The great Sicilian ride begins
After much ado, today my great, epic bicycle ride around Sicily began! To commence, I rode north from the city of Messina, up to Capo Peloro — Sicily's northernmost and easternmost point — and then around the coast, to Capo di Milazzo and beyond. I was scared, I was nervous, and I was pumped: but the day started out incredibly, and it just seemed to get better and better, as I went along. The Great Sicilian Ride is in progress — let's just hope that this awesome first day has set the standard for the whole voyage.
I got out of Messina at the very civilised time of 10:30am this morning: a bit late; but then again, it is Sunday, and it is my first day on the road. From Messina, I followed the SS113 highway up the coast, to Capo Peloro. The suburbs of Messina more-or-less stretch all the way up to the cape, along this bit of coast: by the end, they've dwindled into houses and summer retreats; but really, it's residential and it's built the entire way up. Capo Peloro itself is a lovely spot: the cape itself is a pleasant little beach, with a lighthouse on its tip and some fishing boats in the water; and the Italian mainland is just a stone's throw away, across the water.
Lighthouse at the cape.
Beach at the cape, and the Italian mainland on the other side of the channel.
From Capo Peloro, I continued cycling along the SS113 coast road, west towards Capo di Milazzo. The north coast around here is absolutely gorgeous, but also highly developed — its chockers full of sprawling beach resorts, big summer estates, and quaint little villages — which is a bit of a shame, but I guess rather inevitable. The houses around here are also nothing less than mansions — big Sicilian villas, the lot of 'em — and since I always heard that Sicily in general is quite a poor region, I can only assume that this is one of the wealthier pockets of the island.
Mansions, mansions everywhere.
I was also pleasantly surprised to see quite a few other cyclists on the road this morning. Most of them were in groups of at least 5, and most of them had racing bikes, and looked to just be going for a quick-and-speedy Sunday ride — didn't see anyone geared for a cross-country trip — but it was still nice to have company. As we say, evey bicycle you see out there is one less car.
The main route west from Messina — that is, the "main part" of the SS113, as well as the A20 "autostrada" (i.e. freeway) — skips the whole coast around Capo Peloro. I'm glad that I didn't take the main route, as the longer coast road was lovely, and it was a great Sunday morning introduction to cycling in Sicily. Also, since the main roads skip a fair bit of the coast in this north-east corner, the road that does hug the coast is nice and quiet, which is always good.
It was a good thing that I prepared some sandwiches for lunch, before I left Messina this morning: because when I stopped for a lunch break in a small seaside village, I found that almost nothing there was open. Not sure whether this was because it was 2pm, or because it was Sunday — I guess the combination only made it worse — but anyway, if I hadn't had any food with me, I would have gone quite hungry.
When I set off from Messina this morning, I was pretty damn anxious about the setup of my bike. I've set it up so that the saddlebags are slung over the back tyre, and so that my big plastic bucket is plonked on top of them — held down partly by the metal flap on the bike's basket-holder, and partly by a complex series of guy-ropes. To be honest, it looks really precarious — not to mention ridiculous — and I wasn't too confident about it holding up. I had horrible visions of the whole thing just collapsing, or of everything just flying off the back of my bike and being lost forever. But miraculously, the setup seems to be working: it's a little uncomfortable, and it weighs the bike down a fair bit; but so far, it is holding! Perhaps it will even last the whole journey.