Europe ’15 – Palermo to Salina

Palermo has 1.2 million people making it Sicily’s largest city and around as large as Zurich and Perth.  It is a massive port strategically located between Europe and Africa.  The infrastructure on the wharves is modern and imposing.

  We were heading for Trapani, around 150 kms to the west and were hoping to catch a bus.  The local train takes an indirect route and is a bit of a milk run. It is much slower than the bus that uses a direct autostrade.  We ended up doing a deal with a taxi driver, arrived early and a hundred Euros poorer. On our journey with the taxi whizzing down the autostrade at 150 kph at times, we noticed frequent use of solar panels on farm buildings and warehouses, with the occasional wind farm evident. There is no wind generation on the UNESCO listed Erice, which stands as a sentinel above Trapani.

  Trapani is a seaside resort, something like Syracuse, where we visited in 2014.  It’s 70,000 citizens derive their income from tourism, fishing and farming the rich volcanic soils.  The local council runs a free tourist bus along the wharves and major parking areas.  It terminates at the bus interchange, quite similar to Woden’s.

  Trapani’s bus service is quite comprehensive. It is difficult to run on time during the peak hours, as it shares the narrow roads with other road users: lorries, small cars and motor scooters.

  There is no light rail in Trapani.  We took the heavy rail for a day trip to nearby Marsala.  The rail motor journey was very reminiscent of train travel from Bungendore to Kingston, but it runs more frequently and faster. John Stanhope would probably appreciate a piece of public art that is in a prominent position in one of Masala’s squares. It features a bucking donkey and a topless woman, so may find disfavour with some Federal politicians.

  The residents of Trapani and Marsala live in blocks of flats generally around 3, but never more than six storeys high.

  We also took a day trip to Egadi Islands visiting the largest island of Favignana. The island is mostly flat, so tourists and locals use the many rental bike facilities available on arrival at the wharf. It has prominent signs of volcanic activity and rocky soils make it difficult for the local farmers to eke out an existence.

  Our next destination was Salina, one of the Aeolian Islands, off Milazzo, at the other end of Sicily’s northern coast. We took a Segesta bus, just like Murrays, that was patronised by a mixture of tourists and Trapani residents, who work in Palermo. The bus journey was quick along the autostrade, but became bogged down in Palermo’s morning peak hour traffic. Whilst we crawled through Palermo streets, we noticed that there appears to be a height limit on the blocks of flats of around 10-12 storeys. This is an earthquake prone area, so that may have something to do with the heights. The bus terminated adjacent to the Palermo Centrale, where we commenced the next leg of our journey by train.

  The Regional train from Palermo to Milazzo ran efficiently and on time. It delivered us to a train station now remote from the port and ferry terminal as well as what is now the town centre. Our taxi delivered us to the hyrdrofoil pier, where a crowd of tourists and local passengers were hoping for an earlier ferry to avoid the approaching storm. Locals called it “a tempest”, and indeed, it was. The weather worsened as we docked at Vulcano and Lipari. Luckily, our port of Rinella on Salina is protected by a major breakwater. We found our hotel and battened down the hatches for the night.

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