Friday, December 07, 2012

A Primer to Driving in Sicily: Driving in a Small Town

Would you drive here?
Driving in Sicily's small towns and villages requires a new skill unto itself.  Would you want to drive up this road?   I wouldn't.  But people do and I have done out of necessity.  In fact, the street on which our new house lives is about this wide and the road leading to our street has an incline similar to this one.  I think I have mentioned already that turning onto our street means leaving half my tires on the road.  

So, let's begin.  I have mentioned that a GPS is essential for driving in Sicily.  That is absolutely true - to a point.  Once you are in the small town with twisty narrow roads that are often one way (not that a one way street concerns many Sicilians!) your location finding needs to become creative.  This is where a map comes in handy.  I can't speak for other small towns, but I know that Cianciana has street maps that they hand out generously!  Where do you find them?  From the realtor (My House), from the library, the museum, and most people who rent out apartments to sun seeking foreigners.  You could also print out a map from Google Earth or Google Maps before you leave.  Driving in a small Sicilian town you will find that this is where those meditation classes I mentioned in the first driving post will come in handy.  You need to be prepared for the following:

  1. You will make mistakes.
  2. People will honk at you and make rude gestures.
  3. You will get lost. 
  4. Parking is almost impossible to find unless you come across a piazza.
  5. There will be swearing.
  6. In a small town, three stopped cars makes a traffic jam and there will be honking.
  7. Drivers in front of you will stop at random to discuss the latest football game, the weather, their families, or whatever with someone they see walking on the road.
  8. Your car will probably get scratched or, like me, you will knock off your side mirror - maybe both.
  9. You will turn a corner and see something amazing that you never expected.
If you know and fully accept that these things will happen, it will make your small town driving a more enjoyable adventure.

My Personal Examples of Some of the List Above

Number One and Five
My mistake?  I drove over a nail and the tire exploded.  There was swearing.

Number Two and Six and Seven

This is in Cianciana - I heard so much honking that I went out onto our balcony
and snapped a shot of the three car traffic jam!  The driver in the white van was chatting with all the kids as they walked by.  In Cianciana, everyone knows everyone.

Number Three

This is the Turkish Steps or Scala dei Turchi.  You will find this in any tourist book of Sicily.  The cliffs are spectacular.  On our trip to Sicily in 2010 we tried to find this beach several times.  Do you think we could find it?  Finally, in 2012 we managed to make it to Scala dei Turchi.  BTW, the man in the foreground wearing the knee length shorts is my husband, Nick.  Those shorts scream "STRANIERO - FOREIGNER!!!"  The Speedo is ubiquitous in Sicily.  But that is another post.

Number Four

This was taken in Piazza Armerina which really doesn't qualify as a small town.  The parking in this piazza wasn't free but 100 metres from here was the piazza in front of the duomo - cathedral where we parked because the parking was free.

Number Nine

This was my amazing and really unexpect thing: We visited Capizzi, the hometown of my husband's family.  We were there on a Sunday and everywhere we went we seemed to run into this procession.  The patron saint of Capizzi is Saint Giacomo.  They were solemnly and respectfully carrying their relic of Saint Giacomo from church to church.  I must admit that I was quite startled to hear that the relic was Saint Giacomo's finger which was encased in a golden hand on a long pole.  If you look closely at the picture, you will see the man behind the priest (in red) is carrying the pole and the golden hand is above him.

This man was walking his horse down the middle of the road as we approached Polizzi Generosa.

If you arrive in town on market day park the car and count yourself lucky.  You will find your way blocked by trucks laden with fruit and vegies, refrigerated stands with meats and cheeses that I had never seen in Canada (goat meat???), tables of ten euro shoes that the venders swear were made in Italy, tables of clothing, household goods, purses, sketchy-looking electronics, jewelry, and just about anything else you can think of.

Sometimes the market is just on the back of a truck driving up and down the streets and stopping as soon as there is a whiff of a customer.  BTW, I am the rather large lady with the appalling cargo shorts. (Why oh why did I ever think those were a good idea???)


  1. Absolutely great post!!! You've really captured what it is like to try to drive in Sicily. :) Love it!!

    1. Thanks Jann! I wish I had been able to read something like this before I drove in Sicily for the first time - that's why I have written it. But then again, if I had read something like this beforehand, I may not have had the courage to actually get behind a wheel! lol.

  2. I remember driving right into the middle of the market in Catania on my first solo trip to Sicily. This year on trip number 10 went up the road to Erice and found roads narrower than in Taormina. This year had some one break my mirror in Palermo. Another time was hit on the Tangenziale in Napoli while driving to the ferry. No, it is never boring.

    1. No kidding. You could never call driving in Sicily boring!

  3. I think we'll hire a driver


What do you think? Polite comments always welcome!