Nice view, right? Taken from our living room window Sunday midday. Here's the rest of the story on what it took to get here - After being awakened by a hailstorm so violent I feared for the windshield in the van, more napping was impossible. One benefit of jet-lag is my body-clock was still set for 7 hours earlier so 2 AM wasn't all that late (or is that early?) So back on the highway I went, winding through seemingly endless construction on the A8 Autostrada as it wound down what is the "instep" of the Italian peninsula. The night was pitch-black, rainy with moments of snow and sleet, but luckily always wet enough for the wipers to do their job of keeping things clear. With less than 200 kilometers left to reach Reggio Calabria, I was like the horse heading for the proverbial barn, figuring even if the ferries weren't running I could rest up until they were and the major part of my drive would be over.
A stop for diesel for the van and espresso for the driver left me with just over 100 kilometers to go as I dropped, seemingly forever, towards the lights of Reggio where the traffic picked up as a glimmer of light appeared in the early morning sky. One thing nice about these southern Italian autostrade is there are few tolls, so the only big expense the $10 a gallon price of the fuel! It was still raining heavily as I stopped at the ticket counter to ask for a ferry ticket.
"Andata e ritorno?" (there and back?) asked the ticket guy who obviously was up and working way too early this morning. "Solo andata" was my tired but excited reply as I gazed across the straits of Messina in the feeble morning light. A ferry was just coming into port as we lined up in our cars, the transport trucks in an adjoining lane. The cars drove off after the passengers without cars came off, clutching umbrellas turned inside out from the wind and dragging their wheeled luggage through the puddles.
But no cars drove onto this ferry - they'd gone on STRIKE! Suddenly the cars in front, along with the trucks, fired up their engines and made U-turns, so I followed along, thinking we were headed somewhere for refunds? But instead, another ship pulled into port and we lined up to drive onto that one. They don't mess around when it's time to load up, "bing, bang, boom"...all the cars and trucks drive on, the passengers scurry aboard and the doors close, seemingly with the ship heading out before you can even climb the stairs up from the parking decks! The sea was rough, with the ferry rocking side to side, making walking to the ship's bar a challenge. But I would be on the island in less than a half hour!
It took even less time for everyone to get off the boat, truck engines firing up as the ship's giant forward doors opened as it pulled up to the dock. In just minutes I was thrust into the Messina morning traffic insanity, but luckily everyone else was coming in while I was going out. Soon enough I was blasting down the coastal highway (though this time there were tolls to pay) and around Taormina the sun began to shine, so the wipers and windshield issues were a thing of the past.
My speed picked up to the full 130 kph limit for dry and clear road conditions and before long Catania (and its traffic) came into view. A bit of morning rush-hour slowing there gave way to open roads down to Siracusa and I was on the island of Ortigia unloading our stuff into the apartment pretty close to 24 hours after I'd departed Northern Italy...a journey of just under 1000 miles, with a couple of hours waiting for the ferry that couldn't go combined with a couple of hours of napping in Cosenza. After running the school kids back and forth to a commercial center in the afternoon and a harried visit to an off-island Illy Caffe bar to replace our dead espresso maker, the van was fueled up and turned in to AVIS. I'm happy to be done with cars and driving for a few weeks at least!