No, I don't mean the chocolate-flavoured energy drink: I mean Milo, the small mountain village on the eastern edge of Sicily, between towering Mount Etna (Europe's highest active volcano) and the gorgeous Ionian coast. I slept at a campsite just outside of Milo this evening, and I rode through the village the following morning.
Yesterday I ascended and skirted the eastern edge of Mt. Etna, from the south-east corner northwards. This morning, the tour of Etna came to a close, as I headed down out of the foothills, and returned back to the Sicilian east coast. Sadly, there was no view of Etna to speak of, as the fog that I encountered while camping last night was still lingering and obscuring the view; nevertheless, it was a sweet and speedy downhill ride, and the villages along the way weren't bad either. From Camping Mareneve, I continued up to the town of Milo (only about 5 minutes further along the road); and once I was through Milo, the looong downhill began. I took the small turnoff for the village of Presa; and from there the road took me ever further down, to the town of Piedmonte Etneo, and then finally to the coastal town of Fiumefreddo di Sicilia. It was a bit cold, and a bit foggy; but very quick, and easy as can be.
It was a grinding afternoon's ride, as I continued north and ascended higher up the eastern slopes of Mt. Etna. However, fortunately it wasn't an overly late one today. At around 4:15pm, I was just approaching the town of Milo — which is in the heart of the forested wilderness area around here — when I came across the campsite "Mareneve" (lit: "Sea and Snow"). My map had a single official campsite marked in the vicinity of Milo; so I assumed that this was it, and I stopped in to check it out. As with the place near Avola three nights back, I was most relieved to find that this place was actually open for business. As confucius says: "man who camp rough sleep with the cows, but man who camp legally sleep with the stars." So, since I had the opportunity, tonight I slept with the stars.
Once I'd finished finding my way north-west out of Catania today, I continued straight up north, into the eastern foothills of the ever-looming Mt. Etna, which watches over the city of Catania and over much of the Sicilian east coast, from its lofty peak of 3,326m asl. While this morning's riding was flat and easy, the afternoon ride through the towns east of Etna was uphill virtually all the way. Nevertheless, the ascent was reasonably gradual, and it was worth it for the rewarding and diverse scenic views. The steepest uphill was actually at the edge of Catania itself; once I was past the town of Sant' Agata li Battiati, I was basically through the worst of it, and also through the extent of Greater Catania. While the immediate landscape did change throughout the afternoon — the populous mountain towns eventually gave way to farmlands, and eventually to forest — the presence of Etna to the west was constant, and the view of it just kept getting better and better.