Sicilia – The What, The Where and The How (Part 2)


Moving around a bit: 1.662 km on Sicila

Have we seen everything? Far from that. Yet, Hector and his varying number of passengers drove down and up and East and West and we have seen just enough to generate the yearning for more.



(10) Cefalú. The perfect spot for perfect vanlife. For early bird yoga, an almost private beach bay and a nice city close-by. 23,48 €/night are a fair price at camping Sanfilippo. Forget about the mini shop, forget about the minimum number of hot showers, enjoy the simple camper life and the view.


Villa Romana del Casale

(11) Piazza Armerina / Villa Casale: The ruins of the ancient villa with an overflow of mosaic tiles spread over all former rooms is definitely worth a visit. I deeply recommend to do it early: before hundreds of busses filled with ancient tourists arrive. And before you visit Monreale.


(12) Scala dei Turchi / Agrigento: Beach parking at Punta Piccola Park / Porto Empedocle has been perfect for a night (20,- €) and the walk over to the cliff called Scala dei Turchi. The aftermath of having been there is my personal handstand challenge that keeps me busy (and sporty) ever since…

Oh, and Agrigento? Yes, is there, too.


(13) San Vito lo Capo: Promising, based on the facts of location and campsite data. While, at least for my experience, the promise remains unfulfilled.


(14) Monreale: Incredible in it’s richness and artfulness. Located close to Palermo’s port, it has been the ideal finish of my Sicilian trip.


Up and on and around the Cathedral of Monreale


(15) Shortcut: Taking the ferry from Palermo to Genove is the shortcut on the way back: 21 hours full of doing nothing but sunbathing, sleaping, reading and eating. All of a sudden you arrive in Northern Italy.


The cabin I booked half a year ago offers plenty of space, a hot shower and the meet-and-greet with the fire steward. Afterwards I know that a closed bathroom door would prevent the fire alarm caused by clouds of hot steam.


Before this travel, I used to think that Sicilia is far, far away. In fact, it took me less than 1,5 days to get back: In one minute I wave goodbye to Palermo (Wednesday, 21:00h) and at 00:30h (early Friday), Hector and me are back home with the usual ambivalent feeling of endless travel-lust vs. home-sweet-home.




Three weeks on Sicilia. Uncounted Baroque buildings, ancient ruins, mosaic tiles, cliffs and nature. You tend to believe that you have seen everything.

Then you reach Monreale.


Welcme to the Cathedral Monreale

Where to look first? At the ceiling! And the biblical stories that spread in golden mosaic over the main nave. Ahead of the storyboard, sunlight falls through high windows, embracing the oversized Jesus in gleaming colours.


I let my eyes wander along the inner walls and it is like reading a delicious comic version of the bible. There are Adam and Eve, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and all legends of the Christian scripture. My favourite series show the embarking of the ark, where people and animals gather together in that tiny mobile home.


Hard to tell which facet wins the excess of attractions: Richness? Artistry? Storytelling? I dare to say that the composition of it all is unique.


Monreale is not just an architectural leftover, representing glory days. It is a well-used church, with praying nuns among the tourists and with a fairy tale wedding the very same afternoon. It is a pity that some of the tourists show a profound lack of sensitivity when visiting a holy building in funny raincoats. (Note from the author: Some people consider themselves being clever using a knee-long raincoat as “decent clothing” to cover bare shoulders and legs inside the church. Just guessing, but they might have sources in a North-Western land, separated from Europe by the Atlantic ocean.) I look at Jesus in the cupola and think he probably dislikes it as well.


I crisscross through the cathedral, admiring everything around. A part to the left is virtually separated from the rest by an additional entrance control. No extra fee gets charged, yet the control works as a filter that separates interested visitors from others.


Happy Feet on Holy Ground

Art and beauty is almost exaggerated here and it begins at the feet: Stone mosaic covers the ground with a certain base pattern, but inch by inch with different interpretations of it.

The beauty in this aisle exceeds the main nave and it is on the edge of being overloaded.



2019_06_12_A6cI wave goodbye to Ezechiel and the other prophets as I turn towards another ticket counter in the rear part of the church. For some Euros extra, I enter a narrow staircase that leads up and left and straight and up until the corridor spits me out on a small platform. The cathedral, the view on Palermo and on the landscape, the cloister beneath – once more I stare around, stunned with beauty.

With entry charge and the dark, tiny stairs that lead up here, few other tourists reach the small balcony. The access only works for a small percentage of visitors: those who are curious. And slim.

While the stromboli has been the outstanding highlight of our trip, Monreale is the perfect conclusion to it.


Peaceful and Calm

Palermo, right around the corner of Monreale, will be a good reason for future visits on this wonderful island. For this afternoon, I am fine with the choice of cafés around the (now closed) cathedral, spending my time lazily until it is time to get Hector on the ferry.





Cefalú II


Back to where we belong

Three-and-a-half-days until the ferry will carry us back North. I could use the time and cross off my list all outstanding highlights: Trapani, hikes through national parks, Erice, rivers and ravines. Instead, I get back to my favourite spot with Hector’s rear tires almost getting wet and salty.


Déjà vu? Wonderful Remake!

Lazy but sporty days are up: admire the golden morning light with a first coffee. Then find some place close to one of the campsite’s WiFi spots and lay down the yoga mat.

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After about 30 minutes online-yoga session, I add some handstand kick-ups as a direct consequence from the Scala dei Turchi, aiming to pimp future tourist pictures. The rest of the day is a mixture of meals (breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and a bit in between) and sun-vs-sea.


Place to be: my Bay

With so much relaxation, I could do with some company. Lucky me that I am down at the “base level area” of camping Sanfilippo, with rough ground instead of neat gravel and with hippie travellers instead of RV campers. A chat here, a warm welcome there, motorbike talks with young tent campers and quiet evenings – so far, so good. The only thorn in my flesh is the driver of a white VW van who stays next to my Hector with two young sons. He is so much of a lookalike to “my bartender” (a dear friend for years) that I wonder what to do first: a) Order a cocktail or b) Give him a kiss? I try do play it decent and invite him over to a glass of wine for my last evening. It is around 11 PM when I realize that most probably he will not show up anymore. Anyway, at this point the wine bottle has not much left to offer…


Then the next morning…

The next morning, I feel awkward. For about 30 minutes. Then I pick up my regular yoga routine, ending it on the beach today with some last handstand trials. Having exercised the kick-ups for a mere three days, it comes as a nice surprise (even for me) when I manage to get up easily and stand straight upside-down for 2-3 seconds before falling over light as a feather. How cool!! I jump around, all excited, find somebody to take a video from the sensation, and grin widely at the world.


Tadaaah! That’s where I get after 3 Days of Training

Minutes later, I find a confirmation mail on my smartphone, telling me that I successfully applied for two reserved tables at the Wiesn (“Oktoberfest”). All out of a sudden it becomes obvious: That Karlsuhe-daddy-guy with his hilarious, brand-new VW car (ever heard of Diesel-Skandal, how dare you still drive that one?!), he will certainly rack his brain for days and years, wondering why he has let it slip away, that great opportunity of good wine in best company. A girl with 2 Wiesn-tables and the skills for a neat handstand – is there anything more you could ever ask for? Yeah, see!

All in a good mood now, I pack my belongings and get Hector ready to go, while every now and then people come by for last greetings, a warm good-bye or help with renitent marquee pegs . With a light sigh I leave my wonderful bay behind…


So long and thanks for all the Fish

>> Next Destination



Phoenix (already fallen) and Concordia (front – or back?)

Taxi services, parking fees and all kinds of souvenir shops mark the importance of a touristic site. Agrigento certainly ranges among the top 5 on cruise ship’s standard scale, but that is only one out of two reasons for early-bird-sightseeing. The second reason is the topography of the areal. Already at 10:00 AM = opening hour, the sun heats up the shadow-less terrain to 30°C (still rising) and I note a cross-correlation of temperature vs. cultural ambitions.


Anyway, I am here, it is culture and hence I clench my teeth and make my way to Roman buildings and their leftovers. It is similar to Paestum, yet more fallen apart.


The site is vast. With hardly any trees. And hot. Well, not in the “yeah, hottie!” way, but rather reaching 35°C before 11:00 AM. Most of the former temples are sized down to mere fragments, but even in that state it shows better quality than today’s average rental apartments.


Quite some stony puzzles to sort out…


… at least they have the equipment for it!

Eventually I make it to the most outstanding of all: Tempio della Concordia. Sito messaggero della cultura della pace nel mondo. Which means that it is old, important and forbidden to walk in. Fine by me, with the roof long gone it would not offer shades anyway, so why bother.


Tempio della Concordia (backside – or front?)

While the front looks exactly like the back, the side view shows the substantial size of the building. Must have been important Gods they worshipped in there…


39,42m – side view on Concordia

When I think back of Paestum and my survey a couple of years ago, I remember that I frankly admired the beautiful architecture, backed up with some accessories and decorations shown in the adherent  museum as well as a bit of description of how life once has been. Here in Agrigento, it looks all dead. Indifferent, I leave it to busses of tourists that start to stroll in and move on to more appealing places.

>> Next Destination

Scala dei Turchi


Sometimes the way ahead does not lead anywhere. Departing from Villa Del Casale, the navi leads more or less straight towards Agrigento. Like the Princess of the Pea, I favour comfort and hence big roads with Hector, but today the first trial turns out dead end. Typical Sicilian, there is no detour nor early warning, just a blocked road. From 3 possible directions, this has been the best, but flexible as I am I switch to second best. Fifteen minutes later, another road barrier shows up. I study my detailed map of the island and the options are:

  • Main road towards Agrigento: blocked, no way of trespassing
  • A more indirect tour: blocked right in front
  • Go North, then East, then all South, then West. For hours. Honestly??
  • Go back to where I have started and stay there, possibly forever

Hard to believe and yet: Today’s best Way towards my Destination

Finally, I go for the best option which is ignoring the blockade, circle Hector’s tires around the barrier, marvel at Sicilian’s biggest pothole and, later on, gently wave at the construction workers I pass by. Fortunately, most people accept the disabled road and leave the one and last existing lane to us with hardly any oncoming traffic.

Based on the recommendation of the French couple I met the other day, Hector heads on South. Leaving tiny little mosaic stones behind and approaching massive rocks: Our destination is known as the Scala dei Turchi, which is slightly misleading as it does not refer to Turks but rather to pirates, all named “turchi” in former times and demonstrating ancient preconceptions.


Favourite Vanlife with an acceptable distance to the Sea

Around noon, Hector rolls on the ground of Punta Piccola Park, a simple and likeable sosta camper at the beach of Porto Empedocle / Realmonte. 2 toilets, 3 showers and space for some dozens of camper vans with sea view. I tend to like those simple but well-located places.

The restaurant right around the corner serves delicious fish, wine, espresso and whatever else you need for your comfort: get out of the sosta’s gateway, turn left, walk max. 50m, get into the restaurant and out to the terrace, ask for fish of the day, enjoy! This being set, I take off my shoes and promenade on the beach for relaxed two kilometres.


Half-way in between Hector and the Scala dei Turchi

The more I turn West and thus away from industrial Porto Empedocle, the more beautiful is the shore. I give up looking back and continue my way along the coast line.


View to Porto Empedocle – Wrong Direction


…but then: Approaching the Scala dei Turchi


Almost there

Soon enough I spot the white cliff made of soft limestone and a blinding white marl. These days, only the tough reach it, as recent rockfalls required to close a part of the beach. The only way leads through the water stirred up by hundreds of tourist legs and with invisible stones and rocks beneath the feet. A rope indicates the safest passageway where you will always find helping hands of elderly poeple along the queue (or the other way round).


Once you are there, it is impossible not to pose for Instagram, friends and your own vanity. With the scenery as fantastic as it is, here come the inevitable “bella figura” pictures of the day:



…and in the opposite direction


Such a nice and peaceful spot – and then you end up surrounded by tourists!


See? Without me, it looks entirely boring

I spend quite some time on one of the highest “steps” of the so-called stairway. There is so much to see from here! The changing colours of the sea, all kinds of people passing by and then there is a group of Dutchmen that is keen on showing off with their youth and their muscles. After an hour or two, I turn around and leave this wonderful place behind.


Just one pity comes with todays excursion: my handstand skills do not match this place. Not yet. It would have been marvellous to pose in a free-floating handstand on top of that glistening white platform. One of the last thoughts before falling asleep that night is: “What if I exercise more focused?”. I wonder if this will get me somewhere someday…

>> Next Destination



Villa Romana del Casale


50 Ways to Leave your Lover, much harder to Leave this Bay

It takes days to get me leave Cefalú. One day after the other, I decide to move ahead tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, it comes with yesterday’s repeating: tomorrow… Finally, with my Müsli storage being almost empty and being billed with five nights at Camping Sanfilippo, Hector turns inlands towards Piazza Armerina.


Bye Bye, Cefalú

Along the way, Sicilia changes it’s appearance: prospering plants fade out and give space to hills coloured in all shades of green and brown. The frequency of villages goes down, leaving it all up to lonely roads and endless landscape.


First stop of the day is Enna. I find a perfectly legal parking spot for Hector, switch on google maps and start walking towards the centre of this mountain village. Turning right, asking locals, moving on, turning left, checking my cell phone and finally: giving up. I learn that global internet companies fail when it comes to the very south of Europe. Not only that a lot of apps come with worn-out information (if any), the map shown on my little screen indicates that the centre of Enna was located on another hill in 14km of distance. Which, in fact, is not true. Truth is, that I cannot imagine Enna being that attractive and decide to move on towards further destinations.


Enna. Sort of.

Today is superslim-Hector day. Would he be bigger with just some millimetres more, we might have been stuck in the narrow streets of Enna downtown, where I eventually find the churches, restaurants and cafés I had been looking for. However, it does not look that much exciting or inviting, and with a sigh of relief I continue my way. In the afternoon, we arrive at an overnight camper parking that is highlighted in one of my travel books.


Sad, so Sad

The place “Agricasale” is strange. And empty. With the latter being true especially for the huge outdoor pool that looks so inviting in my book. With a cold and rainy May, the owners are not yet done with the ready-for-season works. At least, they have stable WiFi and reasonable prices, showers and toilets and electricity and, above all, a lot of nature.


Dogs run around, making friends with Hector and proving the friendship by peeing in front of my main door. Horses come by, their heads covered in clouds of black flies. In the distance, some sheep hang around and at least they have no intention bothering me – sure enough the opposite is true for the mosquitoes… The place is beyond clear definitions. A hotel? Not really. A camper park? Only as a side business. But besides what? Does the conversation with the owner lead anywhere, circling around free love?? The situation gets a bit less absurd when the RV of a French couple arrives. We sit together with wine and soft drinks and exchange tips and experiences of our Sicilian travel.


Next day is culture day! Villa Romana del Casale is the touristic hot spot in Sicily’s inland, like the Italian version of Neuschwanstein. Endless floors are covered with all kinds of artful mosaic tiles. Some are just decoration, some tell stories of heroes and glory, of hunters and cruises, beasts and beauties.


Itty-bitty Tiles, Well-Sorted


The area, consisting of several buildings (more true: their leftovers), is large. Even in 4th century it must have been a surreal experience to live here. Like inhabiting a temple of arts and craftmanship. Historically, it is a glance on ancient ideals: Fame and beauty were interpreted in a different manner than today’s selfies on Instagram.


Mental Note for my next Visit: Dress in my best Bikini, Pose for a Selfie right in front!


Big as an Elephant: Area of Villa Casale


I manage to be through with all rooms and floors before thousands of tourists arrive. I get a cup of coffee and fancy about cheap mosaic specialists offering their works in the traditional German “Gelbe Seiten”  phone book… Probably I better move on, especially with all extras and unforeseen obstacles that lay in store for me on Sicilia’s roads.

>> Next Destination



…then you follow recommendations of people along the way and you end up in a picturesque bay with a dog. In fact, the dog belongs to the girl who takes the picture, but the rest is as it is: just wonderful.


At, even: in! my wonderful bay close to Cefalú

Hector hops on the best spot of Camping Sanfilippo with only inches between his rear tires and the sea. If you prefer a big pool, hot showers and modern sanitary facilities, choose Camping Ponente which shares the bay with Sanfilippo. If you are more like me, looking for beauty in simplicity, this might be your spot. As long as your van is as slim as Hector, that is.


I spend hours in front of my super van, doing nothing but watching the sun dive into the ocean.


Hector, being romantic with gorgeous sunsets

When I wake up the next morning, it still looks like this:


I leave it up to Hector to take care of the beach today and get on the public bus, offering comfortable connections from the campsite to Cefalú downtown. I like places like this, with touristic life embedded in the historic centre, inviting enough for a coffee between palm trees and a cathedral from 13th century.


Norman Cathedral, opened quite a while ago (back in 1240)

A rock with a view, deep blue sea, sandy beaches, historic architecture, all kinds of gelato and food – Cefalú has it all. It is a bunch of holiday facets, tempting to spend hours or days or even weeks here.


It is not only the beach with its beach towel merchants, with sunbeds and enough free space in between. It is not even the cathedral, ordered by Sicilia’s first Norman King and linked to Monreale (= built by the very last Norman King – same same, but different). Even the choice of restaurants, wine bars and ice cream is far from being solely responsible for the attraction of Cefalú.


How to spend the Afternoon here

It is the combination of it all, situated between rocks and mountains and the splendid sea.


2019_06_01_C1And, of course, it is about  people: locals presenting themselves at the beach where they meet for a little chat.

If you are keen on instagrammable spots, you will find them spread along the coast line. Here, you do not even have to fight foreign tourist groups with their selfie-sticks – among all positive facets, one of the best is the relaxed atmosphere, at least in the first days of June.

Personally, the charm of my days in Cefalú is the ideal spot for  perfect van-life. Even though the city is close enough, I love spending time at “my” little beach, starting with some yoga into the days and reduce sightseeing to a mere staring-at-the-sea.


>> Next Destination

Etna Sud

On May 29, we decide eventually not to stay the night up on 2.000m / Parking Etna Sud, proving us being smart camper girls. Otherwise, we would have been shaken…


None of this is predictable when we start on our 12th day from Sabbiadoro towards the Etna. We would love to tell you that we catch one of the rare days when Etna’s peak is clearly visible, but we rather see business as usual: one third of the volcano is covered by clouds. The more we approach it, the less inviting looks our surrounding.


Approaching the Etna. And the Garbage. And the Clouds.

It gets better, though, as Hector’s wheels climb up and up the mountain. Grey lava and colourful flowers embellish the road and give a first impression of nature’s forces that may be calm, but always present.


Somehow Beautiful

I suddenly smile, thinking of a friend who comments left-but-slow-drivers on the highway with a reference to common video games: “Die rechte Spur ist Lava”. Right he is… (special greetings to Klaus!).


Hector meets Lava

Walking around a volcano is like landing on a foreign planet. It is almost irritating to see the regular blue sky above us, a yellow or violet firmament would fit in even better.


Extra. Terrestrial.

With a few metres of distance, it becomes obvious that Hector is parked right in the middle of a former lava flow. That is what they do here: they observe. They wait. Once the Etna erupts, they wait again (more cautious now). When the lava is cold enough, they re-build the roads and welcome tourist busses.


Hector = Vulkanaut (Auto, das Vulkane hoch fährt)

The same is true for the funicular: the former one got partly destroyed by eruptions? Never mind, we erect new pylons beside the old ones and start all over again. Danger vs. tourism, money vs. nature.


Funicular Etna South

We leave Hector for expensive parking fees at the tourist parking and choose early lunch at the local (and very touristic) restaurant. It is only there that I wonder if some parts of the building might be less stable then others – it seems that the walls are slightly shaking sometimes. At that point we still make jokes about possible earthquakes…


After Lunch, we go up on one of the older craters. While the Stromboli had been extraordinary with its regular eruptions, the Etna impresses by its sheer size. We look south and see the sea in a far distance – like merging Mars into Mediterranean.


Looking north, we see more craters and the massive clouds that swallow 1.000m of the volcano’s height.


Etna. And, in the distance, more Etna.

It is fascinating up here, a whole lot of nature jumps at our faces. Partly due to the view and the weird landscape, partly literally with all the pumice that is blown up on us. Volcanos and wind always come as a couple.


…did I mention the cold Wind??

We consider the option staying the night up here. Yet, 6°C and light rain is not the most comfortable surrounding – hence, we decide to go down to Catania for a relaxed campsite with seaside. Hector is already focused on the destination and off we go.


Like an Aerosmith Song: “Going… down?!”

Camping Jonio is just perfect for our last common night. Any parking position more than 20m away from the sea is so not our style, and here we have everything we need. Apart from being close to downtown, that is. However, we are in walking distance to a small harbour and detect wonderful fish shops along the way.


Lava with Summer Feeling: Back to the Sea

It is our last evening together before Martina catches her flight the next morning. Consequently, we find one of the most excellent restaurants of the entire trip and enjoy all kinds of fish, a bottle of Donnafugata Cattarratero, dessert, coffee and total luxury at Nitto restaurant, Porto piccolo.

When we fall asleep that night, we are not aware of the Etna and its erupting activities.


This Picture was probably taken in the very moment of the Etna’s Eruption. Well – we missed all the Action, but that is not so bad

>> Next Destination



Another Culture Day breaks its dawn with fabulous Hector and bright sun. We start full of youthful enthusiasm which is good – otherwise the 2,2 km march to the next bus station would have annoyed us.


We could have spent the day at Sabbiadoro, doing nothing. Instead, we are off to Noto. Sometimes it is tough being intellectual…

As soon as we stride the Porta Real and enter Noto’s prinked baroque centre it gets obvious that this place is worth a visit. Especially when fresh wind is more tempting for a light jacket than for sand coating in your tiniest bikini.


Perfect conditions for a city tour at Noto

While Taormina shares a style mixture with a range of aprox. 2.000 years and with Siracusa having a more off-scaling charm, Noto is all bright and nice and beautiful. Like easy-listening pop or chocolate ice cream, Noto is the everybody’s-darling-town of Sicilia’s East coast.


Like pearls on a string, grand buildings present their baroque facades along the Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Following the flock of tourists, we step through Porta Reale and make our way through Baroqueland.


Santa Chiara

We start with the Chiesa di Santa Chiara, a wonderfully inviting church with dignity and a statue of Padre Pio. Driven by the atmosphere of the church, I ignite a candle before we step out into the sun for the next highlights.


Cathedral of Noto

Next stop is Noto’s Cathedral, majestic and impressive yet with a different charm compared to Santa Chiara.


Getting more into the local style of decoration, we follow our guidebook and admire elaborate balconies in some of the cross-roads. Guess showing off in front of your neighbours was a common hobby back in 1694.


Even before everybody wanted a Porsche, people found a way to show their richness

No matter where you turn here, you will always stand in front of beautiful buildings. Passing by the theatre is almost like: “yeah, see? Another one…”


Noto’s Theatre

With a bit of a distance from the Corso Vittorio Emanuele, we finally find an open place with a modern building at one side. It looks like something with bureaucracy in it, while the pattern of blind windows comes with a particular beauty.


A few weeks ago, Noto was all blooming and flourishing during the annual flower festival Infiorata di Noto: Roads and stairs around the historic centre get filled with flower arrangements, all adding up to gigantic pictures in the slope streets. The forms are still visible and some of the stairs around have been painted, following this year’s device of “I Siciliani in America”. Hence, it is no wonder that the Statue of Liberty is to be found right here.


2019_05_28L1For lunch, we get served with all kinds of delicious antipasti + main course at the Trattoria Ducezio. Sometimes when I think back of the Sicilian holidays, I still dream of gamberetti all’ arancia

However, we are not here for fun but for culture! Hence, next stop is an exhibition with works from Banksy, one of the contemporary artists I admire most.


Banksy’s street art is a nice contrast to the Baroque-as-Baroque-can architecture in Noto. Still full of impressions, we hop on one of the afternoon’s busses (ignoring the toothless taxi driver that tries to talk us in his car), heading up for Avola.


Last glance on Noto, here: Palazzo Ducezio

The town between Noto and our campsite is described as a hidden champion, a quiet town with a small historic core. In fact, it is non-touristic with only local highlights. The highlights are today’s funerals that pass one after the other while we wait on busses that might or might not exist on the cryptic timetable of the bus station.

Eventually, we make it on a bus and the friendly driver offers an extra stop for us, bringing us all back to Camping Sabbiadoro.


>> Next Destination

In Between Highlights (II)


Sicilian Travel Quality

…kann Spuren von geschlossener Asphaltdecke enthalten. Muss aber nicht… Presenting today’s roads: after one direction had been blocked already, there was not much of a choice, so we made our way through rough parts.

…and this is what happens when bumping into a group of young Dutchmen. No complaints.

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Phönix-Statue in Agrigento. Paar mittleren Alters kommt heran, sie zu ihm:
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