I don’t know what I had been looking at previously, however I believed that there were ferries between Sicily and Malta nearly every 90 minutes. The reality was far from this, with some days only having a single departure. The logistics were a little complicated, as we had to return our rental car back to the airport at Catania, and the ferry departed some 2-hours south from Pozzallo. Trying to search the Sicilian public transport information was complicated, with multiple sites all with incomplete information. However, in the end with the assistance of an Italian speaking friend, we were able to confirm that we could catch a bus direct from the airport to Pozzallo – we just couldn’t really confirm exactly when they were departing, or how long it was going to take!
This all meant that we had an extra day in Sicily, and a few of those hours were free for us to do a little more sightseeing. The one thing that I’d really wanted to do was climb Mount Etna, the 3,300m steaming volcano just outside of Catania. Our first day was far too hazy to see it, so we passed and went straight to Taormina. Today however, it was blue skies! Well, it was blue skies when we left Ortigia, it got hazier the closer we got to Catania and Mount Etna.
We weren’t going to have time to climb right to the top, but we were able to drive to the start of the chairlifts at just under 2,000m. As we made our way up the slopes of this very active volcano and entered the national park, we started to notice the ground was becoming rockier, and we started to see the occasional abandoned building. The black ground continued, and now it was the occasional patch of greenery, rather than the occasional patch of darkness. It reminded me of a ski resort, but instead of it being snow, it was rock.
The lava flows were winning up here, with quite a few buildings that had been buried, and you could see where they’d dug out the road after it being buried.
I’d completely forgotten about climbing Mount Fuji back in 2009 and how the ground was mostly volcanic gravel. Once we stepped out of the car at one of the many scenic viewpoints, the memories came right back, and the similarities were incredible.
We parked at the busy car park at the 2,000m mark and went for a quick walk to see the flow from an eruption that occurred back in early 2000. It was pretty incredible to be able to see the fresh flow, and follow its path as it descended the mountain – especially seeing just how close it came to a large restaurant. The skies were beautiful up here, above all the haze. I can’t express just how strong my desire was to go all the way to the summit – but we had a boat to catch, and as it was, we were going to have to rush back to the airport to catch the bus in time. Next time! Would also be incredible to cycle up here from sea level – it certainly seemed like a popular route.
We return the car, bought our bus tickets and devoured that amazing sandwich we’d bought from Ortigia. Everything was going smoothly, which worried me. The bus was a little late arriving, but it was easy to find, and easy to buy the €9 ticket from the driver. We had a seat at the back and had a short nap, and I enjoyed the opportunity to just watch the landscape pass by. After a little after an hour, the bus stopped in a small town, and we thought nothing of it. Out of curiosity, I checked using the GPS in my phone where we were – and it turned out that we’d already arrived in Pozzallo! I had to rush to the front of the bus to confirm with the driver, who promptly stopped the bus for us (in the middle of a roundabout no less) and we grabbed our baggage and were thankful we noticed when we did.
We now had about 4 hours to kill in this sleepy little town. I tried my first (and last) gelati con brioche and then went for a walk along the seaside. The beach was a lot bigger and sandier than I’d expected, and the surf was a lot more active than I’d expected, too. With nothing much else for us to do in this town, we did something that we haven’t done for a while – sat and relaxed in the sunshine, with our feet in the powdery sand.
It was a 4km walk from where the bus dropped us to the Ferry Terminal, which was felt even longer carrying our luggage (and my camera gear). We picked up our tickets and walked through security and customs and found a seat at the front of the boat. It had been a mission, but we were on our way to Malta now. There was nothing left to do except watch the sun set over Italy, as the full moon rose on the horizon.
I had hoped to go to an active volcano while I was in Europe, the closest/most active to central Europe being Mt Etna, but I didn’t quite make it. I agree it would be amazing to cycle up.
It’d be even cooler to go to Stromboli, where there are usually nightly fireworks from their volcano!
I guess the ones in Japan are a bit closer if you ever want to tick off that bucket list (or just go to Vanuatu)