Travelling friend and I set off in search of the Alcantara Gorge, driving through Piedmonte Etneo and Linguaglossa, climbing higher and weaving among olive, peach and almond groves. Our plan was a stop at Castiglione, the gateway to the Alcantara Range, and here it is on the other side of the valley from our zigzag road, with the mountains in the background.
At the bottom of the town we parked for free again – in fact we didn’t once pay for parking, amazing when we are used to paying around £2 an hour in the UK. Leaving the car, we asked an elderly man for directions through the maze, to the castle. He was a delight and loved practicing a few words of English with us and asking about our city. We followed him to his wife’s shop, which he unlocked just to give us a tourist map, and point us along the road.
The empty streets.
Looking back where we came from.
We didn’t see another soul walking, but it was hot and I guess they were being sensible and taking a siesta. Or perhaps it really was a ghost town and we imagined our nice gentleman. We went in ever decreasing circles until we reached an empty piaza with a closed cafe and as we didn’t bring enough water for the hot climb, we kept going upwards and found one open. Another place where they don’t see many outsiders, but the owner was very friendly. We had cold drinks under the shade of a canopy and within a few minutes some locals appeared, all men. I think there must be some secret jungle drums, that makes them wake up and come to check people out!
Some town views.
Refreshed, we found the path up to the castle hoping to go inside – it was locked up and there was no evidence that it would be opening any time soon. This is looking through the gate.
So we found a different path back down the hill, this is the view from behind the castle towards the Alcantara.
We should probably have asked for directions when we stopped for gelato back at the cafe, but as we could see the only possible road to the Gorge, we didn’t worry.
Before we left town we enjoyed the peaceful stroll and the air of faded beauty. If there are no tourists in early July, then there are probably no tourists and it’s very sad if the town continues to deteriorate, like this.
Check out the balconies and in the top left, the remains of a flight of steps.
We loved Castiglione regardless of it’s disrepair. It’s strange to walk around a whole town for a good two hours and see just our kind old man and four other customers in the cafe. So we drove out in search of the road to the Gorge and soon realised we must have missed the turning. Never mind, there should be more than one way of reaching it shouldn’t there? We tried three and none led us there so we eventually gave up, headed back to Fiumefreddo where our hotel balcony was in perfect condition with a fabulous view of Alcantara!