We just got back from a 10 day trip in Sicily, where we drove around the whole island, saw some amazing Greek ruins, and did a kayaking trip with the most amazing host ever! How about some stories and photos?
We flew into Catania on the East coast of Sicily. We had hoped to get a sim card for the phone when we landed at the airport, but couldn’t find them for sale, so we ventured into the city blind, with no idea where our hotel was. This was…a mistake, to say the least, as we quickly discovered, mostly because driving in Sicily was INSANE. I’ll say more about that later…. Anyway, we ended up turning on the roaming on our Finnish sim card, just to map the hotel and cache it.
We spent a day wandering around Catania, soaking up the warmth and sights of the city. I suffered a bit of culture shock, with all the buildings and people and cars and noise – seems I’ve gotten quite used to small-town-Finland life!
Roman Amphitheatre, Piazza Stesicoro, Catania Sicily
Graffiti seems to be a national pastime in Sicily…
The next day, we took a drive up to Mt Etna, which looms over Catania. Mt Etna is the highest volcano in Europe, and remains quite active. It’s actually just been accepted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with an official proclamation scheduled for June, per Wikipedia. Unfortunately, the day we went, the clouds were low, and when we took the cable car up to the top of Etna visibility there was less than 20 feet. We had hoped to do an excursion to the top of the volcano, but the weather made it impossible. Still, we were able to walk around the Silvestri Craters at the main tourist hub, which were the source of lava flow in the 1892 eruption.
Mt Etna, towering over the city of Catania
Silvestri Crater at Mt Etna
Next, we drove down to Syracuse and spent the afternoon wandering around the Old Town portion, Ortygia Island, which I completely fell in love with. It was a much slower pace than Catania, better maintained, and surrounded by the sea, which immediately made me happy. We saw the end of a wedding at the cathedral in Piazza Duomo, then chose a restaurant at random for dinner. Twenty minutes later, four people came in with American accents, saying they were with the Rick Steves tour. Twenty more Americans quickly followed. This little restaurant in Syracuse, and it’s the two of us, 24 other Americans, and a handful of Italians eating. Go figure!
Looking over Porto Piccolo in Siracusa, Sicily
Castello Maniace, perched on a promontory at the south end of Ortygia, Syracuse Sicily
Temple of Apollo, from the 6th century BC
We spent the night in Syracuse at a lovely hotel, then in the morning walked across the street to the Museo Archeologico Regionale, which houses statues, pottery, and other artifacts from the 5th century BC and earlier, from Greek, Roman, and Christian eras. It was stunning to see so many artifacts so well preserved. Next we went down the street to the Parco Archeologico Della Neapolis, which includes a Greek Theater, a Roman Amphitheater, and the Ear of Dionysius – a soaring cavern (76ft high) with amazing acoustics. Supposedly you can stand at one end and hear a whisper at the other end, 214 feet away, but everyone there wanted to yell.
The Ear of Dionysius, at the Syracuse Archaeological Park
Inside the Ear of Dionysius
Roman Amphitheater in Syracuse
Also in Syracuse was this Cathedral that looked quite interesting from the outside – it reminded me of the Church of Saint Joseph in Le Havre, France. However, when we went inside, we were surprised that it was essentially a concrete bunker, and everything above the ceiling of the second floor level was blocked. There was no light streaming in through the top, as we expected. Very strange…
Our Lady of Tears Shrine in Syracuse, Sicily
Next we drove to Agrigento, where we strolled with the locals along what was apparently a promenade. Everyone was out in their Sunday best, seeing and being seen, arm in arm with husbands, friends, and grandchildren. And I forgot to put the SD card back in my camera, so unfortunately, no pictures…
I think that’s enough for now. Keep an eye out for Part 2 of our trip, when we go to the Valley of the Temples, Selinunte, and the medieval town of Erice!