
Looking south along the coast from the abbey

 

We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly wandering from one site to another, always not far from the sea. We departed for an evening with family at Marta’s place.  The pizza was excellent.

On to the Madonie regional park

In Sicily what had started out reasonably well, was  about to get decidedly better. It was time to rent a car and explore the mountains and hills above  Cefalu. If it hadn’t been for my Lonely Planet guide to Sicily, we may never have discovered the Madonie  regional park. The title sounded pretty prosaic, but the reality certainly wasn’t.

The Madonie moutains are the highest range in Sicily outside of Mt. Etna complete with ski areas and dotted with medieval villages. I think we arrived at the perfect time of the year (April). It was pleasantly cool and mountain sides were all green.

From  sea level Cefualu we ascended quickly (15 kilometers and over 2600 feet) to the Santurario di Gibilmana, a beautiful hillside shrine dedicated the Virgin Mary. The fresh air and views were splendid as well as the interior of the church

Santurario di Gibilmanna
Santurario di Gibilmanna
From the steps of the Santurario looking toward the sea
From the steps of the Santurario looking toward the sea
Mountain view from the front of Gibilmanna
Mountain view from the front of Gibilmanna

 

Interior of the Santuario di Gibilmanna
Interior of the Santuario di Gibilmanna

From Gibilmanna we zigzagged another 18 KM to Castelbuono, a charming medieval village where we finally found a good meal at Bistrot Restaurant.  There were no crowds Styrofoam or plastic dinnerware there, but still a few Germans to remind us we were not alone. The pasta con ” funghi”/mushrooms really tickled my taste buds.  

An after lunch stroll took us to The Castello Ventimiglia. Here we encountered an inviting piazza and more stunning views of the surrounding mountains. The interior of the castle housed a museum and  an ornately decorated chapel on the top floor.

 

Entry portal to the main piazza of Castebuono, Sicily
Entry portal to the main piazza of Castebuono, Sicily
Church in the piazza of Castelbuono
Church in the piazza of Castelbuono
Il Castello Ventimiglia, Castelbuono, Sicily
Il Castello Ventimiglia,
Castelbuono, Sicily
Mountain view from the piazza in Castelbuono with patches of snow on the high spots
Mountain view from the piazza in Castelbuono with patches of snow on the high spots
Chapel in the Castello Ventimiglia
Chapel in the Castello Ventimiglia

 

Grated window, interior of Ventimiglia Castle
Grated window, interior of Ventimiglia Castle

We left Castlebuono and continued our zigzagging through the switchbacks through green pastures and wooded glens. Never did I think Sicily could be so green. We wound our way through the hills and past the hill towns. Finally although we had plenty in the tank, we “ran out of gas” and high tailed it to the free autostrada and back to Cefalu. Someone explained to me that many parts of Sicily were too poor to pay tolls.

Sicilian hill town in the Madonie area
Sicilian hill town in the Madonie area

This day was one of the most pleasant I have ever spent in Italy.