In a hire car I battled my way into the centre of Catania on what seemed like the hottest day ever. The air con (on full) felt like it was blowing warm air out of the scorching hot dash of the little white Fiesta. The car’s thermometer was reading over 40 degrees in the mid day sun. The air was still and there was absolutely no breeze. The heat was pretty unbearable at times. I was on edge for the whole journey from Cefalu, having to anticipate the actions of others all the way. If UK car drivers did this as part of their training, maybe motorcyclists would be safer on the roads? Undertaken, over taken and pushed about by the locals going about their daily lives. I never really knew where to look or what might happen ahead. I felt like a learner driver all over again. I was now beginning to doubt ticking off my “bucket list” item today and hiring a Vespa in Italy. It seemed pretty dangerous to be riding two up in this chaotic environment when you don’t know your way around. Maybe we could find one in another town away from the city. There was always another day…
We eventually parallel parked the left hand drive car in a busy side street, whilst a queue of traffic behind hooted impatiently. I don’t think it was personal, these horn happy Sicilians just beep at everything, for no apparent reason! As tourists, with a few hours free before we were due at a family meal. I was keen to walk the streets and explore the craziness. There were hundreds of small bikes and scooters whizzing in and out of gaps in the traffic, everywhere you turned. The roads seemed lawless and priority seemed unheard of here. Helmets were optional, and shorts and flip flops compulsory!
Guided by Fabio, my girlfriends distant relative. He took us on a whistle stop tour of Catania. He calmly strolled along the streets unfazed by the hustle and bustle explaining local Sicilian traditions. He pointed out Mount Etna in the distance, which had been active of late. I had heard you could ride a quad bike up to the top of the volcano. Maybe this would substitute the Vespa? We were a little late for the action at fish market but certainly got a feeling for local life here. They buy food daily and eat everything fresh. It surprised me to find that Diabetes is a big issue here on the island.
I don’t think bike theft is an issue here. I never saw locks or chains. Maybe the fear of stealing from the Mafia was enough of a deterrent? I would guess maybe the biggest problem is finding your bike again after parking it!
These little Piaggo Ape’s were popular with locals. Small enough to navigate the streets made them ideal for the food market traders. I can see why they are appearing on the streets of the UK. I wonder how much it would cost to buy one and ride it home?
Later in the trip we took a day out to explore the mountains on quad bikes. The scenery was amazing and the air was cool. The local villages were quite a contrast to Catania. Every one still rode Vespas or drove Fiat 500’s but it was peaceful and much more quiet.
Well worth a visit if you like small bikes! I can see the appeal of a twist and go Vespa 125cc for getting about the island of Sicily. Maybe I will ride one next time?
See my other posts relating to the fun small bikes bring.