The final weeks in Sicily. Piedimonte, Salina, Scopello and Palermo

On the 20th of July we left our final workaway of the trip, to a delicious and dramatic sendoff from Angelo, Cristina and their reliable friend Etna. On our final night we had dinner with them and their airbnb experience guests Colm and Justin. Right on cue, the cloud around Etna cleared and we were treated to light show of erupting geysers and lava flows. The next morning we bade them goodbye.

From there we went to meet Lachlan and Sue at Milazzo to catch the ferry to Salina. Here the four of us spent a week of endless conversation, drinking and beaching. This trip was a very good aperitivo for life back in Scotland. I particularly enjoyed getting to speak once again at full pace with no fear of misunderstanding.

After a tumultuous journey from Salina to Palermo we were given the best imaginable welcome from Robbie and Flora. We had drinks on the Balcony at Ballaro with the procession of the Madonna going on below us on the street. After 2 nights of drinking and stuffing our faces with gelato and arancini we said goodbye to Lachlan and Sue, to see them again in a little over a week in Dundee.

We were then taken to Scopello with Robbie, Flora and her family, where we marvelled at the expansive view of the North coast of Sicily and explored some nearby beaches and attractions. Chief among these were the Creto di Burri, a vast piece of conrete land art encasing the ruined town of Gibellina, and Gibellina Nuova, the new town built in the 70’s and 80’s as a replacement for the ruin.

Good lord Gibelina is a strange place. Billed as something of a blank canvas for the best Italian artists and architects of the day, the town is a 3/4 deserted carnival of bizarre and extraordinary public art and town planning. The church features an enormous looming concrete globe that threatens to roll over those who stand beneath. Down the hill is an incomplete concrete shell of a theatre with something akin to the head of an alien sitting proud on the front. Sadly I didn’t get any photos of Gibelina Nuova as the sun had already set, but this is a place I’m desperate to return to. Particularly amazing was the energy this place gave to Flora, who often looked as if she wanted to be swallowed and encased in this concrete marvel of a town for all eternity.

Our last days of the trip have been spent back in Piana Degli Albanesi, where our Sicilian adventure began. We’ve been soaking up the last remnants of Palermo and healing our overwhelmed and exhausted brains with our beautiful friends Julia and Giuseppe.

Tomorrow, Rhona and I return to beloved Scotland. Alrighty.

Rhona with her furry friends Toto and Roscio
Our dramatic dinner with Colm and Justin
Etna and her midnight show
Our final morn with Angelo and Cristina
The beach at Pollara
Lights on Stromboli
Sunrise over the Aeolian Islands
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Our midnight dip at Malfa beach
The tanned travellers
Our first night back in Palermo with Lach and Sue
Il Cretto di Burri
Flora and Robbie discussing concrete
Holy Rhona Novacaine
The ruins of Gibelina
Il Cretto di Burri

Back and forth between Linguaglossa, Palermo and Piedimonte

Since our last time in Piedimonte, Rhona and I have returned to the town of Linguaglossa across the hill to tie up some unfinished business with Trente and Filip, and met ZoRory in Palermo for a nice lazy holiday.

Now, after a month or so, we are back in Piedimonte Etneo with Angelo and Cristina until the end of July. The garden has grown up so much in the last month. What in April were the most delicate seedlings are now producing the most enormous aubergines, tomatoes and strawberries.

With the arrival of summer in all it’s sweaty force, most work on the garden is now to do with the retention of water and the prevention of fire. The new pace of life, in which siesta is mandatory, has taken some getting used to but now I am quite comfortable.

Etna has given us some fireworks and as well as regular ashen burps which carpet the garden in black dust. One night we were treated to a lava flow down Etna’s northern face.

And now tomorrow, Rhona and I are left alone for 5 days as our hosts seek out a new floating business venture.

the garden at Piedimonte, in all it’s summer glory
Roscio, the long kitten
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having a mighty scratch of a mosquito bitten ankle
an evening on the terrace at Fogliarino
Rhona and her uncomfortable siesta
Filip and I discussing dust, sand, stones and rocks and their classification
a canvas walk on Etna – very rippey
contemplating a roll down the hill
Cassidy, Rhones, Filip and Norah Jones
Etna at sunset from Linguaglossa
toasty times on Mount Doom
At the Orto Botanico with ZoRory
custom frame built by Ms Jack
Archery Range Eleganza by Calum Wallis
scrap wood coffee tables designed and built by Wallis/Jack fabrication
our first run of 10 sun beds was a resounding success, lets pray for splinterless bottoms
cheeseplant at Fogiarino
Yucca at Fogiarino
rock studies from hot springs near Piana
Castiglione di Sicilia – near the top


Saturday 20th April. Living in Piedimonte, close to Etna

It has been some time since I’ve written and since leaving Piana in March we have stayed with two different hosts.

First we went to the town of Linguaglossa on the east coast of Sicily, where we stayed with Trente and Filip and Doru, their unstoppable and herculean worker.

Trente and Filip make their own wine and olive oil, and live in a house full of beautiful sculpture and woodwork. To this we tried to contribute as best we could, building them 10 sunbeds and 5 tables from waste wood found in their garden. We will be returning here in a few weeks and will hopefully be turning olive wood on a lathe when we’re back. This will also allow me to get some photos of our work and of the beautiful places Trente and Filip have created, as well as spend more time with our generous and wise hosts.


Two weeks ago we were passed from Linguaglossa across the mountain to Piedimonte, where we’ve been staying on the most extraordinarily beautiful property with Angelo and Cristina.

These are people with healthy and respectable ideals coming out of their ears and a bottomless knowledge of gardening, recycling and cooking with seasonal ingredients from their garden. During our stay so far this has mostly been comprised of artichoke, wild fennel and pumpkin. I have never once been bored of  these ingredients despite having eaten each in about 15 different variations.

Here I have been observing the skills of sustainability and I am beginning to have a deep desire to grow my own food, build my own house, and be responsible for my own waste. We will be returning here for June and July and I can’t wait to see what grows in the garden during the summer.

Recently our work has either been unphotographable or unavailable, but this will be resolved soon. In the meantime here are some photographs of Mount Etna and the surrounding countryside.

Etna with the moon setting on her shoulder. I woke up at half 4 to take this photo and had to wait almost 2 hours for the moon to sit like this.
Rhona entering a train tunnel on the old line from Linguaglossa to Castiglione
Our first day in Piedimonte was a little nondescript…
The olive trees make for nice foggy fellows
Towns sandwiched between Etna and the Mediterranean


March 10th. We left Piana after 5 months. Thank you Julia. Thank you Giuseppe. Thank you Tino and Liccheo. Thank you Eivy. 




Sunday 3rd February, still in Piana


After Christmas and New Year in Palermo we returned to Piana to finally create the dining table we had came here to build in the first place, drawn by our wonderful and magnetic hosts Julia and Giuseppe.

Since then we’ve had some exciting adventures. We went at night to hot springs miles out in the countryside, and the nest day visited a market of stolen goods in Palermo. We bought an orbital sander for 10 euros, and it didn’t work.


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a fixing job on the hole made by the new chimney, alici alici!


treehouse table
treehouse table from above
our dining table in progress
dining table after 3 days of sanding
our finished dining table
detail from dining table
detail from dining table
the view from our christmas airbnb in Palermo
kitchen still life


our tree felling disaster
my travelling companion


Tuesday 11th December, Piana Degli Albanesi – still here

Having finished the wall of bookshelves, the cold weather has compelled us to build a wood store to get some winter firewood drying, and to update the chicken coop which is in danger of being ripped apart by the high winds in Piana.

The weather is certainly wintry here, largely due to the altitude I think, for on our forays into Palermo the weather has been mild and pleasant. We had dear old Sean McGouldrick visiting us for a week in November, and managed several days of swimming in the sea.

We are now putting the finishing touches on some jobs here before we go to spend christmas and new year in Palermo, where Lachlan is meeting us for a week. Good lord I can’t wait to see that beautiful faice of his.

a finished pallet library!


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Rhones, Shones and Clones on a walk
the old church of Santa Maria
Rhona and our unfinished chicken coop


Tino and Ivy, always having fun
Liccheo the arch nemesis


Wednesday 31st October 2018, Piana Degli Albanesi

After a brief birthdaying hiatus in Budapest with Elspeth, Rhona and I made our way to Palermo, where we were picked up and whisked into mountains to the old Albanian settlement of Piana Degli Albanese, where we have been spending the last three weeks with our benevolent hosts Giuseppe and Julia and their wonderful menagerie of neurotic animals.

Here we have been exposed to the innate cooking power of a born Sicilian, watched thunder storms approaching and departing, met a wild fox and a giant toad and done a wee bit of work.

So far a sad table has been given a make-over and a large wall of bookshelves is close to being finished. Photos of the shelves and further projects will follow as they’re finished.

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Novaki 4.09.18 – 3.10.18

Rhona and me, sitting in Klub D, drawing by Sergio Patron

For the last month we have been in Novaki, a glittering metropolis 40km from Zagreb, helping our wonderful hosts Marija and Nenad with developing their garden. We’ve been eating like Croatian kings and befriending ducks, dogs, cats and grasshoppers.

Over our time we’ve helped Thibault the Frenchman with building raised beds and garden furniture, built a greenhouse with Sergio the Mexican carpenter (and artist), shared our creative dreams with Mike and Sian the Mancunian rascals and generally had a very pleasant and productive time in Croatia.

Having now left, I’m sad we didn’t stay to see more projects come to fruition, but the cold weather has come and driven us south. The clear waters and buttery spaghetts of Sicily are calling…


Sian, Mike, Sir Wallis, Nenad, Thibault, Marija and old Lora



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master carpenters
Dr Garlic and mr Mystery Herb
Our wee home in Novaki
Lake Jarun in Zagreb



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Novaki garden






On the 4th September Rhona, my partner in adventure and artistic endeavour, and I depart on a long awaited adventure of meandering creativity and learning. Our first stop will be close to Zagreb, where we’ll be spending a month helping to build a greenhouse and befriending ducks.

Over the next few months this space will be updated with musings and photographs from our journey, as well as artwork created along the way.


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