Day 64: Sciacca – Marsala

Distance: 83.79 km

Time: 4 hours 21 minutes

Average speed: 19.2 kph

Total distance: 3449.6 km (2144 miles)

Total time: 175 hours 16 minutes

Total amount climbed: 23,476 metres (77,021 feet)

Overall average speed: 19.7 km/h (12.3 mph)

Word of the day: ‘finito’ (fee-nee-toh) – finished!

We didn’t sleep hugely well last night – partly because we knew we were approaching the end of our journey (and wanted to get it right!) and partly because there was a large thunderstorm raging outside, which seemed to last for about an hour. Before the alarm went off we were already awake and raring to go.

We ate a good-sized breakfast near our lodgings, as we knew today was going to be quite long. We’d planned and refined today’s route – it went through several iterations before we were happy with it, so it was inevitable really that within the first kilometre we encountered a strada chiusa and had to change everything. It meant that the only practical route available to us was our old friend the SS115. Fortunately, today being ferragosto, the roads were fairly quiet, and we tucked into the hard shoulder and got on with it. We did cross some spectacular viaducts, and the cycling was fairly fast, so perhaps it was for the best.

We continued on the main road until the town of Menfi. There we rejoined the SIBIT cycle track, which runs along the path of an old railway for several kilometres. It was quiet, but fairly overgrown, and we had to duck occasionally to avoid low-hanging branches. The lack of traffic made it a pleasant section, though.

The surrounding countryside continued to become greener, with increasing numbers of vineyards and olive plantations, and occasional almond trees.

We embarked upon the final climbs of our journey – nothing too steep, just long and steady. Approaching Campobello di Mazara we encountered another strada chiusa sign at the bottom of a long climb. In characteristic fashion the barriers had been pushed slightly to one side by motorists, and we spotted a motorcyclist coming through the closed section, so we decided to risk it. We’re becoming more Italian daily! After a couple of hairpins we found the damaged section of road, which was slipping gradually down the hillside. Fortunately we could haul the tandem over the landslips and continue on our way.

As we approached Campobello we were planning to stop for water, but with today being a public holiday we were in for a shock – we cycled slowly through the town but could not find a single open bar or café. As we had one full bottle left we decided to continue. Soon, though, we were back onto the strada statale. We looked in vain for a water fountain as we cycled along a long straight road into a block headwind for what seemed like ages. Eventually we agreed to drink half of our remaining bottle, as we were becoming very thirsty.

After a few more kilometres we dropped into the town of Mazara del Vallo, and recommenced our search. Again we cycled through empty streets, gradually giving up hope of finding an open café. We were just contemplating knocking on someone’s door and asking for water when we spotted a couple of people sitting outside a tavola calda. It was open – fantastic! The waitress was a bit bewildered by our demands for multiple large bottles of mineral water and several cans of Coke Zero! The food was excellent, and we finished with a gelato each to fortify ourselves for the remaining kilometres.

Back to the SS115, then, and for another long section into the headwind, on a long straight road. It was quite frustrating, as the road was fairly flat, and we would have expected to make good headway, but the wind held us back. We were tiring, somewhat, but when we turned left towards the coast, away from the SS115 for the last time, we were heartened by reaching the lungomare. Before long we had a distant view of Marsala, and of the neighbouring Egadi islands in the distance.

We cycled past Marsala’s ancient town walls, keeping to the coastal side, until we reached the most westerly point. There we stopped and declared our journey finished, with the traditional embrace and a tear or two.

It has been an amazing journey, through a country with so much to offer – an abundance of cultural treasures, gorgeous landscapes, delicious food and wine and some of the friendliest and most helpful people one could wish to meet. Up until the last week or so we hadn’t really dared to hope that we would complete the entire journey, and now that it is done it will take a while to sink in. We’re incredibly happy that we chose to do this, and have had a truly wonderful time.

Tomorrow afternoon we will pick up a hire car at Trapani airport, and begin our journey home. We plan to have three days on the beach in Cefalù before working our way slowly up Italy towards Cervinia, where our own car awaits. After two or three days there we will return home through Switzerland and France.

Here’s today’s track.

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