Saturday, December 21, 2013

Catania - Taormina

CATANIA (Taorimina)

After 2 sea days (because we had to skip Ravenna due to bad weather), we had finally arrived in Catania, Sicily.  Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean sea, and this island occupies a very strategic position.

Ship's position at 7:07am in the morning.

This write up from wiki is interesting:

"The earliest archeological evidence of human dwelling on the island dates from as early as 8000 BC. At around 750 BC, Sicily was host to a number of Phoenician and Greek colonies and for the next 600 years it was the site of the Greek–Punic and Roman–Punic wars, which ended with the Roman destruction of Carthage. After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, Sicily often changed hands, and during the early Middle Ages it was ruled in turn by the VandalsOstrogothsByzantinesArabs and Normans. Later on, the Kingdom of Sicily lasted between 1130 and 1816, first subordinated to the crowns of AragonSpain, the Holy Roman Empire, and finally unified under the Bourbons with Naples, as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Following the Expedition of the Thousand, a Giuseppe Garibaldi-led revolt during the Italian Unification process and a plebiscite, it became part of Italy in 1860. After the birth of the Italian Republic in 1946, Sicily was given special status as an autonomous region."

As we sail into port, you can clearly see Mt Etna rising above the clouds.

Snow!  It looks very cold near the peak!

We have sailed into the harbour.

The ship docked on time.  We were all ready to get off.  We would be on private tour today.

It was a short walk from the ship out to the Port Gates.

We met our driver.  We were then told that Mt Etna had erupted that very morning and there was plenty of ash on the roads.  Our private tour guide cum driver told us that it wouldn't be possible to go up Mt Etna.  The roads were most likely closed and there was also snow.

Oh well, that was rather disappointing, but I guess we didn't have a choice.

So the driver brought us to another place, called Gole Alcantara.  A large carpark, but no cars or vans.  This was off-season!

This was our private Mercedes van.

Gole Alcantara -
During summer, you can go into the canyons for what is known as river trekking.
This being winter, this option was not available.

It looked like a natural wonder and a very interesting place to experience in summer.

There is the ash.  Fresh ash.

This was taken from a look-out.  In summer, you can river trek into the ravine.

This place will look gorgeous in the sun.  Check out the pictures on the Internet by googling for Gole Alcantara Sicily.

After the brief stop, we made our way to Taormina.    Before arriving at Taormina, we stopped at this lookout by the beach.  Look at these black volcanic rocks.

We certainly didn't have these in Singapore.

You can see Taormina from there.  That town is 204m above sea level.

So we set off towards Taormina and we come to another view point.

This island looked interesting.  Maybe it wasn't an island, could be a peninsular.

There was a structure right on top.

Somebody's residence! Residence Terra Rossa.

We got to Taormina and we would spend a couple of hours here to walk around.  Overall, I wasn't terribly impressed with the place.  It felt like a real tourist trap.  Well, been there and done that!

There were many tour groups from the ship.  You could identify them by their X stickers.

Many restaurants were shut.

Though this cafe was. Rather cold to be sitting out there?  Then again, maybe not.

A very healthy foot traffic.

I wonder where that small street would lead to.  Somebody's home probably.

This restaurant looked like it had lovely views in the evening.

The church.

You can see the ancient castle up the mountain!


Piazza IX Aprile

MDCLXXIX translated to 1679

The Irish pub was open.  We had something to eat here.   The cheese burger was decent.  They only had tuna pasta, which was barely edible.

Tourists, walking.

The Police - City of Taormina.

This was inside the Irish Pub.

That was a pile of volcanic ash.

You can see the castle again.

We proceeded back to the ship.  We took a drive tour through the town of Catania.  We stopped at this fruit truck to check out the fruits.

Back to the ship.   We were the only ship in port, as usual.

For one moment, I thought this ship (Malta Motorways of the Sea) belonged to Royal Caribbean.

Getting back on board.

As it turns out, it was not our day to visit Mt Etna. She continues to erupt as I write this.  However, that may not be a bad thing.  We were told that Mt Etna erupts 10 to 20 times a year.  That is much better than erupting once every 10 or 100 years because the latter would mean a gigantic explosion that would likely take human lives.  We look forward to going back to Catania one day, to see Mt Etna.

Main Dining Room Dinner that evening

I can't remember which salad this was.

This was the Cobb Salad.

Squash, I think.

Duck A-La Orange

Dessert Menu

I cannot remember what this was!!


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