Week 22 (29 May–4 June 2023)
Bouldering at Bosco Scorace
After leaving I and B at the Palermo airport, we swapped our rental 4-people-4-bags medium car for a 2-people-2-bags Fiat Panda and took the highway towards Trapani in the West of the island.
After more than a week of not climbing we knew we'd really want to climb, so we'd booked a room for 3 nights at Polvere di Stelle, a B&B run by a couple of climbers from Milano. G and D have 5 dogs, two cats, a kitten, and a climbing wall in the garden where climbers from the area meet for a session and a drink a couple times each week.
But the reason we came is that D also opened a bouldering crag in a forest 20 minutes drive from the B&B (or 30 minutes with a Panda, bad roads1). It's called Bosco Scorace.
We bought the topo and spent two mornings climbing there, renting crashpads from the B&B (two crashpads can surprisingly fit into a Panda). It was great! Beautiful spot with high grass and wild flowers, amazing limestone boulders, super interesting problems, and not too warm in the sectors with more trees. Grading was pretty tough and I only managed a single 6a, but I have a lot of unfinished projects that I might get to continue working on next time!
DWS in SVLC
We spent the second half of the week at the Northwestern tip of the island, close to popular San Vito Lo Capo (SVLC for short).
The area has the most beautiful beaches that we've been to in Sicily2, natural reserves, and weather crazier than Berlin in March. It's also one of the most famous places for climbing in Sicily. Scogliera di Salinella is a huge, 5-kilometer-long, West-facing cliff right by the sea with hundreds and hundreds of sport climbing routes. Unfortunately we weren't prepared for it (no gear, and our stay was a bit too last-minute to find a place to rent some3) so that will have to wait for next time! Also good to know, there's a camping village right by the crag, El-Bahira (not sure if they rent gear).
We did "try" deep water soloing (DWS for short) for the first time, though. There's quotes around "try" because the crag we went to, Cala Firriato, was harder than expected, the water shallower than expected, and the sea was gray/coldish so we apprehended falling more than expected. We climbed one 6a from the Rockfax topo, Techre, and would have wanted to try more but access to the bottom of the routes was a tricky 6b+ traverse, Panca Bestia, right above shallow waters. Next time we want to do DWS we'll go with someone who knows the spot for more peace of mind!
tl;dr if you intend to climb in Western Sicily
- stay at Polvere di Stelle for bouldering, or at El-Bahira for sport climbing
- you'll likely need a car even if you're staying by the crag at El-Bahira, SVLC is nearby but not within walking distance. Prepare for really bad dirt roads depending on where you go, might want something better than a Panda
- go between October and May at the latest. In the summer you can still climb but only very early, very late, or DWS
- plan enough time, there might be bad days. Polvere di Stelle has a small, sheltered bouldering wall in the garden. The nearest gym is Palermo (we haven't been)
- topos: there's a Bosco Scorace bouldering topo that you can get at Polvere di Stelle. For sport climbing someone made a Sicily topo that you might manage to buy online, otherwise you get the digital version on the Rockfax app (with a 7-day trial, don't be like me and forget to cancel)
- equipment: bring your own, otherwise you can rent from Polvere di Stelle (crashpads and sport climbing gear). A climbing hostel used to do rentals in SVLC but it closed down, not sure if it's possible to rent in town anymore (maybe at El-Bahira?)
The food section
Some foods that we tried and that you should too if you're ever in Western Sicily:
- Busiate, local pasta from Trapani, look like two short tagliatelle spiraled together. A small takeout restaurant in Marsala specializes in them, it's creatively called "Busiate"
- ...eaten perhaps with pesto alla Trapanese, a refreshing pesto made of basil, pecorino, fresh tomatoes, almonds and optionally mint and lemon
- Cous cous (yes they spell it in two words), exactly what you're thinking of but the ones we had tended to be coarser than we were used to, cooked al dente (of course), and eaten with seafood (clams octopus and the like). We had our favorite at Profumi di Cous Cous in SVLC
- Genovese, a pastry from Erice. It's pastry dough filled with pastry cream and coated with powdered sugar, eat it at the famous Pasticceria Maria Grammatico or the less-famous-but-just-as-tasty Pasticceria San Carlo (or both, like I did)
- not from the region specifically (rather from Palermo, or so claim Palermitans) but the Arancine from La Tonda in Erice are worth a special mention!
- another really good pastry that we've only seen in the area (but haven't researched where it's from yet) is the cassatelle, not to be confused with the famous cassata or its marzipan-coated variant cassatina. Cassatelle is dough filled with ricotta, shaped in a half-moon, deep fried, and it's delicious
- Mazara red prawns, considered a delicacy and usually eaten raw (a first for us). We had them as an antipasto at Profumi di Cous Cous and C says their head tastes sweet
- Marsala wine, a fortified wine that's apparently similar to Sherry (I don't know Sherry, but found it similar to Porto). In Marsala try it at La Sirena Ubriaca, if only for the friendliness of the bar owner. According to Wine Enthusiast, Marco De Bartoli makes the best Marsala (although it's interestingly not labeled Marsala because of the in perpetuum a.k.a. Solera ageing process), so we're bringing back two bottles of that
- Marsala isn't the only good wine in the region, and we've visited a few vineyards for tastings and to bring the right kind of souvenirs back home. Mustazza, Francesco Mazara, Giacco, we just drove around and called shortly before showing up, trying to avoid the really large, sign-up-in-advance-for-a-group-tour-of-the-vineyard estates
Off to the next island
After returning the car in Palermo and a short afternoon in town (more arancine, cassate, and Gambero-Rosso-starred gelati) we hopped on the weekly ferry to Cagliari, Sardinia. Bye Sicily!
The ride felt much shorter than the 12 hours it actually lasted, partly because we met A, a German solo backpacker who'd been traveling Italy by herself for 11 months and really really liked to talk. We listened a lot, played Uno, and basically waited until it was time for breakfast, then lunch, then second lunch (all ferry food, we intended to buy things before boarding but everything was closed in Palermo at 7am, we'll do better on the next one). I finally tried the amaro Averna, super popular in Sicily, an herbal amaro "similar to Jägermeister", but that (thankfully) ended up being much better, even when drunk on the rocks. Once in a while we took a walk around the ferry, a coffee at the coffee bar, a look above the railings. When docking in Cagliari we were rewarded by a nice sunset and dozens of flamingoes passing by4. We made plans to see A the next day (her birthday!) before going our separate ways: she's headed for Olbia to catch her next ferry to Genoa, while we're sticking to the West coast and sailing back to France from Porto Torres on Thursday.
Still nothing! Thought I might have read on the ferry but turns out 12 hours go by pretty fast when A is around (and when there's a Uno deck).
I'm excited to be back home where we have our film projector, a MUBI subscription, and a library card. we were almost happy that the rental company forced us into getting the full insurance for the car! Never before has a Fiat Panda wandered so far off the beaten path ↩ we managed to rent snorkeling gear (at Under Hundred, a diving center in SVLC) and really enjoyed swimming among the fishes at the Tonarella dell' Uzzo beach (in the Lo Zingaro nature reserve). On another day at Isulidda beach we watched a sunset, crabs, clams and a sea urchin ↩ G and D at Polvere di Stelle do also rent ropes, quickdraws, harnesses etc if you're interested. SVLC is about 45 minutes drive from the B&B ↩ they live in a nature reserve nearby. They look really dumb when they fly (I think it's the first time I saw some up in the air), like sticks with wings ↩
we were almost happy that the rental company forced us into getting the full insurance for the car! Never before has a Fiat Panda wandered so far off the beaten path ↩
we managed to rent snorkeling gear (at Under Hundred, a diving center in SVLC) and really enjoyed swimming among the fishes at the Tonarella dell' Uzzo beach (in the Lo Zingaro nature reserve). On another day at Isulidda beach we watched a sunset, crabs, clams and a sea urchin ↩
G and D at Polvere di Stelle do also rent ropes, quickdraws, harnesses etc if you're interested. SVLC is about 45 minutes drive from the B&B ↩
they live in a nature reserve nearby. They look really dumb when they fly (I think it's the first time I saw some up in the air), like sticks with wings ↩