Sailing in Italy – Sicily
Before dawn we set our mainsail in Sardinia and set course for Palermo. Two days, one night and 200 nm lay between us and the largest island of the Mediterranean. For the first time in a long time, we had 30 hours of consistent conditions: Wind 12-19 kn from N and NNO. 70-100 degrees from port carried the Rivercafe briskly through the night to Sicily.
As favorable as the wind was for us, as unfavorable it was for smugglers, who unfortunately also cross this route. Tunisia is only 100 nm away. We already met armed smugglers between the Canary Islands and Cape Verde (article here) and this time we had all MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Center) contact data at hand. MRCC are responsible for maritime emergencies and to be informed in case of contact with refugee boats. Fortunately, we were spared from this extremely difficult situation.
The light of the new day presented us with a mountainous island in the haze. Closer to shore, we saw magnificent stretches of coastline that looked like villages on northern Italian lakes in the now flat sea. The atmosphere jumped the 2 nm across the water to us on the ship. 50 nm we sailed along the north coast to Palermo.
Palermo, what a sonorous name. Who doesn’t think of the numerous stories, mostly of the same genre, that come to mind. We got a place in the Marina Sitimar. A 5 minute walk from the old town, a great choice. Ben gets our “Marina Manager of the Year” award. He helped with everything and more. Palermo Bay is home to at least 8 marinas and all are crowded and with little docking space. Even in the offseason you need luck to get a place, especially with a catamaran.
An overnight trip is very tiring and usually ends early in bed on arrival day. Well rested, we walked around Palermo the next day. The city is a sensation. Dirty it is, a lot of garbage lies on the streets. But the alleys, houses and squares are among the most beautiful we have encountered in years. Countless cafes, bars and restaurants, it is specular.
We walked for hours through the neighborhoods of La Loggia and Kalsa. You can see the splendor of times past and how wealthy this city once was. The shiny cobblestones, the ornate houses and palazzos – all tell of once good times. Today the city is incredibly lively and the people are relaxed and fun. Remarkable are also countless churches. The ringing of bells is often more reminiscent of railroad crossings, but the splendor is impressive.
We probably came during the peak wedding season. Also a spectacle to admire the dressed up guests and bridal couples. Right next to our marina, Pauli’s “family” was obviously celebrating. Francis Coppola just had to hold the camera on it.
And since we are just with “next to us in the port”. Our nice pier neighbor Sandra received a friend for a visit. And this was also our sailing friend Simone, whom we last saw with her husband Holger two years ago in St. Lucia. With all the destinations in the Mediterranean, with the hundreds of vessels in Palermo, we were of all places next door.
For our obligatory shore excursion we had to choose. The largest Mediterranean island is about 280 km wide and up to 150 km high. 5 million people live on this small/large island. No way to discover it in few days. After consulting with Ben, we drove west to the temple of Segesta. 80% of the island is mountainous, sometimes tedious, but fantastic.
Even if you take a few days, even those go quickly by. It was time to leave our incredibly tight berth and travel on. Palermo made it onto our list of the most amazing places.
We had no wind and smooth seas as we continued our course east, along Sicily’s north coast. Our next stop was Cefalu. This too was a super cool place. Dropping our anchor in the finest sand and clearest water, we were alone on the beach, which has plenty of room for boats but little protection from swell.
With Cefalu we met another pearl. It is a small town with a wonderful beach, a cathedral, many monasteries and a great old town. In the narrow streets you can find many stores with delicacies, wines and what else you can enjoy. We heard monks singing and orchestras blaring at the anchorage. Typical Sicilian attitude to life. In the morning an old fisherman pushes a wheelbarrow through the narrow streets and praises his fish. It’s an atmosphere to fall in love with, what a cool village. What an island.
Cefalu at night and day
Already after the days it was clear, Sicily has grabbed us. Sicily also includes the Lipari Islands, some call them the Aeolian Islands. We wanted to skip them, but on insistence of our friends Tom and Michael, we will make a detour to the north to visit some of the islands. Themed trip “Volcanoes”, because we are in the volcanic region of Europe right now. We will report on the views and scents. /Holger Binz