Capo d’Orlando to Santo Stefano di Camastre - Springtime Spin in Sicily 2018 - CycleBlaze

June 4, 2018

Capo d’Orlando to Santo Stefano di Camastre

The skies were a little overcast this morning but soon enough the clouds would be drifting on their way. From our room we could see runners out doing their morning jog along the lungomare and the occasional cyclist coasting along the shared pathway. We headed down to the patio for breakfast, eager to find what had happened to David’s socks that he had hung on the clothes line above. Uh-huh, just as I thought...the socks had been swept up during the morning cleaning and were in the garbage can. 

Morning view from our room.
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The route for today was straightforward: hang a left on Via Andrea Doria, keep the beach on the right and you won’t get lost. We retrieved our bikes from the adjacent garage, hooked up our panniers and pushed off after a careful traffic check: any cars coming or pedestrians meandering nearby? Nope. OK, push on! Wait...what? Via Andrea Doria? That Andrea Doria? It’s only a guess, but the main street in front of out hotel was named after the famous Genoese navigator and not the trans Atlantic luxury liner that now rests 240’ underwater in the north Atlantic ocean. 

We are always conscious of being part of the flow and not getting in other people’s way when we are travelling (is this a Canadian thing?) and this morning was no exception. To do this however, you need eyeballs in the back of your head because Sicilians don’t particularly care about getting in each other’s way and can come out of the woodwork from any direction. Notice in the photo below how casual they are about parking. The fellow in the little blue car had just gotten into his parked car. To be honest, we like their all inclusive approach: as a visitor, it seems that anything goes as long as nobody gets hurt and and nobody wants to get hurt. One big caveat to this game is this: don’t take advantage of others, no matter their form of transportion. Oh yes, the other rule is Keep Moving or we we’ll all crash...unless you’re parking in the middle of the street to shout out to your friends at the bar.

Hotel Faro, aptly named for the lighthouse just 50 metres away.
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We are always on the lookout for the smallest road that will take us towards our destination as long as it doesn’t dead end or dump us into a farmer’s field (see the ride to Enna). Small roads are simply the most interesting (i.e. full of surprises) and have the lightest traffic. So, today we started on the SP148, rode a section on the SS113, then down to the SP164b and SP162, back up to the SS113, down to SP168b and then a final run on the SS113 to Santo Stefano di Camastra. It all sounds rather complicated but it really boils down to the art of map reading. These roads all connected with one another and it was pretty clear to see this on our paper and electronic maps. 

By now we have seen a lot of ‘erosion’ around Sicily but it never ceases to bewilder us. We stopped on this small bridge in Torrenova and took photos in each direction.

This is a fairly typical road surface. Leave your skinny tires at home.
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It is common to see dilapidated buildings all over Sicily.  You can’t quite see it in the photo but the concrete supports on the balconies are so crumbly they look as though thet are set to take a leap off the pink building in the very near future.

Their concrete recipe seems to be missing an ingredient or two
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This creek bed is bone dry at the end of May and looks as though it hasn’t seen much water for a very long time.

A stony dry river bed.
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View of the riverbed and hills behind Torrenova.
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By the early afternoon we were in need of a drink more interesting than water, so we took a steep cobbled road down to a small beach at Marina di Caronia. There we found a bar with beachfront seating and brollies for a bit of shade. Fanta hit the spot again. Note, we would never drink Fanta at home but cycling depletes your electrolytes and liquids.

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I wandered down to the shore to check out the water. It was crystal clear and warm enough for a refreshing dip but I think the locals would disagree on that point. Everything has a season and it’s just a bit early for swimming.

The water here is crystal clear and the rocky beach is clean.
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We mosied along the lush coastal region on the SS113 towards Santo Stefano di Camastra. It’s a reliable road along this coast with a good shoulder and it's lightly travelled so we can keep a good rhythm and pile on some easy miles. But it lacks character and I found myself looking forward to heading off onto the smaller roads whenever possible. 

The A20 autoroute towered overhead and from a quick look at its underside this one looked to be in very good condition.  The A20 wound its way high above us all day, carrying those who really want to get somewhere in a hurry to wherever it was they were in a hurry to get to. Get on that puppy and you’ll be in Palero in no time!

Autoroute speed limit is 130 km/h.
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Here’s a quick lesson in highway designations in Sicily for those who think they might venture here on a bike: the SS stands for State highways, SP stands for Provincial, and SR for Regional. Speed limits are generally set at 110km/h, 90 km/h and 50 km/h, respectively. The autoroutes are in a league of their own.  Keep in mind that traffic speed, volume and road conditions are not predictable in Sicily. As our tour guide in Palermo said, signs and traffic lights are considered suggestions by many Sicilian drivers so my recommendation is to follow your nose when you get here, go with the flow and plan for adventure. You won’t be disappointed.

Peering down to see if I’m missing a coastal road into Santo Stefano.
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The first view of Santo Stefano di Camastra was not entirely inspiring however I knew it was one of the three main pottery towns in Sicily (Caltagirone and Schiacca are the other two) and I was looking forward seeing it.

Santo Stefano di Camastra
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Santo Stefano di Camastra was destroyed in the 17th century and when it was rebuilt it was designed in a unique way. The streets are laid out as a diamond within a square, overlaid with a big X. Essentially, all of the blocks are triangular and where the streets intersect...well it’s anybody’s guess who has the right of way. This one called for eyes in the sides and back of the head! The main streets are constructed of large smooth rectangular stones which were so smooth that car tires squealed anytime the driver turned the wheel ever so slightly. It was a bit of a built in warning sound for everyone nearby.

The town has a long history of making ceramics and there were stores selling ceramiches everywhere in the form of plates, cups, jugs, crockery, ornaments, holy water fonts, wall plaques, table tops, traditional items such as the pinecone and moorish heads, and tiles galore. And they were beautiful. I had to wonder how the shop owners made a living when there are so many stores cheek to jowl selling almost the same ceramics. I soaked up the gorgeous colours and designs as we strolled the streets.

Ceramics to suit every taste and every budget.
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Moorish heads, a traditional Sicilian design.
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A modern ceramic mural.
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Maidens of the sea, built into the cobbles.
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We explored the old town when we arrived, on the lookout for a place to buy lunch. Eventually with the help of a local, we located a tiny butcher’s shop where they made panini sandwiches. We bought two prosciutto and provolone panini and headed for a bench opposite the duomo to eat them and do a little people watching. 

All fruit and veg here was 1 euro per kg.
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Melanzone, I love you...let me count the ways.
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We finished lunch and started looking for our B&B. By now, I think I could write one entire blog about the adventures of “Finding Your Accommodation in Sicily by bicycle”. Let me say this, it always takes much longer than you think it ought to take. If you are driving a car, you should add even more time as you’ll need to find a place to leave your car. After all, these towns were built centuries before the automobile was ever conceieved and not much of the framework has changed. The street we were looking for had been dug up and was barricaded off so we went past it several times before identifying it. We eventually found the street name and the number we were looking for on the side of a building.  Next problem: I had indicated an arrival time on the reservation but there was nobody home and no answer when we Skyped the number. After humming and hawing and knocking at the door for a few minutes a young woman peeked out from an adjacent door that opened into a tiny banking office. Luckily, she had the key so she let us in and even offered to store our bikes for us when they closed at 7pm. The B&B was lovely, albeit noisy, but the connection with the bank remained a mystery. 

Our unmarked B&B.
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Street view from balcony with complimentary clothes line.
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Somebody’s gonna’ give way here.
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The old town of Santo Stefano is situated on a cape with views along the coastline in both directions. We saw this dark cloud approaching and were sure we would get soaked within minutes, but it never materialized. The cloud headed for the hills literally and we watched as it opened up only a kilometer away.

View back on today’s ride. The cloud missed us altogether.
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The history of ceramics in Santo Stefano is told in beautiful ceramic panels adorning the fencing along the west facing walkway that traces the edge of the old town. 

Ceramic murals tell the town’s history.
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After cleaning up, doing a bit bit of laundry ( didn’t want that clothes-line to go to waste) and a pre-dinner rest, we headed out for a drink and dinner in the old town. 

Swordfish on pasta
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Semifreddo
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Today's ride: 47 km (29 miles)
Total: 877 km (545 miles)

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Scott AndersonSo what - you’ve been storing this for a year and just post it now after we pass through the town to tweak us for not slowing down to look around here? Nice.
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2 years ago