Walking from Francavilla in Sicily
Once aboard the BA flight, we were served snacks to last us the short flight. As soon as we arrived in Catania, the weather was very welcoming and so was our leader, Alun Ward. We introduced ourselves and then headed out to catch our transfer, driven by the hotel owner that over the week we came to know very well.
Although the transfer was quite long it was worth seeing the sights along the way: the beautiful orange and lemon trees, ruined and contempory buildings one after the other until we reached the hotel in Francavilla. As soon as we arrived at the hotel we were greeted by a local family with a tray full of cocktails and nibbles – what a great way to start the trip.
Alun briefed us on the days to come, and then organized a small tour around the local area giving us ideas where to buy our lunch and filling us in on vital information that we might need to know. We headed back to the hotel to have a quick meeting about our plans for the night to come, as it was New Year’s Eve. As we were such a small group it was decided that we would have our dinner at a local restaurant rather than the hotel.
We arrived at the local restaurant, a big hall filled with lots of tables. We were the first to arrive and waited quite a while for things to start or even for other people to arrive. While we got to know each other, Alun went over ideas for the following day, depending on our state of mind following that night.
Eventually, after an hour or so, the locals, with their big fur coats and their trilby hats, arrived – including a Tony Bennett lookalike. We got a great feel for the local culture. Once all had been seated, everyone walked over to the first course. We had no idea what was to come. Course after course arrived; we were still eating while we toasted the New Year in. We ended with a quick conga around the hall, then decided to head home, leaving the Sicilians in full spirit. The locals were very friendly, and the food was extremely good – overall it was a very good night!
None of us had never visited Sicily before, and were not too sure what to expect. The scenery is magnificent no matter where you are; within an hour’s drive you can take in a completely different view. The weather was excellent, especially for December/January, the grading of the holiday was D-D+ and there was a variety of walks that had completely different terrains, which made it more interesting and a challenge.
It was an adventure and a great break away, and a fantastic way to celebrate New Year.
The first morning we were all still full from the night before, and we all met for breakfast where Alun discussed the plans for that day. The weather was very good and we headed out to a local town called Castiglione.
The view of this town from Francavilla was breathtaking – Mount Etna was directly behind it and the sun shone all the way until we reached Castiglione, a very traditional Sicilian town, full of espresso bars, small cars, and locals gathered on the corner chatting away to each other.
Alun took us on a very organized route there and back. We made our way to the very top and had our lunch overlooking the town and Mount Etna. It was a tremendous view. All of the walks were designed so that you really got a taste of Sicily: from countryside to busy coastal areas and then to snow-capped volcanoes, you really do get to see a lot within seven days.
Not one day failed to delight, and if you want to avoid the busy coastal areas there are plenty more off-the-beaten-track walks to be had.
Looking out at the mountains
One of the highlights of the week was visiting Mount Etna and, due to the fantastic weather, it was a great day to climb the mountain as it was covered in snow.
After a two-hour drive up to the still-active volcano, we started our 2000-metre walk. As the locals gathered with their sledges and snowboards, we made our way up to another spectacular view. We then walked down to a café where we had our lunch, and watched footage of previous eruptions that had happened at Mount Etna. Stocked up on caffeine and fantastic salami sandwiches we were definitely fueled for another walk.