Located on a hilltop in the rolling highlands between the Nebrodi and Madonie national parks, in northern Sicily, Gangi is a quaint little village where most of the time, things are pretty sleepy. I spent a night camping in a field near Gangi, and I rode through the town the next morning.
For this morning's ride, I left my field near Gangi bright and early, and rode west through the town of Gangi, continuing on until I reached the turnoff north into the Madonie mountains. From here, it was only a short ride to the mountain town of Geraci Siculo, where I found a lovely (albeit mostly ruined) hilltop castello ("castle") to explore. It was a tough ride to Geraci Siculo — the weather turned quite cold, and it got a bit rainy, plus there were quite a few minor uphill sections — but when I got there, I was rewarded with great scenic views, a quaint village atmosphere, and a bar that served an excellent hot chocolate for the morning break. Plus, after reaching the town, the weather improved, and it was all downhill riding.
I awoke in my field near Gangi this morning, to find a dog waiting patiently for me right outside my tent. When I saw him there, I nearly jumped out of my skin! He disappeared while I was breakfasting and packing away; but when I rode away, he appeared again, and he started chasing after me. This was one hell of a fast dog: I was cruising down the highway; but he easily kept up with me, and he didn't give up until after I'd reached Gangi. He was so speedy, I decided to call him "Gonzalez". Poor fella — guess he was just lonely, and wanted some company.
After a pleasant afternoon's ride — through the western edge of the Monti Nebrodi — I found a vacant little field just off the main highway, and I set up camp in it for the night. I could have camped in any one of a hundred such suitable spots — in this neck of the woods, they're in abundance — but I'm quite happy with the spot I chose. It's surrounded by farms and farmhouses: but my little patch appears to be unclaimed by any of its neighbours; and nobody bothered me during the night. Plus, it affords a gorgeous view of the stars overhead, of the countryside all around, and of the hilltop town of Gangi just ahead of me. Apart from being a little bit chilly, this high up in the mountains, it seems that I've stumbled across an excellent place for camping it rough.
When I started this Great Sicilian Ride of mine, I wasn't expecting much of the roads. I know that Europe in general is known for its great roads: but southern Italy is reputed to have much worse infrastructure than other areas further north; and Sicily is a far south as you can go. Well, to my pleasant surprise, the infrastructure has so far easily exceeded my modest expectations: Sicilian roads rock! Even in the remote mountain areas, the roads are smoothly sealed; they're seldom too steep; they're often banked; and they're generally very well signposted. All I can say is: well done, guys; how do you do it, and how can we make Aussie roads this good? And if this is an example of poorer European roads, then what the hell kind of seventh-heaven roads can I find further north?!
If there's one thing I believe I deserved after this morning's hellish ascent into the Nebrodi mountains, it's a little relief and relaxation. And — once I was another hour or so past the town of Mistretta — relief and relaxation is exactly what I received. For the rest of today's journey into the Nebrodi, I was cruising all the way! For the remainder of the road to Nicosia (the town that marked "as far in" the Nebrodi as I went), it was virtually all downhill, the weather remained gorgeous, and a sumptuous tail wind pushed me always forward. Perfect opportunity to recover from the morning slog, to cool down a bit, and to enjoy the fabulous scenery of some of Sicily's most striking wilderness area.