Ragusa is one of several hilltop towns in the low mountains of Sicily's south-east, which is famous for its incredible baroque architecture. Modern Ragusa has expanded since its baroque days, and an urban expanse of it now sprawls out to the west; but the historic centre on the eastern edge of the town is still charming. Last night I camped north of Ragusa, and this morning I passed through the town.
After I left Ragusa this morning, my lovely sunny day turned stormy. Really, seriously stormy. It turned so bad, in fact, that I can say without a doubt that this was the worst day of my trip in Sicily so far — weather-wise or anything-else-wise. The road between the two Baroque, south-eastern Sicilian towns of Ragusa and Modica is not very long — a mere 10km's at most — but it may as well have been 1,000 this morning. When I began tackling the road at around 10:15am, the sky was partly cloudy, but didn't seem to be all that ominous. Boy, was that a wrong forecast — ten minutes out of Ragusa, not only was it suddenly freezing cold and pouring with rain; it was also intermittently hailing! If it weren't for the miracle of two Sicilian angels rescuing me from my plight, I may well have soaked, frozen and sorrowed myself to death on this road; fortunately, an unexpected act of kindness prevented at least that.
This morning was a pleasant, relaxed start to an extremely challenging and unpleasant day. From last night's garden campsite, I managed to pack up and sneak out unnoticed (quite lucky — as it literally was someone's back yard, I doubt that they would have been impressed with my squatting there), and to continue south along the SS514 highway. The collection of farms and houses that I camped in shared a common driveway, which sported a large gate at its entrance: fortunately, this gate was open both when I arrived yesterday afternoon, and when I departed this morning. It was a quick and sunny morning's ride to the city of Ragusa: the weather looked promising; the roads were easy and the signs not-too-confusing; and traffic was fairly light. Before I knew it, I was enjoying the sights and sounds of Ragusa. Just a pity that I didn't stay in the city longer: had I done so, I could have saved myself a great deal of hardship.
What with getting lost, and with the obstacles of bad weather and worse signposting, it was a difficult morning. However, things took a turn for the better this afternoon, as I continued my south-eastern journey today, from Piazza Armerina to Ragusa. Just after lunch, and after passing by (the edge of) the town of Grammichele, I swung onto the lovely new SS514 highway — a road that my friend Conrad recommended I take, when I dined with him last night. And once I was on that road, I managed about 2 hours — and 30 k's — of fun and solid riding. The road is new, smooth, wide, and straight, and it goes dead south towards Ragusa. It's reasonably flat, with some nice downhill stretches at the start, and with a mild uphill tendency towards the end. And the weather decided to cheer up, and to be a lot more kind for the afternoon. So today turned out to be a relaxed, sunny, and productive day on the road after all.
While cruising down the SS514 this afternoon, I followed what has come to be my standard rule of rough camping these days: from about 4:30pm onwards, keep a sharp eye out for possible camping spots; and stop at the first decent one that I see. Actually, I saw an abundance of good spots at around 4pm, back when I was whizzing through the flat orchard fields a bit further north. But at that time, it was too early to call it a day; and by 4:30pm, I was struggling through a somewhat more rugged hilly section, and the number of appealing spots of private property nearby wasn't all that high. Anyway, before I got completely desperate, I managed to find a little spot in someone's farm on the upper side of the highway. It was someone's private garden, really: as it was on a hillside, it was kind of terraced, and I camped a few terraces down from the house itself (which was adequately out-of-sight, to my good fortune); I prefer fields whenever possible, but this was all I could scrounge up. Anyway, it did me for the night, and I snuck in and out unnoticed; and it actually turned out to be fairly quiet and comfy.