Land of the Dodgy Sign
Following the debacle of getting back to civilisation, this morning's ride continued to challenge me in more ways than one. From the back roads of the Piazza Armerina farming area, I rode south-east to the town or Mirabella, and from there continued on to the town of Caltagirone. The weather was a devil: windy with an icy bite, and light rain that came down regularly if intermittently. Plus, I was the victim of bad signage both in Mirabella, and upon reaching Caltagirone. The signs in Mirabella weren't too bad — it's only a small town, and the road onwards to Caltagirone is one of only a handful in the area — but in Caltagirone itself, I got seriously lost. So all up, not the most pleasant start to the day. But not all was doom and gloom: I at least made it to Caltagirone in time for a great hot choc and pastry; and I was able to take refuge in the coffee bar there for about ½ an hour, while I waited out a heavy downpour of rain.
The road to Mirabella was quite good: reasonably flat, and well-sealed. If it hadn't been so ridiculously cold and drizzly, I might even have enjoyed it. The same can be said for the scenery on this route: what I saw of it was quite nice; but due to the weather, I didn't see or notice very much of it. In stark contrast to yesterday's gorgeous skies, it seems that I've hit quite a serious cold snap today; my hands were so cold, that I could barely squeeze my brakes properly while going downhill.
From Mirabella, it was more of the same towards Caltagirone — except that there was a bit more uphill. In particular, the final 2 k's or so to get into Caltagirone itself were quite steep: but I was so cold, I didn't mind at all; I welcomed the ascent as a good opportunity to warm myself up! Once I reached Caltagirone, I found a great little bar, where they were able to perfectly satisfy the morning snack cravings; and where I was greeted by a whole swath of locals, who were very interested in my crazy trip. One local even insisted on swapping e-mails with me (yes, even the middle-aged locals in Sicilian mountain towns have e-mail these days :P). I was also super-lucky with my timing, as it started pouring really badly during my coffee stop, and as I was able to stay warm and dry inside for about ½ an hour, while the rains unleashed their fury outside.
In trying to get out of Caltagirone today, I encountered what has to have been the worst signage I've seen so far on my trip. From the western edge of the town, the signs said that to reach Ragusa (the next big stop on my route), I had to go back the way I'd came, and to take a different turnoff. Well, this didn't make much sense to me: but I gave it a try. Needless to say, going back was the wrong move: there was a turnoff for Catania (due east) behind the town; but for Ragusa and Syracuse (south-east), I definitely needed to go through the middle of it all. In the end, I just rode straight through the main street of town — contending with traffic, cobblestones, and one-way streets throughout — ignoring the blatantly incorrect signage, that continued to say that I needed to turn around if I was going to Ragusa. Only when I reached the opposite edge of the town, did the signs finally make sense, and tell me that I had actually been right all along, and that this was actually the way to Ragusa.
The signage seems to be going from bad to worse, in this southern area of Sicily. What's going on, guys? How hard can it be, to signpost the way from one important town to the next? They're not particularly big towns, and they only have one or two main streets and intersections — is it so much to ask, that those few main roads and intersections tell you where to go, and tell you the right thing? I think it's time to officially dub southern Sicily "Land of the Dodgy Sign". The signage continued being sub-optimal after Caltagirone — in getting to Grammichele, I felt like I was fighting a battle against forces of signage that wanted me to go everywhere except there — but I battled against that (and the weather), and I made it there for lunch.