Sicily Journal

Old Jul 18th, 2005, 07:45 AM
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Sicily Journal

This has taken us awhile to get ready to post but here is my husband's journal for our trip to Sicily. We left May 30th and returned June 21st. I would highly recommend this time of year. We had very little rain, it bothered us just a little on about two days and the temperatures were generally not too hot for long wanderings through ruins and cities but warm enough for swimming. The water was a bit cool for extended swimming but then we are thin blooded Floridians. We found Sicily had lots of different attractions: history, some beautiful scenery, nice people, good food, some pretty beaches. Driving was fine except in cities since parking if often scarce and it doesn't seem that rules of the road are followed, just a free for all.
I have included our hotels. We are not ones for expensive hotels. We spend so little time there that we'd rather take the money and stay longer. I don't think I would change any of our choices, they all worked out well and were quite nice. We don't worry too much about where we eat, whatever is handy when we get hungry. A couple of times we did search out travel guide suggestions. The ice cream is so good we of course had to have a daily fix (or two). Forgive all the food descriptions but we have found it helps us recapture memories of where we were, our surroundings, and what was going on around us while we ate the meal.
I'll post this in several installations one after the other. My comments are in ( ).
For some reason they gave us an exit seat on the flight to Madrid, which made that leg more comfortable. Some anxious moments in Madrid to get to our gate on time. The somewhat long layover in Rome became longer when we found Air One had placed us on another flight because they had cancelled ours. We went from a 2:45 flight to 7:30 one. We were able to change the 7:30 flight to one at 4:50. (Why they hadn't put us on that flight in the first place shows some serious stupidity! I'd be very careful using this carrier as you will see on our return flight.)

When we arrived in Palermo we took a bus into town and a short walk to our Bed and Breakfast. Very large comfortable rooms (we had two different rooms during our stay). B & B Al Catari, 100 euros if cash.

That night we shared a buffalo mozzarella cheese pizza and each had a salad. Dessert was strawberry gelato.

The next morning first took us to the center of the city with corners like the Quirinal in Rome.

Next was the Norman Palace (the Normans came in about 1070 and stayed a few centuries)They built the Palace on top of an Arab one which was on top of a Roman one, on top of a Carthaginian one, on top of a Phoenician one; they think.

The attraction at the Palace was the Palatine Chapel with extensive and beautiful mosaics. The royal apartments were closed.

We then went to the Duomo (Cathedral) which was more impressive outside than inside.

Less impressive than that was the inside of the Church of St. John of the Hermits. It was known for the 5 Arab domes on the roof- and the gardens.

We then went through the Capo and other market districts with outside vendors lining the narrow streets. We grabbed some very good sandwiches and chocolate gelato for lunch.

We then went to Teatro Massimo, the largest such theater in Italy.

After that was the Archeological Museum which featured Phoenician, Greek, Etruscan, Roman and Punic artifacts. The exhibit included melones from Temple C of Selinus.

After that we went to St. Ignatius Church where we finally saw an elaborate interior. We then walked to the Church of St. Francis of Assisi where we had to wait for a wedding to leave.

Dinner was at the Bellini Pizzaria. We each had fettuccini Bolognese. I had a tuna salad, Teresa had a Capesce salad- tomatoes and buffalo cheese.

Next morning we took a bus to Monreale. This is a town about 20 minutes from Palermo, up in the mountains. The Norman King decided to build a Cathedral there to rival the Duomo built in town. He outdid himself. The Cathedral is of ordinary size, but the interior is a huge mosaic, second largest in the world, largest in Christendom. It was accomplished in 11 years during the 12th century and tells the story of the bible in vivid colors, with a background of gold.

Besides the Cathedral, we toured the cloisters and walked through the town. Today was some holiday so there were festivities going on. The band played Stars and Stripes Forever, interesting choice.

We took the bus back and walked through the Balero market. We then went to St. Mangione Church and cloisters, walked by the waterfront and then to the park with the largest banyan tree in the world- so they say. It was huge1 Then it was gelato time.

After cleaning up we walked north to check out the newer portions of the city. We spent some time in the dual piazzas in front of the new theater.
We walked around and finally chose a restaurant where this time, we each got our own pizza and split a salad.

On the way back Teresa passed on the gelato - I didn't.

The next morning we decided to hit the oratorios and churches we had missed because they were only open in the morning. The first was the oratorio of St. Cita. There we learned- or figured out- oratorios were for saying the rosary. Evidently the Sicilians took great pride in the artwork in these buildings.

Next was the Oratorio of St. Dominic. This included a painting I really liked which was The Scourging at the Pillar. The lighting was extraordinary.

We also visited the Church of St. Dominic, and revisited St. Francis of Assisi so we could wander more with no mass going on.

After a trip to the supermarket, we went to the Palace of Muto which was similar to other palaces we had seen, but did have some unusual pieces.

For the afternoon we decided to go to the beach (Mondello). We timed the busses just right and got there in less than half an hour. The beach was pretty crowded and the water wasn't very cold.

When we came back we toured the English Gardens, and then went to the rental place to get our car. Easiest rental process we have ever had, Auto Europe, upgraded to a sporty little Mercedes. Left the car there for an early pickup.

We took the bus back to our room and cleaned up for a Friday night out.

First we went by the fountain in the Piazza Pretoria, that was built in the 1500'sand featured Jar-Jar Binks.

We then headed north and found a Kebab place for dinner. On the way back we decided to saunter through a large meeting of Goth kids- barbecuing, drinking and whatevering in an alley.
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Old Jul 18th, 2005, 07:50 AM
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The next morning we drove to Segesta. This was an ancient city that claimed descendency from Troy (Elimiams). They had fought with other nearby city-states and eventually lost when they couldn't garner the big time ally they were seeking- Athens. Other Sicilian city-states had enlisted the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, and the Spartans. This was before the political intrigue the Romans brought.

To help show themselves worthy of the Athenians, the Segestans quickly erected a temple in 419 B.C. It is one of the best preserved Doric Temples today.

After viewing the Temple, we hiked (and it was a hike) up to the Theater where the Agora could also be observed. We stopped at the city walls and a house carved into the side of the cliff on the way down.

Next we headed to Zingaro, a nature preserve with beaches in coves below bluffs. We had a hike to get to the beach we wanted, but it was a great beach. The snorkeling was very good. (Luckily it was a hot day for swimming but the walking all day was a hot endeavor.)

We then drove to Erice to check into our hotel. Hotel Ermione, nice, 80E a night, just outside the town, couple minutes drive there. Erice is a fortified town that now exists in its medieval state although its history goes back much further. It too claims descendency from Troy which gave it favored status by the Romans.

Erice is high on a mountain and would be seemingly impregnable. Established over 3000 years ago it has seen the entire cast of characters in Sicilian history, the Normans creating a cathedral out of the stone from the Temple of Venus. Wondered around, a very nice church as you enter the city, found the remains of the castle which was closed. Saw some great views.

Had dinner in town; I had boiled octopus salad, very good and a veal pale-ternita, Teresa had spinach, potatoes croquettes and garlic lamb. (She didn't try my salad.) After dinner we (quite by accident) stumbled upon the most famous pasteceria in the town, best known in Sicily for its almond pastries. Maria Ganmitero was a nun who perfected pastry recipes and the store carries on her traditions. We purchased a selection of goodies from the helpful sales girls.

So far- two observations about Sicily both Teresa and I shared:
1. There are a lot of beautiful women with ugly men. (Steve of course noted this first.)
2. English is not as widely spoken here as the rest of Europe.

The next morning, Sunday, we made the short drive to Trapani and we were in time to see the fish market as Teresa had hoped. Quite a colorful sight as the fish mongers shouted out their prices and carved up the tuna and swordfish. Other than this there wasn't much open or many people out.

We walked through town and caught the end of a Mass with a priest that reminded us of Father George, he was quite popular with the youngsters. We saw the Jesuit Church also.

We then went to Marsalla where we visited more churches and the gates of the old city. Except for some snack food given us by an old woman at some kind of outdoor reception we had nothing but ice cream. We visited the archeological museum which featured a Punic ship. There were few remnants but they gave you an idea of the completed ship. Most interesting was the fact that the shipbuilders had marked on the wood where nails went and where each rib was to be attached. K & L in the Phoenician alphabet (Carthaginians were Phoenician colonists) were next to each other.

From Marsala we went to Cave di Cusa which was a quarry used to build the temples in ancient Greek city of Silinus. Some stones half carved out remain. The excavations stopped in the 409 B.C when the city was sacked by the Cartheginians, led by Hannibal. Earthquakes forestalled any rebuilding.

Our next stop, Selinunte (site of ancient Silinus) is reminiscent of Pompei only 500 years earlier. It was founded by Syracusians in the 7th century B.C. Its enemies included Segesta who gained Hannibal's favor at one point. Outside the city were three large temples, one has been rebuilt and is impressive. The second largest in Sicily is still but a huge pile of stones and columns.

From there it is a 20 minute walk to the acropolis and the main part of the town which made up 100 hectares. This area had its own temples, walled for its protection and well-defined streets. We spent a good deal of time wandering and climbing there.

We went to our hotel in the city (MARINELLA DI SELINUNTE, 79E, [email protected]) and ate at a restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean. I had Pizza Pesccatore- it had mussels, prawns, clams, calamari and fish on it. Teresa had grilled swordfish, salad and wine. After dinner we were comped to a delicious crisp and refreshing aperitif that we didn't get the name of. The town has a nice little tourist street with several restaurants along the beach.

Monday morning we headed to Agrigento and went straight for the Valley of the Temples. This site is considered the best collection of Doric Greek temples outside of Athens. They include the Temple of Hercules which is still torn down; The Temple of Concordia which is the best preserved Greek Temple in the world, owing its good fortune of being morphed into a Christian church. There is a Temple to Hera high on a hill and there was a temple to Zeus, the largest Greek Doric Temple ever.

Agrigento first defeated Carthage at the Battle of Himera which made them quite wealthy, taking thousands of Carthaginian slaves. They flaunted their wealth, building the temples (which they also thought would bring them protection from the gods). Carthage sought vengeance and ransacked the place, plundering and burning the city. Later Rome defeated the Punic occupiers (though Hannibal escaped). The Romans rebuilt the temples, renaming them to the Roman gods. Arabs, Normans, Spanish, Swabians (Germans), and Italians followed.

After the Valley of the Temples we drove into town and found our hotel, (not as easy as it sounds). (Hotel Amici, 70E) After lunch we bused it to the archeological museum, only to find it closed for the day. We did see the Greco-Roman quarter excavations which featured a few mosaic floors glassed in within some of the ruins. It was pretty hot by now and there was little shade.

Back to town and a climb to find the Duomo. Took a wrong turn and it took us out of our way through an uninteresting area but we finally found it. The wooden ceiling painted with saints was its most attractive feature. Close by was the Church of St. Maria of the Greeks. This church was built on the city's temple to Athena and on top of a prior Christian church. Much of the church's floor was of a clear acrylic, allowing the foundations of the temple and what had been added to the older church to be viewed. The church also had Byzantine artwork on the walls near temple columns built into the walls.

From there we came back through Via Athena, the main shopping street. We browsed the many trendy clothing shops for young people, saw some possibilities for Christine but couldn't pull the trigger because she is so picky.

That evening, it took some searching to find a place to eat. We finally found a little place on a hilly side street with a few tables. We both had the meal of the day which was bread with olives and olive oil which arrived when we asked for olive oil to dip the bread in (well pantomimed). This was followed by pasta, salad, grilled fish and of course, wine. He brought us an extra liter free when he noticed we were low.

We walked around town afterward. Teresa had 3 small pastries. I had lemon and strawberry gelato.

In the morning we tried the museum again and it was open. It boasted the finest collection of ancient Greek vases and we couldn't disagree.

Next we went to the white chalky cliffs on the coast that have been etched by the wind. This involved some backtracking and navigating but it was worth it. We walked along the beach to get closer and the cliff was soft indeed.
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Old Jul 18th, 2005, 08:04 AM
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Thank you for your extensive Sicily report.

Wasn't ZINGARO just heaven?? Definitely one of the highlights of our trip last year to Sicily. The vegetation in Sicily was so interesting. When the strong sunlight hits the plants, there is a silvery glow everywhere.

We also stayed at Hotel Ermione -- a great deal for the area. We had a view of TRAPANI at our feet. (At night, we sat on our terrace with a bottle of wine and a pair of binoculars, checking out the Trapani windmills!)

We did not notice the beautiful-woman-with-ugly-man thing as much as you did in Sicily. We did, however, notice a lot of good-looking men and women around ACIREALE (close to TAORMINA)!

Did you have any one favorite experience while you were there?

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Old Jul 18th, 2005, 08:24 AM
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On to Enna, a fortress city in the middle of Sicily that is high on a mountain and looks easily defensible. It held out 20 years against the Arabs before they infiltrated the sewer system and took the town.

After checking in (Gande Albergo Sicilia, 91E, we hunted something to eat. Teresa again opted for her spinach cheese and ham sandwich; I had a slice of pizza which had French fries on it.

We then headed up to the castle where we picked up some candied almonds as a snack. (They were great!) We were able to climb up a tower of the castle which gave us great views of the area. It was a short walk to the Rock Cerece where there had been an ancient temple. It was close to here where Cerare (Demeter) daughter, Persephone, was carried off to the underworld.

We then walked through the city visiting the Duomo and other churches, and did some window shopping.

On our way we went to the watchtower at the opposite end of the city and made it to the last existing city gate after getting directions from a lady with a bulldog. She spoke no English and insisted we were German. After Teresa played with the dog she turned her back on it and it almost knocked her off the cliff.

We then met and talked to four kids who could speak a little English. It was apparently the first time they could practice it with Americans. They wanted to know why I was carrying a book bag. We took their picture.

More churches were open on the way back, apparently for saying the rosary.

We went to La Fontana for dinner. Teresa had ravioli with spinach and ricotta, a mixed salad and veal marsala. I had penne with four cheeses, grilled sausages (excellent) and the mixed salad. We had gone the whole day without gelato. We made up for it.

There was not so much a promenade in Enna as a motorcade. Our table was in a pleasant square with a beautiful fountain and children playing, along the main street. We witnessed bumper to bumper slow moving traffic during our entire meal. Enna is not a big city so we figured we saw every car in town twice or more.

We had an adventure the next morning, finding our way out of Enna but finally made it to the Roman Villa of Casale near Piazza Amerinas. The Villa is believed to have belonged to the Tetrarch Maximus, who was said to have hunted in the area. His Villa had 37,600 square feet and every square foot of floor space was covered in mosaics, most of them magnificent. The most extensive, most artistic and best preserved in the Roman World. The villa had been covered by a mudslide for 1,000 years.

Maximus was hung up on Hercules as many of the mosaics are dedicated to him. One huge room contained scenes from all of his labors. Our Green Guide had a nice description of the rooms.

One room, 100 feet long, contained numerous hunting scenes, graphically displaying the capture and transportation of exotic animals (lions, tigers, elephants, rhinoceros, hippopotami, bears etc.) back to Rome. Quite a magnificent villa.

From there we headed to Morgantina, a recently discovered town that had been abandoned early A.D. We saw more archeologists working there than we had at any other site. Not much had been exposed and they had the theater cordoned off. This site had been where the native Sikels had rebelled against the Greeks. It later prospered when Syracuse offered its protection. No one knows why it was abandoned.

We ate lunch at a tavern on the road, hoping to order a quick pizza. No pizza served at lunch! I had spaghetti carbonara, very good; Teresa had penne pasta with tomato sauce. The tomato sauce had very little seasoning (pretty common throughout the trip) although the pasta itself was good. Our quick pace was slowed considerably!

We next went to Caltagirone a strong contender for the ceramic capital of Sicily. We walked and shopped, seeing several artisans working on their pottery. As the town has an endless supply of high quality clay, it has been in the ceramics business for thousands of years, each conquering tribe adding something to the artistic mix.

We ate gelato, as we climbed the famous 140 steps, each of which is tiled on the front surface with a different pattern of tile. We had breaks along the way to visit numerous ceramic shops that lined the steps. We bought a bowl and a couple of spoon rests.

Today was the first day we saw cultivated cactus, growing in long orderly rows. We wondered what they were used for.

It was then on to Ragusa, (Hotel Montreal, 81E ) where we again had to deal with traffic in tiny clogged streets. If road rage existed in Sicily, the island would have a population of 34. We've learned that if there is a problem, just deal with it. Somebody's badly double parked… find a way around. Someone runs a stop sign… find a way to avoid hitting him. If someone doesn't care if you have the right of way… let him/her in, they can beat us at chicken. (Not sure the concept of right of way even exits here doesn't seem to be too many rules of the road.)

After checking in we cleaned up and went walking. We visited the Duomo close to our hotel in the "upper" part of town (the newer section). It was late but a priest was hearing confessions so we got lucky. We walked along the promenade street, Via Roma; they really roll up the sidewalks early in Ragusa. We thought about walking down to the lower town but after a several minutes decided to drive there in the morning. We found a restaurant and split a pizza. Again! We walked some more killing time till ten o'clock thinking about calling the kids. I got a gelato and Teresa had some cake (fair).
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Old Jul 18th, 2005, 08:25 AM
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Our first stop the next morning was lower Ragusa. We walked through the old town but the Duomo was closed for repairs. They had a nice English garden.

As we drove out of town we noticed that the low gas light was on. Didn't think it had been on last night when we gave the keys to the hotel clerk to park our car, hum. After experiencing some anxiety that we might run dry, we reached Mordica and found a gas station.

Onto Noto. We first went to ancient Noto along an extremely, no way in hell anyone can pass us, narrow road. After the earthquake of 1677, the town was moved to its present spot about 10 miles away leaving the rubble of the town. The old site was on an outcrop surrounded by two deep gorges. Teresa likes gorges.

Back to new Nota which was built in baroque style. Again the Duomo was under repair. We did go in other churches and climbed to the top of one. For lunch we went to a supermarket where we bought a loaf of oddly shaped bread (very good) and had them slice some cheese and meat for us which we ate on our way to Syracuse.

We first looked for our agri-tourism bed and breakfast, (Limoneto, 40E a person, dinner 20E- we thought well worth it, only a ten minute drive or so to the city,, [email protected]) but because of some difficulty with the directions, it took us some time to find it.

We checked in. Our room was like a cottage with 3 extra beds in a loft. After checking in we headed to Syracuse where we made our way to the island, Ortygia, which is the heart of the city. Syracuse was settled by the Corinthian Greeks in the 8th century B.C. and has a colorful and lengthy history. It was often the premier city of Sicily and for awhile was the dominant city of the Mediterranean.

After parking the car we went to the Duomo which has been a place of worship since the 6th century B.C. The first temple was replaced by a temple to Athena in 480 B.C. In the 7th century A.D. the temple columns were incorporated into a Christian Church; it most probably was a mosque during the Arab occupation, and restored to Christian use by the Normans in the 12th century. The 1693 earthquake resulted in the front façade to be rebuilt in the Baroque style. St. Lucy was honored here as many of her bones were in reliquaries.

We then went to the fountain of Aretusa which provides fresh water very close to the sea. It has roots in mythology as Aretusa and Alpheus turned into underwater rivers, became intertwined and surfaced here.

There were many more sights in the ancient city including a temple to Apollo, the Via Venetto- which was a street of palaces where processions took place, a castle (you can now only glimpse it at an angle due to renovations) and other old buildings. The weather hadn't been great, windy, cool, and now it was raining, so we took 30 minutes at an internet café where we caught up on things at home.

We had a fun dinner at the farm. We ate with a German couple from Munich and discussed various things including economics and politics. Dinner was very good, appetizers, cus-cus with meat, vegetables, and ended with gelato for dessert.

In the morning we went to the Archeological Museum, which was quite extensive and I believe finally coalesced for me the history of the island. Many splendid exhibits took us about 3 hours. It worked out well because it rained all morning but had stopped when we emerged.

Lunch was sandwiches and gelato.

We then headed for the Greek Theater (3rd largest Greek theater in the world). There was a play that night so some of the seating was covered. Behind the Theater was the Nymph's cave with a waterfall and the street of tombs.

The Ear of Dionysius was down below. This was a quarried cave the acoustics of which spawned many stories.

Next was a large altar to Heiron II carved out in the 3rd century B.C.

East of the altar was the Roman amphitheatre; think of the coliseum on a small scale. One side was built with blocks, the other was carved out of rock.

We then visited Archimedes tomb, which was empty.

The Church of Mary delle Lacrime dominates the Syracuse skyline. This is a modern church that was built on the spot where a statue of the Virgin Mary cried for 5 days in 1953. The Church is intended to resemble a teardrop and is quite a sight from the inside.

We next went to the Church of St. Giavani which holds crypts and catacombs. This is where the Christian Church first got a foothold in Sicily and in fact was the first Christian Church in the West. As early as 39 A.D. Christians were organizing here and Paul and Luke preached here. There is a crypt of St. Marcia who was flogged to death in 254. Below are catacombs which contained the remains of 20,000 Christians, including the first nuns. (Empty now) We had a guided tour with some English which was very interesting.

We then drove to Castello Eurialo. This surprisingly was free. It is a stone fortress outside the city that tied into the defensive walls and was designed to guard the main north road into the city. Archimedes helped design it and is the most sophisticated Greek fortress standing. It included a series of levels, moats, tunnels and configurations intended to disorient an enemy at every turn. The defenses were never tested. The Carthaginians avoided the fortress when they attacked, and it was surrendered to the Roman Marcellus in 212 B.C. without a fight (this was 3 years after Syracuse had allied itself with Rome). It was fun climbing around and we got lucky with the weather again because it looked threatening.

Back to the farm for dinner; being Friday it was fish night. Olives and bread followed by bowtie pasta with fish sauce- delicious. The next course was a salad with a platter of seafood- fish, calamari, fried baitfish, and some unidentifiable sea creatures; melon for dessert- Teresa was happy. Lemoncello followed.
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Old Jul 18th, 2005, 08:26 AM
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Saturday morning had us heading north. We stopped first at Acireale, a larger than expected town with 3 Baroque churches, we beat weddings in all three. (This stop was my idea. Cute town but traffic and parking were so bad that it wasn't worth the effort. I think we have decided the Baroque towns are overrated. One would have been enough for us.)

Then it was off to Taormina, a resort on the coast. (Hotel Victoria, 100E, 10E for parking nearby, you can't really use a car in town, don't need it, good location on the main pedestrian street, nice staff, nice room, We checked into our hotel, grabbed sandwiches and gelato and took the cable car down to the beach.

We made a tactical error and walked north to the uncrowded sandy beach (a good two miles); after awhile we walked back to the southern beach and Isola Bella. There the beach was covered in rocks but there were places to rent a lounge chair if you wished and restaurants along the beach.

We got back, cleaned up and joined the promenade on Umberto Corso. After strolling for a while we picked a restaurant. We both had a pizza and split a tuna and egg salad. We promenaded some more before I had gelato- Teresa deferred.

Early Sunday morning we drove to Mt. Etna which Teresa pronounced
Ve su ve us. I do not often get to drive on narrow and very curvy mountain roads so I used the opportunity to go pretty fast. Mario Andrade! While doing this we found ourselves behind a somewhat slower moving vehicle. Teresa realized the occupants were most likely headed to the same destination we were but I did not relent. Eventually I found an opportunity to pass. The passed car's occupants sure enough joined us at the embarkation point for the trip up to the summit. Peter and Veronica (Vronx) turned out to be very nice and did not give me much of a hard time. (They got in a few jibs and well deserved!) They are a very well-traveled couple from near Stratford, England. After some gentle ribbing about pushing them up the mountain we traded travel stories with them. We had an hour to do that as the vehicle that takes you up the mountain won't go until there are enough customers to make it worthwhile. The embarkation point itself is in the middle of a lava flow.

The vehicles are abbreviated buses with huge tires. There is a road carved out of the lava flows. We are taken as far as they can and then let out. It was very cold and windy but we were well prepared. One of the guides brought his blonde lab which was apparently a daily event as he frolicked and even rolled in the snow as if he wasn't cold enough. (I again won the snowball fight!)

The scenery was nothing like I expected; it looked like I would expect Mars to look like, or a Pete Dye course. Etna still lets off steam and we couldn't go to the peak crater. On the way back we went by a few craters including the one that erupted in 2002. Just inches below the surface the rocks were very hot to the touch. Teresa discovered one of the guides spoke English so she learned all things volcanic. (Why he kept this a secret to this point I don't know. I guess we were so used to English not being available that we didn't even think to ask. His mother was from New York I think and his dad Sicilian. )

On our way back we stopped at Langualesse where a nice man convinced us to buy salami, cheese, and bread, (the tomatoes were Teresa's idea). We also bought some pastries at a separate shop. We ate them in our room's balcony overlooking Umberto Corso.

It was then off to the beach where we found a comfortable spot on Isola Bella, on the tiny comfortable rocks.

Back to the room to clean up for dinner. We took a recommendation from the Rough Guide and ate at Granduca. Very good- Teresa had a large dinner salad, I had sardine pasta which was sublime and a steak which surpassed the one I had in Dubrovnik the year before. The restaurant was on a balcony overlooking the ocean and on a clear day you can see Etna. Unfortunately we were one row away from the edge, those tables already being occupied or reserved.

Monday morning started with a climb up the mountain to Castelmola. (Of course my idea, might have been better to take the bus up and walk back but we thought we would be able to climb up to the castle on our way there. It ended up being closed for repairs.) We stopped at the Stations of the Cross on the way up to meditate and stretch our calves. After a 1 1/2 hour climb we reached the quaint little town. Teresa knew I had not had my morning coke so she hustled me into the Bar Tourista. (Yeah right!) I took a picture of her on the 3rd floor overlooking the scenery. Make sure to ask her about the Bar's décor.

After walking through the city we climbed up to the remnants of the castle there. Not that impressive. On the walk down we ran into Peter and Vronx who were headed up.

Back to the room, we finished the lunch from the day before and headed to the Greek theater. What would have been a spectacular view was ruined by a movie screen for the Taormina Film Festival. (Felt it was a waste of 8Es!) Next we went to our spot on Isola Bella. This time we were early enough so that it was warm enough to go snorkeling. The viewing was good though we had to avoid small jellyfish. We were also entertained by four posers, two men and two women who pretended experience with photography. Gelato on the way back. We reached our room before a marching band went by our balcony. Dinner at Gamborra Rosso's. Teresa had eggplant pasta and salad. I had anchovy pizza. I was given olive oil and oregano on the side.

After dinner we walked to the English Garden (by a real Englishwoman who was exiled for having an affair with Queen Victoria's firstborn) and then to the theater- the Greek theater. We sat on 2400 year old seats to first watch Malcolm McDowell receive an award and tell a colorful story about Peter O'Toole during the filming of Caligula; and then a movie (in English) a USA soccer rip-off of "Miracle". We sat with Peter and Vronx. Afterwards gelato on the way back.
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Old Jul 18th, 2005, 08:27 AM
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The next morning we ran into a scheduling problem. When we arrived in Milazzo we discovered that the line running hourly trips to Lipari had 3 ships broken down so we had to wait for a 2:30 hydrofoil. We walked around Milazzo, ate lunch and then sat at a little snack place with outdoor seating and shade and had gelato, killing time. The boat trip was short and we were greeted as we disembarked by our hostess. Our room had a/c, refrigerator, stove, utensils etc. It was a ten minute walk into town but the cost was right. (Le Terrazze, 52E for a room with small kitchen, [email protected], not sure this is the correct email, she was having trouble with her's but this might get to her, the daughter (Tiziana), speaks good English.

We walked up to the castle where we visited the Duomo. (They have a good archeological museum in the castle but Steve felt we'd been in enough, guess we had been in the best on the island but who knows what we missed!) We questioned excursion-mongers about boat trips, went online for a little bit and then went to the supermarket to pick up snacks and such. For dinner I had pizza, (yes again) Teresa had salad and pasta. Near us sat "Little Darcy" and the "rude guy". It wasn't that he sent back 2 bottles of wine, but the way he treated the waiter.

The next day was boat excursion day. We booked tickets, ate some pastry and then down to the boat. About 15 on the boat (including little Darcy and the rude guy).We talked to a young couple from Milan who were nice and funny. Our first stop was a swimming stop at a cave on Panarea Island. The water was cool but the snorkeling good; a girl there was diving for some sort of mussels. We then docked at the islands' main city. We did some window shopping, ate some tuna sandwiches and some Magnums.

Our boat then took us to an unnamed island for more snorkeling. From there we headed to Stromboli. On the way we stopped at a spot where sulfur was coming up from a crater under the sea. It looked like someone had cut air hoses in an old Sea Hunt episode. No fish can live in the area.

Arriving in Stromboli, we swam at a pumice beach, Teresa posed on the rocks. (Boy did it hurt to walk on those rocks!) After the swim we had two hours to spend on Stromboli which included visiting the church, window shopping and waiting for our pizzas. (And waiting, and waiting, but it was the best pizza I had all trip. The sausage which is like pepperoni but spicier was great!)

Back to the boat. We circled Strombolicchio, the remnants of a large island worn away by various forces of erosion, and then headed to the other side of Stromboli for viewing of the sparks and flaming rocks that occur every 20 minutes or so but can only be seen at night. They don't last long and I was unable to get a picture. Because the day was close to the summer solstice it stayed light until late and although the boat stayed later than it was booked to, it really was dark enough for the best viewing. As we were heading back we could see more activity. Back to Lipari, gelato, and bed.

Thursday we decided to rent a scooter from the place we were staying and tour the island. We checked out Spiaggio Bianco (white beach) north of Canneto, now more like gray beach as the white pumice is being washed away. Speaking of white pumice, we next went to pumice excavation site and saw pumice being loaded onto a freighter.

We circled the island, stopping at our leisure to take in views from the high points.

We turned our scooter in and then took the ferry for the short ride to Vulcano, famous in myth and legend. We decided to first climb up to the caldera. The climb was made difficult by the very soft pathway leading up. Arriving at the top we circled the caldera. Overall the trip was reminiscent of the rim walk on Santorini. The caldera, as well as a few other spots spouted sulfur. We had to keep checking the wind so we would not be affixiated. Actually, the walk is easily survivable if you can walk a tightrope for 2 straight hours. (Don’t be such a baby!) The day was cool, misty and drizzling slightly which was great for what we were doing but not good for pictures.

When we climbed down we went to observe those immersing themselves in sulfuric mud baths, a superstitious ritual thought to cure warts, acne, emphysema, and the gout. Several people were foolish enough to partake. The sight was almost as disgusting as the smell emanating from it.

The trip to Vulcano was nice, although since we had lemoncello before the trip, Teresa was insistent in asking everyone there if they knew Mr. Spock. (Isn't he just too funny!)

We took the ferry back and cleaned up for dinner. I had spaghetti al tonne (tuna) very good, and beefsteak, very thin. Teresa had vegetable soup, sausages, and a Sicilian vegetable dish of eggplant, capers, tomatoes, onions, etc.
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Old Jul 18th, 2005, 08:28 AM
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We got up early the next morning to get the ferry to Milazzo. We had trouble getting a hold of Tindaro to get our car but it worked out. We drove to San Stefano, a ceramic center with some shops known for more creative art. We made a few purchases, saw a church and walked around the town. More people insisted we were German.

From there we decided to take the coast road to Cefalu. We first went to our B&B (Casa Guercio ,56E, Maurizio Guercio host- very nice and speaks English, very pretty area in the national park, nice room with adjoining bathroom and shared living area with kitchen for total of three bedrooms, The B&B was 4 km up a narrow winding road. It didn't sound like a long drive but put 4km on a curvy road and it seems to last forever. That was easy compared to Cefalu where we went next and accidentally drove through town to get to the beach. (We paid about 6E each to use a lounge chair only to find there was a free area just past where we came down on the beach. It was convenient to have the bathroom and a place to change.) We ate pizza at the beach restaurant and spent a few hours there, reading and walking the beach. It was a little late so we didn't go in the water. (I found some more cool rocks.) We changed clothes in the facilities and walked to the center of the city. The Duomo had a famous mosaic (what else?) After getting to know the city we climbed to the Temple of Diana which was halfway up La Rocca and, of course, we climbed the rest of the way, past the Byzantine walls, the medieval walls, and the castle battlements.

Cefalu has been inhabited from the 9th century B.C. and the Greeks came in the 5th century B.C. The Duomo was built by the Norman, Roger II in 1131. Supposedly he survived a shipwreck on its beach and pledged to build a church. Although a power struggled with Pope Innocent II is also mentioned.

After the long ascent and descent we looked for a spot for dinner. We both had great branchiate, I had penne Norman, Teresa had linguine chef, and we both had grilled swordfish and insalada mista.

In the morning we breakfasted with 4 Americans- two from Tampa and two from Minneapolis. It was fun practicing our English.

Then it was off to the mountains, specifically the Parco Della Madonne. Our first stop was Sanctuario di Gibilmanna, which is a shrine devoted to the Blessed Mother. The Vatican confirmed claims of miracles here of curing the blind and mute. We were in time for Mass.

Next we went to Castlebuono which was a medieval city in the mountains. The castle was a mostly square edifice, but in good shape. The rooms all had exhibits in them. We decided to lunch there which included a stuffed rice ball (which we hadn't tried until then) and a deep dish pizza slice (one of the very few of that variety we had seen) which was smothered in onions, peppers, anchovies, etc. I got all the anchovies. Great gelato followed.

We then headed to Petralia Soprano but after 50 minutes on the road we realized that our backpack and camera were still on the floor where we ate lunch. Made it back there in record time and the nice people had put it in a safe place for us. We got back on the road, realizing that we probably would not win the Amazing Race today and arrived at our next destination and enjoyed the view from "the loftiest village in the Madonne" and the best preserved in Sicily. We arrived at siesta time and it was like a ghost town.

Because of time restrictions, we only drove through Petralia Sottana on our way to Collesano where we went into Chiesa Madre which was filled with great art.

We headed back to the coast, hitting some very minor, minor, roads, and made our way to Caccamo, a very large 12th century fortress/castle. The Carthaginians built the original tower stronghold, but most of it was built by the Normans in the 12th century with renovations in the 16th. In 1160 the Barons of Sicily met here to plot the overthrow of William the Bad. They were unsuccessful. We had our own personal tour guide who was hanging around hoping to snare just about any nationality since he spoke several languages including Japanese. He gave us a pretty good tour, in very fast English with lots of helpful information since our books had little.

Back to Palermo. (Mercure Palermo Centro, 80E through,
nice hotel in the newer part of town, not too far from where you catch the bus to the airport, 10 min. walk) It was a tossup as to whether the more grueling driving was the all day narrow winding mountain roads or Palermo at rush hour. We found our hotel, dropped off our bags (at which time I followed a Sicilian tradition by parking illegally) then we returned the car and caught a bus back to our neighborhood. We sought out our kebab place and found there were several in that area, the only ones we had seen in Sicily.

Via della Liberta had been closed for the evening and we strolled down the middle of the street. On the way back to our hotel we found gelato.

We rose early the next morning and everything went smoothly until we reached the airport. We noticed our flight was not appearing on the Board. After some help from information I spoke to the Supervisor of Air One (we believe to be a subsidiary of Lufthansa) and the flight had either been cancelled or changed from 10:30 to 12:15. Air One was now 2 for 2 in screwing up our schedule by changing flights without telling us. We had obtained the tickets for this flight only 3 weeks before in Rome. Be very careful about using this carrier. I would be very worried about making a connecting flight using them.

Finally arriving in Rome, we checked into our hotel. HOTEL DES ARTISTESVia Villafranca 20 Phone: + 39 064454365 Fax: + 39 064462368 E-Mail: [email protected], 120E first night 135E 2nd, I think we got into the high season. Close to train station, nice staff, good number of young people, nice little hotel.) We then took the metro to Coliseum, walked by the 3 forums, the Victor Emmanuel monument and Trajan's column. We headed for Trevi Fountain and stopped at 3 churches (including St. Rita's). After the Fountain and gelato for lunch (it was still our vacation) we headed to the Pantheon. On the way we stopped at the Jesuit Church which was very large and beautiful. It had the remains of St. Aloysius (Teresa's Father's name) and his feast was being celebrated. We caught the tail end of mass and talked to the priest after it. He was very nice and personable, and having spent a lot of time in Australia, spoke English very well - he made fun of my Italian. I told him my Jesuit joke.

When we arrived at the Pantheon it was closed but the Piazza Novanna was bustling. We decided to sit and have drinks and watch the world walk by as we admired the fountains. Then it was time for haggling with artists and handbag salesmen and watching street performers. Teresa was embarrassed at the fun I was having.

We decided on Chinese for dinner for a change, and then went to the Spanish steps to make out. The plan was to take the metro back to the hotel, but it had closed so we had a 30 minute walk home. Teresa still insisted on walking up 6 flights instead of taking the elevator.

The next morning the search for the way to get to Hadrian's Villa took us on quite a tour of the city, much of which we hadn't seen before. This was entirely my fault in that I didn't bring my travel book info. for Rome. We looked in a tour book at our hotel but got only partial information and thus were looking for the wrong place to catch the bus. We finally found out how to get there, and took the bus to Tivoli. We ate at a small shop near the bus stop before we walked to the Villa. A hot day!

The Villa sprawled out over 300 acres and was a city unto itself, with a Temple, Theater, Gymnasium, three baths and a building with 100 rooms. We were glad the bus back to town was air conditioned even though it took the longer route.

We packed for the trip back.

Our connection in Madrid was delayed as the pilot thought he heard a noise in the engine and it took a couple of hours to find a different pilot. My credit card wouldn't work on the phone on the plane, so I borrowed the steward's credit card and paid him 10 euros to call to let our ride know we would be late. Good vacation! (I do love Rome!)
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Old Jul 18th, 2005, 09:10 AM
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(Well there you have it! Congratulations to anyone who persevered through the novel. We were very happy with the itinerary, everything fit. If you don't go to Mondello beach from Palermo then you might want to cut a day off there. Traffic in Palermo made walking around unpleasant, unless you like playing dodge car. Wouldn't use Air One if I were replanning! If you read this in the distant future and have a question go ahead and email us since we don't always check the sight once we are out of the vacation planning mode. [email protected] put Fodor's question in your subject line so we don't delete your message. Good travels!)
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Old Jul 18th, 2005, 09:37 AM
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Wonderful reading! We are going to Sicily in September and I am looking forward to everything except the flights on Air One. Thanks for the warning.
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Old Jul 18th, 2005, 10:34 AM
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Very nice report---we did about the same trip in May including 2 of the same hotels.
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Old Jul 18th, 2005, 10:49 AM
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Dear Teresa
Thank you for a wonderful report - you certainly do know your history - are you art historians?
I am planning a trip for the end of this month and have found your report most inspiring.
We will be staying in a villa near Trapani for a week and exploring from there. Other areas will have to wait for another trip.
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Old Jul 18th, 2005, 11:25 AM
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Thanks for the report. I'm going in October so I've made a few notes especially about Enna.
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Old Jul 18th, 2005, 12:14 PM
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What a weath of information!! Thank you so much for posting!!!
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Old Jul 18th, 2005, 03:07 PM
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Thank you for your detailed report! I'm glad you made it through Enna. It doesn't seem to make many itineraries. Now I'm anxious to return to Sicily again.
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Old Jul 18th, 2005, 05:28 PM
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Thank you for posting your excellent report. It was so interesting. You shared a wealth of information. Good job!
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Old Jul 19th, 2005, 07:04 AM
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Enjoyed your trip report!I also stayed at Hotel Victoria in Taormina a few years ago and was surprised to see the prices have not changed. I feel this is so centrally located and such a good price at that.
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Old Jul 21st, 2005, 05:31 PM
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Glad you all enjoyed Steve's journal. If anyone is interested in Croatia (which we would highly recommend), his journal for that trip can be found at June Trip to Croatia-Journal
on 09/22/2004.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2005, 04:01 AM
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Nice report. Brings back a lot of memories. I LOVED the zuppa de cozze at Granduca. YUMMY!
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Old Jul 22nd, 2005, 08:56 AM
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What an extensive GREAT report.
To answer your CACTUS question - PRICKLY PEARS are normally the 'fruit' of the cactus and Sicily often has festivals in certain areas to celebrate this - LOVE the syrupy taste!
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