Left Caserta at 10:00, taking the autostrada heading towards Reggio di Calabria using the A30 – A3 where we would pick up the ferry to Messina. We knew we wouldn’t reach Pozzallo by Sunday night so Barry wanted at least to get across to Sicily where we could then decide how much further to go for our next overnight stop as we needed to be in Pozzallo to book our ferry tickets to Valletta by 09:00 Monday morning. We also had to find a vet in Pozzallo to get the dogs’ tick and worming treatments done and certify them to allow them into Malta. The treatments have to be given not less than 24 hours and not more than 48 hours before entry. So we had a bit of a timescale here as the ferry in Pozzallo only runs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
We arrived in Ragusa to catch the ferry to Sicily. This proved to be a bit of a nightmare. There were three lines of cars and lorries but once we were told to start our engines to board the ferry, everyone started to drive forward at once. The ferry staff did not direct the cars onto the ferry by rota. It was a free for all. All three lanes had to go into two lanes to board the ferry. With no one giving way, we were on the outside lane and ended up being pushed into the side of the ferry! Thankfully not much damage to the car, just some scratches on our tyres. But be warned!!
After nine-plus hours of driving we arrived in Taormina using the A18 at 19:30. Barry was feeling tired so we decided to try to find a hotel here rather than try to push on. Only problem was that none of the hotels we went to would accept our dogs. If we had had two small ones it would not have been a problem, but because Max is a very large German Shepherd, everyone said no. After about an hour of trying to book into various hotels Barry decided to drive out of Taormina and either drive on to Pozzallo (again using the A18) and then sleep in the car – not an option I was looking forward to – or try to book into any hotel we saw on the way. As there is an airport in Catania we took a chance and went off Mabel’s directions to see if we could get a hotel near the airport. We did find one, but it was not very nice. But by this time it was very late and we just wanted to get our heads down, so we booked in. I slept on top of the bed in my clothes, which will probably give you some idea of the state of the room!
We were up with the dawn to make an early start for Pozzallo. Had a bit of trouble getting out of Catania as there was a diversion onto the toll road and Mabel kept trying to send us straight through it. We went around in circles for a bit before finally getting onto the A18 road again (no toll charged). Not a good start to the day, but at least the sun had started to shine again. So far we have clocked up 1,700 miles from home.
We arrived in Pozzallo at 08:45. We had input the Virtu Ferries office into Mabel, and the old girl took us straight to the door. The office did not open until 09:00 so we decided to park outside the office and take the dogs for a walk until they opened. Just as we were getting out of the car a man walked to the office door and opened it. Whilst booking our ferry tickets with him, we asked him if there was a local vet in the town… he immediately got on his mobile and talked to a vet and arranged for us to see him at 17:00 that night.
He also asked if we had anywhere to stay in Pozzallo. When we said no, he said he had a hotel and we could stay there for two nights (we had booked the Wednesday ferry) for €65 per night. After spending a horrible night in Catania in a three-star I was a bit apprehensive, but as Barry said we would only have to go five minutes up the road to catch the ferry from the hotel, we decided to chance it. I am so glad we did, it was a lovely little hotel. Very clean and the room was quite big, with a little balcony. The beach was not more than five minutes away.
Now the only thing left to do was visit the vet that night and then we could have a relaxing day exploring Pozzallo before we had to be at the ferry port for 08:15 on Wednesday to catch the 09:15 ferry for the last leg of our journey to Malta.
Arrived at the vet’s at 17:00… we were second in line to see him. When we were called in we discovered he could not speak English, we cannot speak Italian, another person in the queue waiting to see him could speak a little English and he was trying to translate that we needed both dogs to have tick and worming treatments and that the pet passports had to be signed, dated and stamped by the vet. Eventually there were three vets, Barry and myself trying to make ourselves understood. After getting nowhere fast, Barry eventually called a friend of ours in Gozo who speaks Italian to speak to the vet. After much shouting, hand waving etc, the vet finally gave the dogs their treatments. All’s well that ends well. We went away quite happy with our list of things to do completed. Now we could rest until Wednesday!!
We went for a long walk along the beach past the ferry port and onto yet another beach towards Sampieri. Would you believe it, it was so hot that I ended up with sunstroke. Spent the rest of the day in bed.
Arrived at the ferry at 08:15, booked in and waited to board the 09:15 ferry to Valletta. Much better arrangements for boarding than the Ragusa ferry. Had to leave the dogs in the car for the 1½ hour journey, we were not allowed to stay in the car with them, went upstairs to the main deck. Very nice surroundings, the cost of the tickets were €70 for the car and €79 each person.
Arrived in Valletta at 10:30… met by a quarantine officer as we left the ferry and followed him to the quarantine centre, where we had to leave the dogs for 21 days. Drove to Cirkewwa to catch the ferry to Gozo, our new home! 😆
Total cost of toll roads for our journey was €141.90. Petrol came to €315. Total mileage 1,824 miles.
We really enjoyed our trip driving through Europe. Good luck to anyone who follows us!!
Big Bough (Carol) is a British Expat Malta Forum Supporter. She moved to Malta in May 2010.