As the footpath disappeared completely into boulders the size of compact Italian Fiats, only my gaze could continue to trace the tiny slither of land towards the peninsula’s vertiginous point.
Mondello, once a sleepy fishing village, now has a burgeoning restaurant scene for Palermitans wanting to escape the city heat. Convenient and local with great seafood choices, it’s only 20 minutes by bus from the centre of Palermo.
Although while everyone else from the 806 was gradually teased away into waiting cocktail bars along the sandy stretch of Mondello bay, I had other ideas. I’d read of beautiful day walk that stretched beyond the town’s bistros and into a nature reserve that was home to many bird species and silent coves where I could enjoy a little slice of Sicily to myself.
It was already warm as I paid the 2 euro entry fee and set out along the flat shingle trail that reflected the strong sun into my face. On my left, sheer cliffs stretched out of beds of wildflowers and colourful grasses. Over my right shoulder, the first bend in my path gave way to a view of the sea that was already tempting me in.
A few local dog walkers passed me during the first half an hour of my walk but the further I walked outward the lonelier the path became. Only a young bronzed couple skipped past me nimbly on the narrow path as I stopped to snap the view back along the shore towards Mondello.
There was other life though if I looked carefully. A herd of goats halfway up the rock face blended into the scrub and looked almost stuck at the edge of a drop. In the leaves and flowers that lined my way, bright butterflies and moths caught my attention. Other locals, like the camouflaged stick insects and tiny warblers were harder to spot and were a treat to find once I knew they were there.
I passed a few derelict outhouses and one large home with tall pines cutting it off from everything but its sea view. I dawdled a moment, imagining that life against the relative chaos of my London base. A different and very quiet world existed on this part of the coast, away from the excitement of tourist hotspots in Palermo’s historical centre.
I was still mulling this over when my footing suddenly became less stable. The gravel path had morphed into trickier terrain that took me by surprise. A few metres later, as the footpath disappeared completely into boulders the size of compact Italian Fiats, only my gaze could continue to trace the tiny slither of land towards the peninsula’s vertiginous point.
With nowhere left to tread I could only take it all in.
The royal blue of the Tyrrhenian sea fell sharply from the ruler-drawn horizon, only broken by the dip and weave of two breeding peregrine falcons chasing the coast. Two rock pipits eyed me dubiously from their smooth perch as they courted each other. A small lizard, equally intrigued by my gaudy appearance, merged seamlessly with his surroundings.
This was a place whose inhabitants had evolved to its steep slopes and rocky shores over millions of years, while even today I had struggled to conquer it. The heat was tiring and the height of the cliffs looming over me dizzying but my company was in its element.
Hot, sweaty and incredibly thirsty, I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps the cocktail bars along Mondello’s promenade were where I belonged. And actually, that didn’t seem like a bad idea.