From Palermo to Caccamo by bike

Detail

Sunday morning. The coffee pot is mumbling quietly on the hob, the biscotti are already carefully arranged on the large plate in the kitchen. A faint smell of oranges and cinnamon reminds me that autumn is the season that transports us to the joys of the irresistible Sicilian Christmas.

Once again, I run my finger along the road on the map.

Ever since I discovered that I’m not familiar with one of the most beautiful pearls of Sicily, I have not stopped planning the trip to conquer it, from Palermo by bike. I must have it, Caccamo will be mine!

A few minutes after my coffee, I am already riding my bike through the streets of Palermo. Although Caccamo is easily reached from the junction of Termini Imerese on the A19 motorway, or by taking the Palermo-Agrigento expressway, I have chosen the bicycle to enjoy the road and all the secrets it reveals to those who have the patience to listen.

In just a few minutes, I cross the cycle path on Via Messina Marine and turn off towards Villabate on Provincial Road 76 to Misilmeri, where I take Provincial Road 16 which will take me as far as Ventimiglia di Sicilia, and then turn off onto Provincial Road 6.

The climb is hard and the asphalt flows slowly under my wheels, but there is no mountain that the will of a cyclist cannot move. Kilometre after kilometre, I enjoy an unexpected landscape a few kilometres from the sea: beautiful orange groves, farms, beautiful oil mills and dairies where you can taste traditional Sicilian products, small streams that feed a still flourishing agriculture.

A shepherd with his flock blocks my way and I take advantage of the break to watch a hawk gliding gracefully along an invisible road made of wind. On the mountain tops, small villages doze peacefully, ancient guardians of traditions and history, behind me the distant but ever-present sea.

In Ventimiglia di Sicilia, I take a coffee break and exchange a few words with the barmaid, who in full respect of the proverbial Sicilian hospitality, urges me to go on and offers me an almond pastry to help me recharge my batteries. Reinvigorated by this welcome and with a warm feeling in my heart, I mount the saddle again and set off. I leave the Provincial Road 6 and take the rural road that runs along the beautiful Rosamarina lake.

After a breathtaking climb, as soon as I pass a sharp bend I am thunderstruck.

Caccamo is there in front of me! The fatigue of the 60 km of uphill climb I have just covered instantly vanishes.

Contained by a frame of lush vegetation, with a mantle of sky on its shoulders, Caccamo rests, with its load of history and artistic beauty, at the foot of Mount San Calogero. Surprised by so much beauty, I linger first on the beautiful castle, then on the imposing churches and then on the overall picture.

On my smartphone, I scroll through the short guide on the website of the municipality of Caccamo and discover the mystery of its name and origins as well as a precise description of the artistic and architectural heritage of the town.

I spend the rest of the day wandering through the town’s alleyways, amidst houses set into the rock, enjoying the fruits of its ancient dairy and agricultural traditions and chatting with the friendly and helpful inhabitants.

As evening falls, I am suspended between the yellow light of the street lamps and the scent of wood coming from the chimneys of the houses.

It is like being part of an immense nativity scene. With this fragrance still on my shirt and my eyes full of beauty, I take State Road 285, which, in a few kilometres, takes me to Termini Imerese station, where a regional train will take me and my bicycle to the Central Station of Palermo.

On the train, I reflect on why people should visit Caccamo. The answer is simple and immediate: visiting Caccamo means discovering the bravery of its inhabitants who, in the past, defied the rock to build one of the most beautiful castles in Sicily, but it also means discovering their patience and perseverance, tools with which they have preserved ancient and fascinating traditions that are kept alive for today’s visitors.

Giovanni Guarnieri

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