The core muscle-building biking days of the CHEEKYbici Sicilian bicycle trip were along the route to Menfi. I call these the "Kardashian-booty-training days". We were riding up to 70km per day from Trapani through Marsala to Mazara del Vallo on the first day and Mazara, Campobello di Mazara, Castelvetrano to Menfi on the next. This was pretty much the same route on the way back as well. We started along a country road near the salt pans that line the coast from Trapani to Marsala, stopping to take photos and change flat tires (Silvestro's, not mine). At the halfway point, we took a break for a quick lunch in the main piazza of Marsala and shared salami sandwiches, a container of buttery green olives and a bag of sesame cookies called biscotti regina before taking a little cat nap in the sun. It was Palm Sunday when we first stopped in Marsala so there were little kids learning how to braid palms to sell in front of the church.
From Marsala, the next stop was Mazara del Vallo a main port city on the southwest edge of Sicily. We rode into Mazara del Vallo over a long high bridge just as the sun was setting; wind blowing in our hair (well, not Silvestro's), sun on our faces, with a feeling of peace and complete open mind and heart. Of all of the breathtaking views on the trip, all of the rolling green hills covered in tiny white and yellow wild flowers, all of the baroque cities built like little wooden carvings into a mountainside...the moment we rode over that bridge into Mazara will still be one of our shared favorites of the trip.
After a night in a rented apartment (in let's call it the shadiest of our hotel choices), we said arrivederci to Julio (a made-up name that I gave him) the skeevy groundskeeper, and took off verso Menfi to finally hit some vineyards! As we rode along the sleepy flat roads through Campobello di Mazara and Castelvetrano, we stopped to take photos of a sweet contadino (farmer) named Vincenzo pruning his grape vines and a shepherd with a flock of sheep and a flock of dogs to match. Silvestro's pro-tip is always stop and talk to people. There was a great encounter with Vincenzo as he showed us how he dry prunes and twists the branches along wires to train them to grow how he wants. On the other hand, my girly intuition to stop and take photos of the fat old shepherd and his fluffy white sheep was quickly put in check by Silvestro's warning to "stai attento" because these lone shepherds are stereotypically the horniest guys we'll meet on the road. Sicilians will take one finger and pull it down under your eye as a sign to be careful and keep an eye out. That's pretty much the vibe I got but I wasn't afraid of an old pervy shepherd; he couldn't catch us on the bikes anyway.
Here's some photos from the west side of the island and a quick video of Vincenzo explaining his pruning process on the Catarratto Lucido vines.