Messina, being the closest point of contact between Sicily and the mainland, has that Italian feel that the rest of Sicily doesn’t. Considering its turbulent history, it hasn’t done too badly in the looks department, though you have to go a few blocks in from the harbour to catch it. That being said, I wasn’t desperate to stay, so onto the next ferry I went. Leaving the harbour I got my (much needed, I’m sure) blessing from Mary and was off.
Hitting the ground, I decided to follow what you could call the ‘sole’ of Italy’s boot around to Brindisi and the ferry to Greece. It didn’t take long for me to decide that this was a bad idea. The southern coast of Italy sucks. It is nothing but low rent holiday towns, crappy roads, and industrial sites- even the ocean is washed out and grey. Well, okay- the ocean is just fine, but the tired, dusty feeling of the coast seems to suck the energy out of the waves and leave the long sandy beaches looking barren.
Never fear- all is not lost! Just go a couple of kilometers inland and you are in ITALY. Once you pass into the high hills the dirty tourist towns are replaced by well kept hilltop villages, the lousy roads give way to well paved tracks that never tell you where you’re going, and barren land is traded for forest, orchard, and paddock. Bewitched by the ride I completely lost track of time and the sky was turning pink before I thought to look for a place to stay. I quickly decided that whatever the coasts main drawbacks, a lack of hotels wasn’t one, so back down I went to spend the night at some nameless to me town.
The next day brought the usual bad weather, but a fairly short ride to Brindisi. I think my biggest complaint about the wet weather is that it kept the clouds low and ruined my pictures. Right around the arch of the foot in Italy’s boot (northwest of Taranto) the hills are topped with villages, forcing the roads twist up and down from one hilltop to the next. Beautiful riding that fills you with romantic thoughts of village elders trying vainly to keep their young folk from mixing with those from another hill. I’m not really one for that kind of silliness, but you just can’t help but see the scene at almost every turn.