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Cosmos S. Italy and Sicily - trip report Part 2

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Dec 7th, 1999, 09:11 AM
  #1
Dianne
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Cosmos S. Italy and Sicily - trip report Part 2

Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii - actually we went here on the second day of the tour so I'm writing this a bit out of order. I didn't realize a hike up Mt. Vesuvius was included in our tour. First, the bus drove us up a narrow, twisty road (great views of sprawling Naples) and then we had to walk up for about an hour. Looking at the photo I took of Mt. Vesuvius from Pompeii, I can't believe we were right at the top! It was so incredibly windy up there we were afraid to go too close to the edge! It was a neat thing to do, visiting the volcano and then continuing to ancient Pompeii. In Pompeii, I took the guided tour. It's a huge site and I was glad to follow a guide my first time there. But, if you don't have a guide, the dogs can always show you around. I didn't know Pompeii is now a city of dogs! They all looked healthy and well fed too. Dog lovers will especially enjoy Pompeii. We visited the beautifully frescoed House of the Vetti and so did everyone else. It was very crowded. A lot of the houses appeared to be closed, but maybe because it was late in the day. We also saw the heartbreaking plaster casts of the victims. They must have been terrified. We had a very good tour guide who showed us as much as possible in the 2 hours we were there. In fact, we were late getting back to the coach and with rush hour traffic in Naples (unbelievable), we barely arrived in time to catch the last hydrofoil to Capri. Our poor tour director was panicking, but we made it.

Capri and Sorrento - see Part 1

After our 3 nights in Sorrento, we continued on to Sicily. Much of one day was spent traveling there. We drove south to the toe and then a 30 min. ferry to Messina. Another hour and we were in Taormina. The weather was wet and gloomy. I guess it was a good day to spend on the bus. We were told it had rained all day in Taormina. Fortunately, the next morning we awoke to a brilliant sunny day. Taormina is such a pretty town with stunning views all around. The fantastic Greek theatre frames distant Mt. Etna. Lovely public gardens too. Great shopping and such beautiful jewellry if you have the money. I had the best gelato of my trip here (black cherry). Excellent bakeries as well. There were other tourists around, but again, not overly crowded. We were staying across from the beach (stones) right next to the cable car. This was our most budget hotel. The beds and pillows were kind of hard and the water could have been hotter. Location and very good included dinners compensated though.

The following day we drove to Mount Etna. There was a chance to take a shuttle bus up near the top, but it cost 65000L ($55 Cd.)! About 1/2 the group went and the rest of us waited for 2 1/2 hours. There were several cafes and shops around. I sent my disposable camera with someone so I was at least able to see pictures of Etna up close. It looked cold up there and about 6 inches of snow! They saw smoke, but no lava. I don't think it would have been worth the price to me. We continued to Syracusa. This was the one city where I took the optional tour since our hotel wasn't as central, we were only here for 1 night, and we didn't arrive until 2pm. Syracusa seemed to be quite a poor town with lots of traffic. There is a pretty good archeological site and an interesting cathedral built on and around an ancient temple.

Today we visited Villa Casale on our way to Agrigento. We were given maps of the villa and a brief description and set off on our own. The mosaics here are not to be believed and 40 rooms of them! Shot a whole roll of film. We also had an optional Sicilian pasta and salad lunch with wine ($15 Cd). It was worth it. We continued to Agrigento for an included tour of the impressive Valley of the Temples.

Next day, we visited Selinunte, my favorite archeological site in Sicily. We were free to wander around all the giant columns tumbled by earthquakes. It was spectacular even in ruins. Then we spent about 2 hours on the beach (sand) below the temples. There was an optional lunch here too, but I just ate my own snacks on the beach. Then we left for Palermo. Our hotel was very central and very nice too. Some of us went out to look around and mix with the locals a bit. Very friendly people here and surprisingly courteous drivers given the heavy traffic. It was smoggy with exhaust fumes on the main streets. Prices of everything seemed very reasonable in Palermo. We were told to be "home" by 7pm because the streets become deserted and unsafe once the stores close.

Today we had until 6pm to see Palermo before boarding the overnight ferry to Naples. A courtesy room was provided for our hand luggage after checkout. Palermo has so many different styles of magnificent churches to visit. San Giuseppe and the Royal Chapel at Norman palace were especially memorable. One couple visited the catacombs with the mummified bodies. I got the feeling they found it quite disturbing though. There was a bus strike that day. They all just suddenly stopped even in the middle of intersections, much to the irritation of the already heavy traffic! The afternoon siesta is observed in Palermo and most shops close from about 1:30 - 4:00pm. At 6pm, the bus picked us up at the hotel and transferred us to the ferry. This was really exciting. I'd never been on an overnight ferry before. We had already picked our groups of 4 and couldn't wait to see our little second-class cabins. They were so small! Just 4 bunks, a sink, and a wobbly little ladder. There were no showers, but a lot of shared facilities. The tour guide had already warned us of the rough seas ahead of us. We left at 8pm, due in Naples at 7am. I was surprised when the ride started to get rough after only 20 min. This can't be good, I thought. We weren't even out in the open yet. By about 10pm we were really rolling! Several people were sick, lucky for me no one in our cabin. Over 1000 people, cars, tour buses, semis - this was not a small boat and I hated to imagine how the waves looked that could toss us about so much! It was pretty scary for a while, but did calm down somewhat by 2am so we could get some sleep. It was an experience that's interesting to talk about now that it's over and at least I found out that I'm not prone to seasickness.
The next morning in Naples it was pouring with fierce winds. The sea was wild! We hurried onto our bus and left for Rome.

Wow, this is getting longer than I thought it would. I've got a lot to say about Rome, so I'd better make a part 3.
Someone asked about the average age of the group. I think it was about 55. There were probably only 5 of us under 40, but I was told this is unusual for Cosmos.
 
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Jan 19th, 2000, 08:20 AM
  #2
Dick & Regina McCarthy
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Many, many thanks, Diane. We just learned about your writeup from Bill Gardiner. Haven't been able to locate Part 1 as yet. Any suggestions.

Best wishes...........
 
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Jan 19th, 2000, 08:28 AM
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Mags
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I alsodid a Cosmos trip in May 99 with my husband and daughter 19yrs old. There were at least 8 people under the age of 25 and about four couples between 50to 65 ?the rest of the group were in the 30-45 age group. I guess the age group depends on the time of year as well.
 
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Jan 19th, 2000, 10:28 AM
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Elsa
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Dick and Regina,
I also was looking for Part 1 and came across it in my search. Look under

Cosmos S. Italy and Sicily trip report
Part 1. It was written (posted) on 12-3-99. Hope this helps you find the post.

Elsa
 
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Jan 19th, 2000, 12:39 PM
  #5
Dianne
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Hi Dick and Regina

It's great to hear from you! I had wondered if anyone from the tour would come across my trip report, then thought, no, that's too much of a longshot. Is Bill Gardiner the man who was traveling with his sister? I can't remember if there was more than one Bill on the trip and I mostly only learned first names.

Have you planned any other trips yet? Next week I'm going to Hawaii to hide from the Canadian winter for a while.

I've been able to find all parts of this report by doing a text search for Cosmos. Enjoy!


 
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