Giro de MurrayBrown complete! 

Day 11: Messina-Syracuse, 101 milesAfter 11 days of riding, 1,100 miles, one broken bike, an encounter with police and a ridiculous amount of incredible memories, we have reached our final destination, Syracuse!!!!!!!

We got off to a great start this morning with Rich getting another puncture just a couple of miles down the road. (He won the puncture games 5-0 but didn't get any mechanicals, so I guess over the whole ride the scores are even!)

After around an hour of riding, we really did say ciao to the last bit of mainland Italy on our left.

We were treated to  some spectacular coastal views as we continued towards Catania. We passed through so many pretty Sicilian villages which were buzzing with life, with fruit stalls, fresh flowers, Piaggio three-wheelers and old fiat pandas driven by even older people. Driven being the wrong word there. My goodness Sicilian drivers are utterly pants.

We had to ride very wide to avoid being taken out by opening doors, people turning out of junctions without stopping. Then when drivers did stop they would just slam their brakes or pull in, right in front of you to double park. Certainly no case of mirror-signal-manoeuvre!

By 10am it was already 33 degrees and it got hotter throughout the day. I found the heat really hard going during the latter stages, especially when we had to climb too. My top was grim by the end.

We passed the touristy hotspot of Taormina which was very pretty.

Then stopped for a coffee just south in a quieter spot, with more locals.

There was still a lot of wealth on show. Rich spotted a boat with a helicopter on it!

We carried on towards Catania but by 1pm I was about to flip and needed food! We stopped at the first place. Not a whole load of choice, but a calzone each and a lemonade semi sorted me. I say semi... I went back for a second!!

Rich has well and truly mastered the art of following the Garmin route through the towns and cities and guided us superbly through the endless roundabouts of Catania.

Then we headed slightly inland and up. Both of us just wanted to reach the end. We were hot and tired. The views back across to the north and Etna helped us to keep going. The final thirty miles into Syracuse was actually a bit of a letdown. We rode through a massive industrial zone for petro-chemicals.

The flower-covered roads were far prettier than the smells and wider landscape.

Certainly no gelato stops around there. Water was beyond scarce too. Thank god for an Esso garage with a bar!

At around 4.45pm We finally saw this wonderful sight...

And after about ten more minutes of pedalling arrived in beautiful Ortigia, an island off the bottom of Syracuse. We could finally get off our bikes, knowing we didn't have to ride them again tomorrow!

Today's stats:

2: mini pizza/calzone things consumed. It could have been a triple pizza day as they had pizza at the breakfast buffet.

1: bastard car driver who I yelled obscenities at after he narrowly avoided hitting Rich. Not nice to witness from behind.

1411 m: ascent, 1432 descent

1: cold beer in the fridge at our air bnb. We split it :)

Food:

Yogurt, nectarine, apricot, fruit juice, cappuccino, bread roll and honey and bread roll with Nutella.

Mid-morning: espresso and half brioche. One tribe bar.

Lunch: 2 mini pizza things, lemonade.

Mid-afternoon: final Tribe bar.

For the record:

And finally...

Neither of us can really believe we've ridden the length of Italy and it's certainly up there with the toughest things I've done. But as is always the case, when you go out of your comfort zone and push yourself, you are rewarded with an immense sense of achievement and satisfaction.

We originally set out to take three weeks, go at a more steady pace and stop a bit more en-route. However we had to cut it to two weeks because of a lack of leave. That's when it turned into more of a challenge than necessarily a cycle-touring holiday.

Do I regret that we blasted through and barely saw Florence? Or that we didn't stop to look around the Colosseum in Rome? Not at all. We might not have ticked the traditional guidebook boxes but we saw bits of Italy from two wheels which no tourist guide will ever point out to you. I don't think the rural old man's bars would be in any Lonely Planet. Yet they gave such a unique sense of Italian life.

I'll write one more blog post about the practicalities of our ride which might help you if you've been inspired!