After 5 days in the Aeolian Islands we left for Sicily by hydrofoil. The trip from Lipari to the port of Messina took 90 minutes. The taxis in Messina do not have meters and because we did not negotiate the fare before boarding we were ripped off by about 15 euros. Boarding our regional train at Messina was difficult as the only lift was for platform 1 and our train left from 4. This was typical of Sicily. It’s a long way from Rome and the locals reckon they get less than their fair share of infrastructure spending.[teaserbreak]
We had to change at Catania (no lifts) and waited beside the beautiful Fountain of Persephone. The beautiful square in which the fountain is located is home to a large group of African boat people. They urinate in the garden, hassle tourists and sleep outside the station on sheets of cardboard. We also struck many boat people at Rome’s Terminii station selling umbrellas whenever it rained. This is an illegal practice and annoys the shopkeepers who pay rent and taxes. The boat people issue is a common subject of discussion in Italy, just as in Australia.
On arrival in Syracusa we secured a taxi with a meter and weren’t ripped off. The cobbled streets of Syracusa are in a bad state of repair and every car/bus trip is a jolting experience. Syracusa does not have regular street sweeping/washing so the streets and footpaths are littered with dog dirt. Syracusa does, however, have a great bus system. In particular, there is a fleet of electric buses that circle the regular tourist areas. A half euro ticket gives unlimited usage for 90 minutes. This mayoral initiative is designed to reduce greenhouse gases, noise pollution and traffic congestion whilst providing a service to tourists and Syracusans. It also provides a “plan B” for those who have had too much birra or vino at the local ristorantes.
Like the rest of Italy, there is evidence of a commitment to recycling. Every train station and city square has a set of three bins: trash, plastic, and other recyclables.
We had occasion to travel into central Sicily and again were struck by how large scale solar has taken hold. The roofs of large factories are covered in solar panels. Solar farms dot the landscape. From a two thousand year old city built during the Greek occupation period we could see a nearby large wind farm.
After five days in Syracusa we set off for Naples in a slow provincial train. The VFT service, that ceases in Salerno, does not extend to Sicily. The nine hour train trip is made longer by rolling on the carriages to a ferry at Messina and rolling them off at Villla San Giovani on the Italian mainland. As we travelled North we were again struck by how carefully Italians tend the soil. There are hundreds of hectares of fruit trees and olives along with masses of hothouses presumably for intensive farming.