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San Gandolfo Festival
The 7th Wednesday after Easter and the 3rd week end in September
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The Most Holy Crucifix
Starts May 1st
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La Sagra delle Nocciole (The Hazelnut Festival)
Always in August usually after the 15th, a moveable date

Lo Sfoglio
Late August

Santa Lucia
December 13


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Driving in Sicily

Posted by Suzanne on 24 Jan 2014


Last week’s blog post got me thinking about driving in Sicily and what I would suggest to people travelling this magical island by car. I enjoy driving there after years of exploring the island. However, being foreign and coming from a very Anglosphere driving world in Australia the Sicilian roads have  presented a few challenges. The most memorable were: remembering to drive on “the other” side of the road while trying not to hit everything on my right hand side due to serious over correction; and thinking that I needed to follow all the road rules, lane markings and speed limits. I have learned that the rules can be bent a little with respect.

I have come up with a few pointers which will hopefully result in greater enjoyment for you when driving in the ordered chaos on Sicilian roads and also add some freedom and fun to your Sicilian travels and exploration.

Here is my list of what to try and do:

No 1:

Respect the overtaking lane (the left lane) on the autostrada. It is sacred and is the only road in Sicily where lane markings are taken seriously. If you happen to be travelling in the left lane you will be beeped at, have lights flashed at you and you will be tailgated. Even if the right hand lane is free they will not move across and use that. The overtaking lane is absolutely sacred.

No 2:

Never hesitate for even a minute and keep driving without reducing speed or looking at other drivers. You must master the art of bluffing and make no eye contact. This is imperative. You must do all this and keep moving.

No 3:

Do anticipate. It is an art to manage anticipation and the lack of hesitation at the same time. The Sicilian drivers are the masters of this. It still challenges me every time I get behind the wheel of a car in Sicily but I like to think that I am getting better.

No 4:

Ignore lane markings at times and don’t hesitate to create another lane so that you and the traffic can keep moving. This is particularly so in the rather hectic traffic of Palermo.

No 5:

Bending the speed limits a bit, turning a blind eye to no parking signs and no standing signs is okay and don’t worry about losing a side mirror or getting the odd dent.

No 6:

Check that your horn is in working order and use it: the Sicilians drivers do, but it is more to let other drivers know what they are about to do. There is no “ road rage.”

No 7:

Hire a very small car: a Fiat Bambino, 500 or Punto is perfect. A small car means being able to park anywhere on the street or footpath and it helps with fitting down the narrow streets and laneways.

No 8:

Always carry your documents in the car because in true Sicilian style you will be pulled over at the odd random checkpoint by the” Carabinieri” – the police and it is “I documenti” they ask for: drivers licence & ID as well as car papers and insurance papers. It is only in this situation that chaotic madness meets dramatic bureaucracy on the roads of Sicily and if your documents are not in your car you risk spending hours at the local “Carabinieri” station filling out copious amounts of forms: all in Italian.

No 10:

Every Sicilian likes to think of themselves as a professional racing car driver and they do at times drive like one, particularly on the winding mountainous roads. Try it for a bit but only if you can “see round corners.”

Sicily, though, is an island made for racing and was home to one of the world’s first and most challenging motor races, the Targa Florio. The drivers on the podium raced in some of the world's greatest cars: Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Maserati, Mercedes Benz, Fiat and Porsche. It began in 1906 and continued until 1977. Last year Ferrari made a commenorative video to the historic Targa Florio.

The famous Sicilian businessman Vincenzo Florio was the founder and it continues today but it is no longer competitive. Today, during May, lovers of classic and vintage cars line up in Palermo to take on the curves of the Madonie Mountains.

The Routes:

The routes used included an entire circuit of the island but the most used was the "Piccolo Circuito delle Madonie”- an endurance track.  The Madonie mountains are only an hour from Palermo and make up the spectacular Madonie National Park. The "Piccolo Circuito delle Madonie" is 72 kilometers or 45 miles long and this classic route went through and near many medieval villages including, Polizzi Generosa, Collesano and Cerda. And on my way up to Polizzi Generosa I travel parts of the route.

A Description of the old Targa Route:

U.K. based freelance motoring journalist, Richard Meaden’s description of the old Targa route quoted in Ben Bradley’s article in the U.K motoring magazine, EVO (edition 192, 2013) captures well the type of driving route the “Piccolo Circuito delle Madonie” is and why it inspires everyday Sicilians to drive these mountainous roads the way they do.

“ It’s quiet, tranquil almost and yet far from wanting to slow, you feel compelled to push on as hard as you dare as a mark of respect. The route is a merciless stream of head- spinning turns, gut- wrenching fresh- air drops and spine- pummelling lumps and bumps. These it soon transpires, are Targa constants.” Richard Meaden.

Enjoy getting behind the wheel in Sicily. Whether it is to go on a road trip and explore this intriguing island in a Fiat 500 or to drive the most raced old Targa Florio route  the “Piccolo Circuito delle Madonie"  in a classic car in the month of May. Just remember, try and drive like a Sicilian.







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