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davidx Caltabellotta - A travel report by David
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Caltabellotta,  Italy - flag Italy
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davidx's travel reports

Caltabellotta from Sciacca

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Sciacca is under an hour by bus west of Agrigento in Sicily. It’s not a particularly touristy town but is an ideal base for the local bus to the hilltop village of Caltabellotta. Both the ride and the village are something else – a real treat.


Wasted space - where?
Wasted space - where?
Sciacca is a place with two levels, the main town being way up from the coast with its small but active port. The main street running roughly parallel to the coast turns into the Piazza A. Scandaliato, which is like a wide terrace giving fine views to the port below. Above this main road are twisting and fascinating old streets, the basic Moorish design of the place still persisting. It is still walled with some fine gates. I didn’t spend long enough up here because I wanted to catch a particular bus to Caltabellotta but I was struck by the exterior of the church of San Nicolo, 12th century. I don’t know whether it’s still in use as a church but it’s an odd feature of an ancient church when it has metal fixtures for clotheslines from the houses opposite. These, at least, are definitely in use! I suppose there’s not really a lot to keep tourists there long but it is certainly worth more time than I gave it, if you are including trips out to Caltabellotta and Il Castello Incantato [see other recommendations] – probably two nights. However, other places may well call louder and Selinunte, really has to be seen. It would be a shame, however, to miss the trip up to Caltabellotta, whether by car or bus. I think the author of the Rough Guide perhaps uses a bit of poetic licence on the subject of ‘sparkling fresh streams’. I must admit I didn’t see any sign of these but the general beauty of the winding route up the mountain owes nothing to exaggeration. I found the Sicilian mountaintop villages somewhat less picturesque at a distance than some of those on the Italian mainland but they are bang up to standard when you get in. If, like me, you have a problem with steep ascents on foot, you will be delighted as the sinuous uphill ride continues well into the village, delighted at every bend that you are going to get still nearer the top and finally, I hope that, [again like me], the bus goes far enough to enable you to walk the last bit.

Favourite spots:
A roof or two
A roof or two
The favourite has to be the village of Caltabellotta itself and in particular the very top. The top of the mountain is really a short ridge and the village goes right up, except for the very highest bit. About half way along there is a tunnel through to the other side a bit below the top and what a change in scenery and weather. I suppose it probably wasn’t twenty degrees colder but you could well have fooled me! And the wind was ridiculous - but it prepared me for the very top of the mountain. The view all around is quite as stupendous as you are hoping and the village itself is immensely scenic from here with roofs intersecting at practically every level. At the right hand end [from the Scacca side] of the ridge there is a church, very much in use, although the castle even higher along the ridge is a ruin as a result of an earthquake. Apparently the War of the Vespers came to its end as a result of an agreement signed here.

What's really great:
or 3 or 4
or 3 or 4
One thing I liked particularly, both about Sciacca and Caltabellotta was the near absence of other visitors. It made a welcome change from Agrigento, even though I count myself as lucky to have hit the latter on the last day of a major festival. Two other things represented the end of anguish. One thing is very, very wrong with Caltabellotta for anyone not used to the siesta. I was not prepared to go too far downhill but up high even the bars were near religious in their observance of the siesta and I became more and more parched. Getting back to Sciacca provided relief. The other thing was when, twenty minutes after the bus was due, it came with the same friendly driver and several of the passengers who had been on the outward trip. No, I couldn’t get on - wrong bus – and off it went. I panicked. I’d missed the last bus! Relief of reliefs, another one came very shortly. Where was the first one going? I honestly have no idea but that was a wondrous moment when the second one came

Accommodations:
Same place - opposite direction
Same place - opposite direction
The downside of Sciacca’s not being a tourist town is that there’s not much choice of where to stay. The Paloma Bianca at Via Vilugi 5 was good and it had a lift, a major bonus for me, but even [what I hope are] fairly good haggling skills left me paying more than elsewhere. It’s well situated at the eastern end of the main road.
Phone:0925 26 299

Restaurants:
Caltabellotta travelogue picture
The Rough Guide advocates the fish restaurants down in the port below but I didn’t at all fancy the walk back up and settled for the second suggestion there, the Miramare in the main square. This justified its write-up and provided a delicious meal as well as living up to its name and providing an excellent view of the port and more distant coastal scenery.


Other recommendations:
Caltabellotta travelogue picture
I was really sad to miss Il Castello Incantato, a short bus ride out to the east. [Monday struck again] According to the book there are literally thousands of sculpted heads in the garden made over about fifty years by a tragic character who had been jilted and then beaten up and left for dead in America before living here. It may not be everybody’s cup of tea but I’m into curiosities.

There are some good aerial views of Caltabellotta on
http://www.cesititalia.org/comunedicalta-bellotta/index_comune.htm

Published on Friday January 7th, 2005


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