Italy, Sicily and Sardinia.  November 2019 to February 2020


 I had booked our ferry from Sicily to Sardinia while we were in Italy. In January there was only one sailing a week from Palermo on a Saturday evening (it's a 12 hour crossing). We arrived in Messina, Sicily on January 6th so we only had 12 days to explore. I decided that we'd spend most of our time on the East Coast. 

Free camper stops were hard to find - they tended to be down narrow streets or tiny spots so we opted to stay at paid Camper Stops, all of which were fine. The ones at Sant 'Alessio and Naxos were surprisingly busy compared to what we'd got used to in Southern Italy but we were the only people at the Siracusa camp.

Sant' Alessio 

Once off the ferry we headed south and found a nice site right next to the sea at Sant' Alessio.

Parked up next to the sea.

 It was quite windy but we were able to sit outside sheltered by the van.

The beach

We could walk along the beach - the mainland in the distance. 

A huge local market.

 We had a walk around this huge local market.




 We stayed at a camper stop at Recanati, just outside the seaside town of Naxos, which was within walking distance.  We used it as a base for our visits to Mount Etna and Taormina.

 Our first sight of Mount Etna as we were driving south to Naxos.

 each day either walked or cycled along Naxos beach.  

Mount Etna 

On our first afternoon in Naxos I checked the weather forecast and decided to book a half day Mount Etna tour the following day which turned out to be a beautiful sunny day with no wind. We were picked up by David at 9am and he then drove us to a garage on the outskirts of Catania. He was very chatty and told us a lot about the region. At the garage we met our guide, Francesco, his assistant Julie and 4 others who had booked the tour, a couple from Austria and a couple of guys from Germany. We drove up towards Etna through several villages while Francesco gave us lots of information about Etna, the countryside and the villages. 

There are currently 4 active craters - which were spewing out steam and, from time to time volcanic ash which was great. We had great views throughout our visit.  

Mount Etna with steam and ash.

Mount Etna

 After our first stop to take photos we drove a little further with snow on either side and stopped in a wood of beautiful birch trees where we were handed out helmets and torches before walking along an icy path to some caves that were created during an eruption thousands of years ago. In the past the caves were used to store ice. Snow was pushed down some holes and then compacted to form ice blocks which were then carried out of the cave to be used to store food. Francesco tied a rope to a tree and we used it to go down some steps into the cave which had lots of stalactites and some stalagmites. We walked a short way through a tunnel and then up some other steps (again with the help of a rope).

Silver birch trees

Using a rope to enter the caves


A different way out of the caves.

 After another short drive we stopped and then had a walk for about an hour to look at some craters created about 150 years ago (there are about 300 craters on Etna). We could see Etna to the West and the coastline (rather hazy) to the east. We walked around a crater and then down into it to see the caldera, once again lots of interesting information from Francesco.

The crater we walked up.

 As we set out we could see people on the top of the crater.

Kevin walking along the edge of the crater.

Walking along the edge of the crater with Mount Etna in the background.

 Francesco telling us about the craters on this area.

 Francesco telling us about the craters on this area.

Part f the crater with the caldera below.

The caldera is the dark section below us.

Standing next to the caldera.

Standing next to the caldera.

The only ski resort in Sicily.

Our final stop was at the ski resort on the northern slopes of Etna where there was a café. There was snow but none of the lifts were working.


From the camper stop near Naxos we caught a bus to the hill town of Taormina as it didn't seem to have any parking suitable for vans.  We spent a couple of hours wandering around the town - lots of narrow streets and some lovely views along the coast.  After lunch in a small restaurant we managed to find our way back to the bus sop for our return trip. 

The view to the SOuth

The view to the North.

Looking south.

Narrow walkways

Wandering around. 

The main Piazza.

The main Piazza. 


LuccFrom Naxos we headed further south to a camper stop on the edge of Siracusa where we spent 3 nights. Ortigia is the historic part of the town and is an island linked to the town by a couple of bridges. 

The camper stop owner dropped us off at the Neapolis Archaeological Park which has a Greek theatre, a Roman ampitheatre and an old quarry. 

The Greek theatre is the largest found outside Greece and was built during the 5th century BC. It is in remarkably good condition and still used for performances in the summer.

 Our fir

 Our fir

Next to the Greek amphitheatre is a former limestone quarry which is now a garden with walkways amongst the trees and shrubs.  It contains a narrow cavern (76 feet high, 214 feet deep, and only about 25 feet wide) called the Ear of Dionysius because of its anatomical shape.

 Walkways in the old quarry.

You can just see Kevin - to the right of the cave. 

Inside the cave. The echoes were impressive.

There is also a Roman Ampitheatre in the Park,   built for gladiatorial games. It is not as well preserved as the older Greek Theatre and is much smaller.


 From the Archaeological Park we took a bus to the old town of Ortigia, a small island which is the historical centre of the city of Syracuse.  It is linked to the mainland by 3 bridges. 

We spent the rest of the day on the island and enjoyed it so much that we returned the following day, but this time we rode there on our bikes (very brave!). The weather was perfect with blue skies and very little wind.

 One of the bridges linking the island to the mainland.

 You can walk most of the way around the island.

 Between the  bridges is a statue of Archimedes who was born and lived most of his life in Siracusa.

The fountain of Diana in the Piazza Archimede.

We had an excellent lunch at one of the cafes overlooking the bay.

There were lots of narrow,vehicle free, passages to wander along.

spices and nuts

We bought spices and nuts from this market stall.

fish stall

One of several fish stalls. The fishmonger gutted the fish for us

arancini for lunch

We'd first tried, and enjoyed, arancini in Ortigia so later bought some which we had one evening.  

friendly cat.

We were able to converse with Maria, the camper stop owner, as she spoke French. She had several cats that she fed - this one was very friendly and she pleaded with us to take her home!

From Siracusa we headed north and west across the island as we were due to catch the ferry from Palermo to Sardinia on the following day.

 Our fir

 Our fir

Piana Calzata 

From Siracusa we headed north and west across the island as we were due to catch the ferry from Palermo to Sardinia on the following day.

 The camper stop was next to a sandy/ pebbly beach. In the distance we could see a tower so we walked along to it. Sadly we couldn't get inside.

Leaving Palermo. The ferry left on time at 7.30pm.  We had a cabin for the 12 hour crossing.