Category Archives: Italy

Catania, and Arrivederci Sicilia

Today, the last day I am part of this tour and my last full day in Sicily/Italy, brought us to Catania, a city I was clueless about. It’s a gritty, vibrant city of about 300,000 inhabitants; lots of sweets and colorful objects; and a Roman amphitheater that moderns have built atop. The unusual architecture pleased me greatly, but my photos don’t do it justice. Here are my attempts along with lots of other random shots:

img_0948img_0931img_0930img_0932img_0928img_0944img_0959img_1046img_1001img_0995img_1068img_0977img_1049img_0933img_0946img_0940img_0960img_0952img_0951img_0953img_0956img_0971img_0983img_0998img_1014img_1018img_1024img_1036img_1052img_1088

IMG_1113IMG_1119

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

A smoking volcano and its wine

This morning, I got up early to watch the sun rise, then we left Syracuse and headed north to mighty, smoking Mt Etna (there, off to the left in one of the sunrise photos). A local and vivacious volcanologist went with us to the top, telling stories of getting bonked the head with flying rocks after a sudden eruption and about his job of trying to keep people who live on the slopes of an active volcano alive. When I told him I can see the glow of Halemaumau Crater from my bed at home, he knew right where I lived. During his talk he referred to Kilauea several times, which was pretty cool. Mt Etna is a different kind of volcano from the one I live on, but I saw lots of similarities, of course. The group was so impressed by what they saw today – everyday life for me back home – and I was reminded of how unusual the place I live is.

After the mountain we visited a winery on Etna’s slopes. The terroir makes for lovely, highly drinkable wine, I can tell you!

Now I am sitting on a terrace listening to live jazz in Taormina, watching the sun set on the Mediterranean, mainland Italy off to my left, Mt. Etna off to my right. Not too shabby. (And, yea, finally some decent wifi to catch up on my posts.)

Fun fact: Taormina was the home Polyphemus, of the cyclops Ulysses vanquished.

Here are some photos:

IMG_0576IMG_0558IMG_0584IMG_0601IMG_0616IMG_0620IMG_0666IMG_0670IMG_0672

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Ortygia, and fabulous puppets!

We started off this morning traipsing through the open market of Ortygia (snails for lunch, anyone?), then casually walking past ancient ruins surrounded by laundry hung out to dry – oh, the wonderful continuity of humanity! More lovely narrow streets; more churches; Greek, Roman, medieval, Baroque, and Fascist architecture; and a wedding about to start. Italians at weddings are gorgeous, let it be said, although the memory of a Sicilian wedding in ‘The Godfather’ did cross my mind. Afterwards, we saw a marionette show! Puppets, or the delightful pupi in ItalianI can’t express how lively and awesome this was; the marionettists were a family, including a seven-year old girl. It was so cool! And action packed with sword fights and battles, dragons, infidelity, and retribution!  Afterwards I strolled the town, got a bottle of local wine and a pizza, and watched the nearly full moon rise as the waves crashed against the sea wall. More awesomeness, more great food and more great wine. I’m feeling pretty darn fortunate these days.

Here are some photos:

IMG_0359IMG_0399IMG_0405IMG_0403IMG_0401IMG_0523IMG_0410IMG_0416IMG_0437IMG_0439IMG_0452IMG_0449IMG_0458

 

IMG_0468IMG_0495IMG_0497IMG_0513IMG_0516IMG_0508

IMG_0481IMG_0520

IMG_0551

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Villa Romana del Casale and a fabulous lunch with a comtessa

Today we visited the remains of the very large Villa Romana del Casale, rumored to be the home of a wealthy Greek trader. All of the floors throughout the extensive residence are mosaics of phantasmagorical scenes (and athletes in bikinis!). It was discovered by a farmer 60 years ago; can you imagine finding something like this in your backyard? Most likely it had been covered over by landslide in 1300s; this fortunate-for-us event left the place intact for our modern eyes.

After the villa visit, we drove through the middle of Sicily, with its abundant agriculture, Mt. Etna looming ever in the distance. We had a marvelous lunch at the working farm of an extremely gracious, but dispossessed, Italian royal. Writing this hours later in Syracuse, I can’t imagine putting one more morsel of food or one more drop of alcohol in my body.

Lastly, we drove to the next hotel in Ortygia, the historical center of and tiny separate  island off Syracuse.

Here are some photos:

IMG_0264IMG_0266IMG_0277IMG_0230IMG_0244

IMG_0241

IMG_0258IMG_0305HIMG_0338IMG_0331IMG_0333IMG_0332IMG_0328hIMG_0346IMG_0352IMG_0357IMG_0359IMG_0373

Live all all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Agrigento

Left Trapani in the morning and drove southeast across the island towards Agrigento, taking in the expansive, beautiful and diverse island scenery, including olive groves and vineyards.

Agrigento is home of the Valley of the Temples, the remnants of a once thriving Greek city of 200,000. I can’t tell you how many times “Ozymandias” popped into my head: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Dinner was excellent: grilled veggies, risotto, spaghetti wrapped with eggplant slices, a vegetable stew, finished off with lemon granita.

HP fans: did you catch the photo of the purple-flowered mandrake plant in the last post?

Here are some photos:

img_9878-1img_9860-3img_9892img_9890-1img_9893-1img_9914img_9917img_0038img_0078img_0105img_0091img_0122

Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.

Mozia and salt

Today we toured the island of Mozia and its ancient archeological site, and had another fabulous Mediterranean (and vegetarian!) luncheon while sitting on stone chairs at stone tables, cicadas chirping in the background. Wonderful.

Mainland Trapani is famous for its still-used salt flats, and I bought some salt to use at home, as a reminder of this lovely day. I also heard about a Thailand and Cambodia tour in January I’d love to go on . . .

Here are some photos:

IMG_9630IMG_9643img_9632IMG_9633IMG_9659

IMG_9662IMG_9692IMG_9693IMG_9717IMG_9720IMG_9726IMG_9729IMG_9732IMG_9747IMG_9757IMG_9773IMG_9783

live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.