From Messina I went by bus to Taormina, a very nice town that’s pretty vertical—the bus went up, up and up to get me there. And yet, while I was in Taormina I took a little bus farther up, up, up to Castelmola, a little medieval village up in the clouds. I hadn’t realized that Sicily was so mountainous.
Taormina has a Greek Theatre, first built in the 3rd century BC, which I visited plus other miscellaneous palaces and churches overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean. Unfortunately the last couple of days there it poured rain, so I read a couple of books, listened to music, and visited with other hostelers—that’s the fun of staying in a hostel—always somebody to talk with.
I got some really bad mosquito bites—I was told these tiger mosquitoes are from Africa and really cause a reaction. They surely did with me, and when you scratch them—they itch BAD—it sort of spreads like poison ivy until I now have many spots all over my body with quite a severe allergic reaction. It makes it difficult to sleep.
Finally the rain cleared and I took the bus to Catania. What a town. The area around the cathedral is on the Unesco Heritage Site list, but it’s all so messy and down at the heel, it’s hard to appreciate it. But, yes, it is.
I took a tour to Mt. Etna with four women from Austria and a Dutch couple. The Dutch couple asked what language we were speaking, and somebody said, “Deutch”, so they launched into perfect German. When they spoke to me—perfect English.
Mt. Etna has seen explosions, fissures, implosions, etc., for hundreds of thousands of years and is really not one mountain but a conglomeration of all this activity. The most recent fissure resulting in three fairly big craters due to explosions was in 2001. The last big lava flow was for 15 months in ’92-’93.
We were taken into a ‘lava tube’ where hot lava pushes cooler lava ‘over its head’ which then joins, congeals, and once the hot lava has finished flowing away, leaves a tube roughly 15 feet in diameter and 300 meters long (think three football fields). The guide issued us hardhats and special flashlights and we climbed down in. Actually one woman didn’t go.
Then we drove up top where there were many cones in view from many events through the ages and we did some serious climbing around. It was really interesting—kind of a moonwalk.
I couldn’t resist all the good food in the fish, meat, food open air market that I walked through to get to my hostel which was right behind the cathedral but in a pretty weird neighborhood. Anyway, my dinner last night was procuitto, gorgonzolla cheese, bread, gigantic ripe olives, and a bottle of good wine—no, I didn’t finish the whole bottle.
Today I took a bus to Siracusa, a town that gets good reports. Since there is no hostel listed here, I got a private room at a lovely B and B. I think I will miss the camaraderie, although last night a huge group of very young and loud Brits arrived about 1:00 AM and kept whooping it up until nearly 4:00—I guess I won’t miss that! Maybe alternating is best—at the moment I’m really enjoying my solitude.
I had such a good lunch today—Sicily has very good food and wine. They do ladle on the olive oil here and unfortunately I splashed it on my tee shirt from the tagliatelle—oh well, I can easily wash it out, now that I have my own room and bath.
This town has Greek and Roman ruins dotting the landscape—tomorrow I shall look at them in earnest.