How did it get to be September already??
Today we sailed into the port of Naxos, Sicily and we planned an excursion to Taormina. The view from the harbor is amazing. We took a tender in as there is no cruise dock. In the distance you see Mt. Etna, which is still an active volcano.
First a few things we learned about Sicily:
It was settled by the Greeks from the Greek island of Naxos, which is how this port town got its name. Greek occupation lasted 5 centuries, but then Sicily was ruled by Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, German, French and Spanish. This is why you see so many different architectural styles here. It is now part of Italy and is quasi – independent and part of the EU. Angelo, our guide, says that the EU is “Germany” and not what they thought it would be!
People say that the view from the Greek theater’s highpoint to be one of the most breathtaking in all of Italy. A bit hazy today, but it is still spectacular. That is our ship on the left.
It is the largest island in the Mediterranean, about the size of New Jersey or Massachusetts and 5 million people live here. Taormina is Sicily’s most popular summer destination with many chic hotels, summer residences and guest houses. Much was destroyed in the bombings of WW II but was restored soon after the war.
There is a ferry that actually carries trains from Rome to Sicily but it takes 10 hours, then the trains run on the island. Most people fly though, that takes an hour from Rome.
We had a bus ride up to Taormina from Naxos and had to stop part way up and take the shuttle bus, the streets are so narrow up there that no buses are allowed. It was a lovely walk into town. There is another village, Castlemola, even higher on the hills. We asked why people made such effort to build so high and into the cliffs, and Angelo told us that the biggest threat was pirates, so no one wanted to be living or having shops on the seaside. Now that isn’t a threat (at least here) so there are villages, hotels, etc on the beach too.
We saw St. Catherine’s Church and her statue – this is St. Catherine of Alexandria who was beheaded by a sword when she refused to marry a non Christian. The walls of this fortress are built that way at the top so that archers could rest their arrows in the V before firing.
We walked lots of hills and steps to the fantastic Greek theater which was built in the 3rd century BC and used for theatrical performances. It holds 5000 spectators. It was rebuilt by the Romans in the 2nd century AD and used for gladiators, now it is still used almost every day for theater, ballet, opera and yes, rock concerts, one is scheduled for tonight and there is an amazing array of lights and sound equipment being put in as we toured.
We then had time for exploring, of course we had our daily Italian gelato (will miss that, even though we have homemade ice cream on the ship).
We also tasted carob right from the tree. The seed is what was used to determine a “carat” for diamond sizing. Who knew?!
And, for the readers of this blog who appreciate literature, DH Lawrence wrote “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” while here.
In every port Norm hears me whisper, “I love it here” and Sicily is no exception.
It just keeps getting better! Until the next blog…..
we are happy that the two of you had good weather to see its beauty…. we love Italy and it seems you two feel the same.
Great intelligence. We’ll be doing an Oceana tour of Taormina on October 31!