The first weekend of April 2022 was supposed to be the weekend in which I would explore Sicily by bike. I had booked the ferry tickets, planned a route, and tested my DIY bikepacking setup. I was looking forward to finally being able to cycle long distances again, since the island of Malta is rather limited in that aspect (30KM long and 15KM in width). Perhaps this enthusiasm resulted in a hint of overconfidence because in those four days, I had planned to cycle 460KM in total, with 4500 elevation meters. It still does not look too crazy to me when I read it, but I will explain to you in the rest of this article how it didn’t really go as planned.

Last one to leave the ferry, ready for the cycling trip!


  • Day 1 Pozzallo – Agrigento [155KM ↔️ 1330M ↕️]
  • Day 2 Agrigento – Aidone [105KM ↔️ 1940M ↕️]
  • Day 3 Aidone – Syracusa [136KM ↔️ 660M ↕️]
  • Day 4 Syracusa – Pozzallo [63,5KM ↔️ 530M ↕️]

In all honesty, looking at the planning again right now, I still don’t think it was anything too crazy. The first two toughest days were at the start and the latter two days were easier. Not a bad planning at all I’d say. Of course, it is not an ultra-relaxed cycling trip, it’s definitely a bit challenging, but not nearly close to my limits. That also explains why I didn’t draw up any plan B whatsoever.

An awesome coastal road on my way to Agrigento

What went wrong?

Well if my planning was not unrealistic at all, why did I not end up completing it? That story starts two days before I set off to Sicily. On Tuesday I caught a cold and stayed in bed the whole day, hoping that I would recover swiftly. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and I stayed in bed on Wednesday again. Then by the end of the day, I started packing my bags and preparing my bike. That was arguably a bit too late to do that because it resulted in me going to bed at 23:30. Adding to that, I had also received a message from the ferry company that the ferry would depart earlier than planned, namely at 4 AM. That meant I had to wake up at 2 AM to make sure I’d be in time for the check-in that would start at 3 AM.

So yes… that all of that resulted in me only sleeping for 2 hours. While still being a bit sick. Far from ideal. But for some reason, my optimism and enthusiasm pushed all of that aside and I felt ready to rumble! I got off the ferry in Pozzallo, Sicily around 6 AM and loaded my route onto my bike GPS. Or so I thought… well, the route loaded onto the GPS, but apparently I had forgotten to download the maps of Italy on the device… haha I felt so stupid.

GPS route without displaying the roads

But luckily I was able to see the route and the roads I had to follow (the black line on the screen). It just didn’t show any context. In the picture below here, you can see what the screen is supposed to look like when you have downloaded the specific maps of the country where you are.

What it is supposed to look like: including roads

This stupid mistake of mine really annoyed me. Especially when the app told me that I can only download the map of Italy when I’m connected to wifi. I could not simply download the maps (180MB) by using data roaming. And of course, all bars/restaurants were still closed at 6 AM. So I decided to just follow the black line on the screen to the best of my ability. In the end cycling from Pozzallo to Agrigento meant following the coastline pretty much the whole time anyway, so it should not be a big problem.

After an hour of cycling, at around 7 AM, I decided to try my luck and check out some breakfast bars that had already opened.

‘Buongiorno! Do you have wifi here?’

‘Si, si, wifi’

Okay, nice, perfect. I handed over my phone to the owners of the nice little Italian coffee bar. I ordered a croissant and a coffee to show my good intentions. And I waited. Finished the coffee. Checked on the owners who were still trying to connect my phone to the wifi. But to no avail. For some reason, they did not manage to fill in the password of their own wifi device haha. They tried a couple of times, but it never worked. I thought it was quite comical, to be honest. I left the place and thanked them for the coffee and food. Then I entered the next-door bar that had also opened. But the guy behind this bar just outright told me they didn’t have wifi. And after asking if there was anywhere in this town where I would be able to get some wifi, he just said there was nowhere to get wifi in this town.

The whole ordeal was quite disappointing… I had lost precious time, spend money on food and drinks that I wasn’t really longing for, and still didn’t have access to wifi!

But from that moment onwards I just decided to follow the black line on my bike GPS without the contextual information on the map. And honestly? I went quite well haha. By the end of the day I had already forgotten this situation and that route was lacking information. It was really easy just following the black line. It showed when I had to make a turn and when I could just continue going forward. And that is pretty much all information I need from the device, right?

Beautiful overhanging trees half way through the journey

The rest of the route that first day send me via a mix of beautiful country lanes, long stretches of highways, and scenic coastal roads to Agrigento. It was very enjoyable. I had a smile on my face for most of the ride. I had a punctured tyre at the 60KM mark, but I simply replaced the tyre and went on with my ride. The quality of the Sicilian roads is comparable to the Maltese ones. The main roads are pretty good! The back lanes and the roads in the villages can be rather shit. But nothing crazy or dangerous. All in all it’s a very enjoyable landscape to cycle through!

First (and only) punctured tyre at 60KM

But after +/- 100KM I started to lose energy. A combination of the lack of sleep and not being fully recovered from the cold started to hit me. Later I also realised that cycling in an unknown territory, in the dark, on highways with big trucks passing every other minute takes a lot of energy as well. My senses were 100% turned on pretty much all of the time. But they were running on low energy anyway. So from that moment onwards, I had to strategically use my sugar supply. I had gels, bars, and other sorts of candy to give me energy boosts. And I needed it.

I don’t think I had ever experienced the full effect of sugar until that moment haha. After every hit of sugar I could feel my energy level boosting up. It was awesome! But it also wore down pretty quickly… In the last 30KM or so I even started to move my jaw as if I was on XTC… so that meant that even my mineral reserves were completely depleted. I had used one of those electrolyte tablets to top up my mineral reserves at the 115KM mark and I was a bit wary to take another tablet because the packing strongly advised against consuming more than one tablet per day.

Anyway, all the signs were there that I had depleted all of my reserves. Which also had to do with my poor preparation the days before and how weak my body was at the start of the day. But I really wanted to make it to Agrigento before the end of the day. I was going extremely slow by the end. And then there were tunnels that I tried to avoid at all costs because they scared me (the ones I did go through, I went through at 50KM/h just to get it over with as quickly as possible).

Interestingly enough I regained energy for the last 10-15KM when I was able to see the city of Agrigento on top of the hill and the beautiful Greek temples that surrounded it. Even though it was pretty much all uphill from that moment, it was quite easy to cycle it. I guess my body was able to convince itself not to be such a wimp when it could see the end goal of the ride with its own eyes.

What I did on the second day

After having arrived at the hostel in Agrigento, I had a shower and I went for dinner. I had already decided that I was not going to cycle that second day. I felt empty, tired, and my butt felt terrible. In short: I was not so enthusiastic about cycling anymore haha. Initially, when I walked my bike to a nice breakfast bar in town, I was quite optimistic about cycling a little bit. But as soon as I sat my butt down on the saddle to cycle to the Valley of Temples, I know that I wouldn’t cycle much that day. It felt as if my bones were sticking through my butt flesh into the saddle haha. Absolutely terrible.

I decided to visit the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento in the morning and then take the train directly to Syracusa and then maybe cycle from here to Pozzallo later. Here are some pictures of it. It was my first time seeing Greek temples like this, in such a good state. Pretty cool!

Modern statue in front of the ancient temple
An ancient statue that was one of many pillars, holding up the roof of the temple of Zeus

After the visit to the temples, I took the train to Syracusa. It’s was a rather long journey. This is something that, in hindsight, I could’ve prepared better. In all of my confidence, I had not prepared any plan B in the case I would not be able (or be willing) to cycle. How would I get back to the port of Pozzallo? So finding out on the spot that it would take 6.5 hours was rather disappointing. Initially, I was also not able to get tickets for my bike because bikes were not allowed on the train for the first section of the journey. That freaked me out a little bit. How the hell would I ever get back to Pozzallo if it wasn’t with a train? But after asking a trainconductor if it would be okay to take my bike on the train he said it was okay. Sometimes problems really only seem to exist in my head haha. The solution was so easy. Just ask someone.

No direct connection Agrigento-Siracusa. Instead a 6.5h train ride via Catania and Roccapalumba

The trainride itself was quite long, but I was still quite tired from the day before, so I did not really mind sitting in the train all day long. Plus the views were still stunning.

Lovely views from the train window

Day 3: another change of heart

Day 2 was dedicated to my visit to the Valley of temples and traveling to Syracusa. On the third day, wanted to visit the Neapolis of Syracusa with its magnificent Greek theater and Roman amphitheater. By this time I still felt like I wasn’t properly recovered so I decided to reschedule my ferry ticket from Sunday evening to Saturday evening. I still didn’t really feel like cycling long distances and it would give me an opportunity to attend the mass that the pope would hold on Sunday in Malta. The pope was visiting Malta for two days, Sunday being the last day of his visit. I had only learned about this visit when I had already booked my ferry tickets to Sicily for this weekend, which meant that I unfortunately had to miss this opportunity to see the pope in real life.

But since that I didn’t feel like cycling anyway, I decided that I might as well head back to Malta one day early and see the pope with my own eyes! So that’s exactly what I did. In the morning I cycled around Syracusa. Had a nice pannini in the city center, then headed to the Neapolis and check out the Greek theater and the magnificent ancient quorry. In the late afternoon I took the train to Pozzallo, where the ferry was waiting for me to take me back to Malta. I arrived back at our apartment at around 23:45.

The Neapolis of Syracusa that I visited in the afternoon was one of the highlights of this trip! It exceeded all of my expectations. I enjoyed it even more than the Valley of Temples of Agrigento. There were a lot of very interesting sights to be seen here. I’ll not go into depth, but I’ll just show some pictures underneath.

This beautiful ficus macrophylla covered the whole ancient quorry
Other side of the quorry, with on the left side the entry to ‘The Ear of Dionysius’
Inside of ‘The Ear of Dionysius’. This manmade cave had special acoustic abilities that you can still notice today. It was rumoured that Dionysius used it to eavesdrop on his prisoners that he put deep down in this cave.
The Greek theater with exceptional view.
Roman amphitheatre

Main takeaways from this cycling trip in Sicily

The main lessons that I learned is that preparation is more than just ‘knowing that I will be able to do it’. More than the obvious preparation of planning the route and testing the equipment, it’s also about being well rested and well fed in the days before the cycling trip.

The next point is about pushing yourself. The first day, I really pushed myself to get to Agrigento because I felt like I owed it to myself. Because that was what I had planned to do. It would be pretty disappointing to not reach my goal already on the very first day, right? Well, in hindsight I wish I would’ve just stopped earlier and had a good night of sleep. Propperly rest and refuel and then have a lovely day of cycling the next day. Because now I kind of destroyed my body on the first day, which took away all of the joy of cycling on the other days. That’s pretty sad, since I intended to cycle for four days, but only ended up really cycling one day.

But the biggest lesson that I learned I guess is that it doesn’t really matter what I do. The idea behind the trip is just to have fun and a bit of adventure. Visit new places, cycle, explore, to feel active and alive. It’s not about pushing physical boundaries necessarily. I’m not saying that cannot be part of it, but the main theme is just to have fun and enjoy the adventure. It’s something that I am experiencing myself, it’s hyper personal. If I enjoy it, then it means it was a good trip. I realised that when I was in Syracuse. I was thinking about how, a few years ago, I would’ve felt so terrible about ‘failing’ my objective and my planning. But during this trip, that was not really part of my thinking process. I was just enjoying the train ride and being able to visit the archaeological sites. Without feeling guilt of shame about failing my plans. And I think that was the biggest reflection point. That every decision I make is a good one, because it’s the decision that I want to make at that moment. If I’m tired, I can rest. If I’m hungry, I can eat. If I don’t want to cycle, than I will not cycle. It was not really about the physical freedom that I experienced, but much more about psychological freedom and the social factors like ‘failing’, ‘shame’, and ‘guilt’.

It might sound silly to some of you (because: ‘duh, ofcourse you’ll feel free on a cycling tour!’), but that realisation of the freedom that I had enjoyed during this trip felt very liberating. It made me very happy 🙂

Practical cycling lessons

There are also numerous smaller, more practical things that I learned from this trip that I will take into account during next multiday cycling adventures. I simply listed them underneath, so that I can easily check them next time 🙂

  • Download the maps of the country your are cycling in
  • Make sure you know how to charge the bike GPS while cycling
    • Test the setup with powerbank and cable. Does it fit?
  • Have a plan B for when cycling is not possible
    • How will you get back to your endpoint easily? Are there trains?
  • Check the route and make sure to have a good mix of boring highways and adventurous backstreets
  • Get a decent handpump that brings back to 7bar
  • Sugar is awesome. Bring plenty of candy/bars/gels.
  • Perhaps experimenting with a 2L camelbag might be interesting. I emptied the 1L bag on my back rather quickly.
  • Take the electrolyte table early in the day