Ever wanted to meander around the Mediterranean? Guest contributors Bruce and Jan McTaggart are currently doing just that and here are their musings on driving, drinking (not simultaneously) and what not to miss on Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica.
SICILY – Driven to Drink
Driving here is a nail-biting experience particularly as drivers don’t necessarily see the need to drive on their side of the road especially rounding tight mountainside corners and crossing double-white lines. Indicators are clearly an optional extra but hey, who’s got a spare hand to use them when one is clamped to a mobile phone and the other is gesticulating wildly! Trucks truly believe they’re kings of the road and parallel parking is usually at a 45 degree angle to the kerb. After picking-up the hire car in Taormina, we arrived with white knuckles and badly in need of a drink!
Built in 1460, the Agriturismo Masseira del Chiusa (closed farm) is a vineyard and olive grove near San Guiseppe Jato that has been in the same family since 1866 and produces delicious wines and magnificent olives and oil. Sited in a valley surrounded on three sides by dramatic rocky outcrops, it’s a peacefully buccolic place where sheep’s bells ring a joyful tune each morning and evening as they’re herded past.
Hotel Grand Ortigia on the Siracusa waterfront is a great base to walk the island of Ortigia.
To get an overview, climb the steps to Castelmola, take the funicular and walk/paddle to Isola Bella perched on a rocky outcrop near the beach. Explore Isola Bella, Piazza Amerina for Villa Romana del Casale and Cortigione for the ceramic Scala with its immaculate mosaics. Noto on the way to Siracusa has some imposing stone churches but best of all, just immerse yourself in the history of these beautiful Baroque hilltop towns with their Greek temples and Roman villas.
At 660ml, Moretti and Messina Sicilian beers are a man-sized drop.
SARDINIA – Top Gear
There aren’t enough superlatives to describe Sardinia’s rugged scenery and glorious beaches. You can see for miles under water as fish playfully swim alongside you. Traveling from the north to the centre, we traverse a dramatic mountain range which forms the island’s spine before reaching Cagliary, a large port in the south. We’ve worn out boot leather wandering the maze of narrow winding streets and laneways of Alghero while the small town of Bosa on Sardinia’s central west coast was captivating. Multi-coloured houses tumble down the hill from the castle fortress perched above and time becomes elastic as we lose ourselves in its atmospheric streets. Close to the river and a long sandy beach together with courteous friendly drivers make this gem hard to leave.
Super-fresh fish filleted at the table followed by a local dessert of a deep-fried pastry pocket filled with a type of Camembert and topped with honey. Very slimming!
Pack the bathers and take a boat trip around the Maddalena archipelago. Pop into Porto Cervo on the Costa Smerelda and rub shoulders with the rich and famous. Visit Capo Coccia, a spectacular headland about 25km from Alghero, and walk the 625 steps around the coastline. Pick a quiet cove and have an impromptu picnic lunch.
CORSICA – In the Slow Lane
At around 100m wide with massive white limestone cliffs either side, the entry to Bonifacio harbour at the southern end of Corsica is spectacular. It’s also popular with yachties and being a weekend, they’re ready to par-tay! On the plus side, the driving revs have dropped significantly and we’re cruising in low gear around a beautiful island where the roadsides are lined with oleanders and ancient dry-rock walls. Olive groves and vineyards cover the hills and brilliant turquoise bays dot the rugged coastline. A one hour ferry trip from Sardinia, it’s a world away from everywhere.
It’s hot so pace yourselves. In the mornings, step back in time and explore 1,000 year old Bonifacio old town before discovering local beautiful beaches for some afternoon r&r.
Food and wine is primarily French of course and more expensive than in Italy but we did find a good Sancerre and a Roc de Puisseguin Saint-Emilion for less than 10 euros each in the supermarket. Beer is also expensive – and small!
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