The Madness Of Driving In A Small Sicilian Town


First posted December 7, 2012


Would You Drive Up This Road?

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.  Doing 120.  There was swearing.
Number Two and Six and Seven
This is Cianciana.  One day I heard so much honking I went out onto the balcony to see what was going on.  There was a three car traffic jam.  The driver in the white van was chatting with all the kids as they walked by.  In Cianciana, everybody knows everybody.
Number Three
This is the Turkish Steps or Scala dei Turchi.  These cliffs are so spectacular and well known you will find them in any tourist book to do with Sicily.  On our 2010 trip to Sicily, we tried to find this beach several times.  Do you think we could find it?  Not a hope!  Finally, in 2012 we managed to make it to Scala dei Turchi.  It only took two years to find it!  BTW, the man in the foreground with the knee length shorts is my husband, Nick.  Those shorts scream STRANIERI!! 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 on 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

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This was my amazing and really unexpected 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 San Giacomo.  They were solemnly and respectfully carrying the relic of San Giacomo from church to church.  I must admit that I was quite startled to hear that the relic was San Giacomo’s finger encased in a hollow golden hand on the end of a long pole.  If you look closely at the pictures of the procession, you will see a man carrying the pole walking behind the priest (in red).
This man was walking his horse down the middle of the road as we drove the road to Polizzi Generosa.

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If you arrive in town on market day, park your car and count yourself lucky.  You will find your way blocked by truck full of fruits and veggies, refrigerated stands full of cheeses and meats that I had never seen in Canada (goat meat???), tables of 10 Euro shoes that the vendors swear were made in Italy, tables of clothing, household items, purses, sketchy looking electronics, jewelry, and just about anything else you can think of.

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Sometimes the market is on the back of a truck just driving up and down the back streets and stopping at the whiff of a customer.  BTW, in one of these pictures, I am the rather large lady in the appalling cargo shorts.  Why oh why did I ever think those were a good idea?
Comments from original post:
  • Absolutely great post!!! You’ve really captured what it is like to try to drive in Sicily. 🙂 Love it!!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  •  No kidding. You could never call driving in Sicily boring!
  • I think we’ll hire a driver

3 thoughts on “The Madness Of Driving In A Small Sicilian Town

  1. Pingback: We Are Sicily-Bound! | My Sicilian Home

  2. Pingback: Salt – The Seasoning of Life! Part Two | My Sicilian Home

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