17 September 2010


Picture it: Sicily, 1912....
I love the Golden Girls.
So anyway, we took the train to Taormina on the NE coast of Sicily. This night train was a lot more comfortable than the one we took in Thailand, mostly because of the AC! So unfortunately we were asleep for this part, but the train actually goes onto a ferry from Villa San Giovanni (the southern toe of the boot) to Messina, Sicily. They load up the whole train onto the ferry, bring it over, and get it back on the tracks. How cool is that? If it hadn't been 3 or 4 am, I would have been checking out the views.
But check out this view! Hey, Josh. We had breakfast at the train station. Cheapest cappuccino yet at 0.80 euro. Yum.

We jumped on a bus to get up to the town of Taormina, which is on the northern east coast. It's up on the hill, and the views down to the sea are just beautiful. This is the Isola Bella, a nature reserve in the Ionian sea.

The cannoli is a Sicilian dessert and we took full advantage of their expertise. Turns out one cannoli is called a cannolo. Fun.

One of many beautiful piazzas.

We went to the public gardens, which has multiple names including Villa Comunale, the Giardino Trevelyan and the Parco Duchi di CesarĂ². It happened to be raining a bit, so Josh had on his cheap poncho (having accidentally left his rain gear with his big pack at the hotel in Rome). Doesn't he look GOOD?

The gardens are beautiful, and full of random things...cottages and towers, as well as a collection of caged birds, some old artillery (like a torpedo!), a children's play area and a bar.

One of the towers.

One of the cute little restaurants--the table decorations are the jugs with vegetables on top! What a great idea.

The church consecrated to the Patron of Taormina, St. Pancras, Bishop and martyr. It was built on the ruins of a Greek temple dedicated to Jupiter Serapis. Parts of the temple's cell can still be seen in the southern wall of the church. This church dates back to the second part of the 16th century.

A visit to the beach. There is a cable car that brings you from Taormina to Mazzaro (where the beaches are!), which gives you a great aerial view of the surrounding area.

Palazzo Corvaja held the Sicilian Museum of art and folk traditions, and had lots of very interesting and unusual things, including many versions of the nativity.

And then there were a strange set of paintings, including this one, of a lady getting eaten by cats...

The volcano Etna dominates the skyline of the eastern coast. This is the view from our great little B&B early in the morning. Our hosts didn't speak but a few words of English, but were the friendliest people ever. The lady of the house offers a homemade meal for only 10 euro person, and so we had a lovely dinner up on the roof balcony, including the best spaghetti pomodoro we've ever had. Then there was eggplant parmigiana and calamari, and focaccia, and vino! It was yum.

And another view of Etna, but with a few more clouds.

We went to the Teatro Greco, which has amazing views. It dates back to the Hellenistic period, 3rd century B.C. It was first used as a theatre, then changed to an amphitheatre with wild beasts and gladiators for sporting shows, then in the medieval ages it was used as a palatial residence. Now they still have events and shows, but nothing on while we were there. Sad!

There was a perfect little ledge for the self timer feature of the camera. Thanks to those great peeps who put this thing together 2000 years--I bet they planned that little spot for cameras.

One of the arches in the city.

Here kitty kitty kitty...

St Augustine's Church

Beautiful mosaic in one of the arches.

We then took a train to Siracusa, which is an ancient city by the sea. It has lots of archaeological stuff of importance.

The old town on Ortygia island is the prettiest. It is the oldest part of Syracus. There's a cool fountain that I don't have a photo of, but it's call the Aretus a Fountain. The fountain is where many poets and writers went to be inspired. The legend says that Alpheus, Son of Oceanus, fell madly in love with the a nymph named Aretusa. The nymph didn't share his feelings. To save her, Artemides turned her into a water source. Zeus also turned Alpheus into a river, allowing him to meet up with Aretusa.
The Piazza Duomo is awesome, with the cathedral at one end and the Basilica of St Lucia on the other, and all sorts of other important buildings in between.

Here's the cathedral.

And the temple of Apollo, or what's left of it, anyway!

We had just a few hours here, but it was beautiful.

We stayed for a few nights in Catania, right next to this cool church that had bells going off every 15 minutes! I always knew what time it was. And it's a really good thing Josh and I sleep so well.

We went on a tour of the volcano (still Etna)/wine tour. Our guide was Paulo, and he was super cool. He has a degree in natural sciences, with an extra year in volcanology (sounds like something from Star Trek). Josh was really impressed with his vehicle's altimeter.

We went in a cave made from lava! So technically it's above ground. Weird, huh?

Going down down down...

These steps were made back in the 1700s, and there is some famous painting of this spot, pity I can't remember who the artist is.

One of the many button craters on Etna. It has about 300 craters, and according to our guide is the most monitored volcano in the world. It is one of the most active as well, and is an almost constant state of activity. Nothing happened while we were there. :)

And then it started HAILING on us like crazy! So we hurried back to the car.

We got our lovely wet selves to the wine tasting. How great is that? We went to the Gambino winery, which is within the Etna National Park.

Great views right from the winery tasting room. They also fed us fabulous cheese and meats and other yummy antipasti.

We stopped by a fig tree to try them...very tasty! Here's Paulo with our fig stash.

Back in Catania, we went for a twilight walk to the castle.

Josh showing off our hobbit door. We had so many keys...one to the gate, one to the main door, one to the bar door, and one to the actual door. Crazy.

Sicily is great. We need to go back and explore more than just the east coast! Now off to Ireland.

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