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It’s been a lovely experience but now it was time to move on. After 3 1/2 weeks it’s time to say good bye. Thanks to AirBnB we spent the last 2 weeks in Ludovica’s Rustico in Petralia Sottana. The rustico was the perfect place to relax in nature but still close enough to interesting cities like Catania, Cefalu and Gangi. We spent the time hiking, reading, cooking or just doing nothing.

One of the highlights is our visit of the Festa dei Satori Madoniti in Petralia Sottana. The little village is buzzing with activity, food stands offering regional specialities, people strolling the streets and a live band playing.

We end up at the Averna booth celebrating the 150th anniversary of this sicilian liqueur. In 1802, Salvatore Averna was born into a family of drapers. Growing up in Caltanissetta, he became one of the most active members of the community, a justice of the peace and benefactor of the Abbey of the Holy Spirit. Here, following an ancient tradition born in the fortified Benedictine abbeys and spread to Europe through the Cluniac and Cistercian monasteries, the monks produced an elixir of herbs that was pleasant despite being “bitter”, and was popularly thought to possess tonic and therapeutic properties. In 1859, as a token of gratitude, the monks gave Salvatore the recipe for the infusion. In 1868 he began producing Averna for guests at his home.

It was Francesco Averna, son of Salvatore, who took the initiative to promote the bitter, participating in various exhibitions in Italy and abroad. During a private visit of King Umberto I in 1895, Francesco received a gold pin with the House of Savoy insignia in recognition of the Sicilian bitter, which by now was well known. In 1912 Vittorio Emanuele III granted the Averna Company the right to affix the royal crest on the label of their liquor with the words “Patent of the Royal House”: the Averna Company became supplier to the royal household. All these awards led Francesco to redesign the label, incorporating all its certificates and prizes. After the untimely death of Francesco, his wife Anna Maria took over the company.

The third generation, Francesco’s sons Salvatore, Paolo, Emilio and Michele consolidated the firm’s success and contributed to its evolution, despite all the difficulties arising from two world wars, to such an extent that the company was able to continue production without interruption, even succeeding in starting an export business to America. In 1958 the Averna Company became a public corporation (Fratelli Averna S.p.A.). Some years later a new factory was built. Whatever the “stuff” tasted so good that we took the opportunity of the special offer, a bottle of Averna and six stylish Averna glasses

The weather is changing and decreasing night temperatures and increasing rainfall makes it easier for us to leave. The grey skies on Wednesday (31-Oct.) make us drop our original plan to stop in Milazzo and take the ferry to Lipari on the Aeolian Isles. Instead we continue straight to Messina and on to the ferry to Villa San Giovanni on the other side of the strait. Since the seventies Villa San Giovanni has experienced rapid population growth, mainly due to a phenomenon of internal emigration that has led many residents of the neighboring municipalities to move to Villa, mainly for business reasons. As a result of the rapid increase in residents, the last few decades, especially since the early 1980s, have seen an expansion of the urban center and a growth in buildings never seen before, particularly in the area of Pezzo and along the coast, where vast areas previously entirely covered with greenery are now occupied by recent private housing and commercial buildings.

Villa has gone through one of the most difficult periods of its history between 1985 and 1991, a period in which a violent feud between the families of ‘Ndrangheta has bloodied the Reggio, involving also the small town of the Strait and reaping many victims in the villese citizenship, among which is the deputy mayor of the city, Giovanni Trecroci, murdered on 11 February 1990. On 9 August 1991 the Deputy Prosecutor General to the Supreme Court of Cassation, Antonino Scopelliti, was assassinated by ‘Ndrangheta on behalf of the Sicilian Mafia. The feud of ‘Ndrangheta ended in 1991 and since then no violent acts of this nature have occurred at Villa.

Today, Villa still presents itself as an ever-expanding town, registering a significant increase in citizens of foreign nationality in the last decade. Despite all the positive development of Villa San Giovanni, it rains upon our arrival. We’ve had no breakfast so far and it is already past noon at the time we roll of the ferry. The ferry ride itself was quick (only 20 minutes) and it had taken us less than 10 minutes from the time of the ticket purchase to get on board. We get out of town and hit the highway north. Our destination is Onda Azzura, a  campground near Sibari and one of the few campgrounds in Calabria that is open all year. We arrive at 3:56pm at the closed gates of the campground with a sign indicating that they will open at 4:00pm. We deicide head back to a supermarket to do some shopping and return later. On the way back to the main road we discover the sign to another campground Thurium and want want to take a look at that one instead. It turns out that Thurium is the better choice. A friendly welcome, free choice of lots and clean showers and restrooms convince us to stay here instead. After stocking up groceries at the Interccop we set ourselves up in total darkness but right next to the beach. Joiz finds „another“ love in Lotte a 4 year old  mixed breed (Dalmatian and something else) which he met while taking a walk with Camilla on the beach. Now it’s Thursday and the rain has caught up on us. The forecast for tomorrow looks much better – sunshine and 20 degrees (Celsius). We hope it will stay that way until Monday when we’ll get on the ferry in Bari to head to Igoumenitsa/Greece. The adventure goes on.

One Life. Live It.

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