We woke up greeted by torrential rains in Rome on Saturday. This required us to change our plans for getting to the airport via hiking to the termini train station. The nuns were very kind to offer breakfast early and to arrange for us to join a busload of German priests who were headed home. We all packed into a couple of their transport vans and before we knew it we were at Fumincino Aeroporte. We boarded our Blu Express flight and within an hour were in Sicily.
We picked up our rental car, a 2014 Fiat with 10 miles on the odometer. The Thrifty rent-a-car rep warned us against leaving anything of value in plain sight within the car. Catania has a history of petty crimes and car thefts.
Our smartphone served us well as our GPS negotiated us around the crazy drivers and streets of historic Catania while searching for the Hotel Liberty. The GPS kept barking out, “turn right at via Vittorio Giribaldi” and we quickly learned that we weren’t in Rome anymore. Most of the marble street makers identifying streets in Catania appeared to have been stolen over the years. Through our harrowing drive, automobiles, pedestrians and motorbikes seemed hell bent to “initiate” our brand new dent free car.
We finally make it to the hotel (amazingly crash free) and gladly parked the car in a 14€ per night underground guarded lot. After checking into the beautiful hotel Liberty, we went for an orientation hike to the historic city center. We then had the opportunity to capture some of this interesting city’s spirit.
Day 1 in Catania
Historic amphitheater ruins. An old man attracted a huge crowd because he was feeding stray gatti. They help keep the underside of the site varmint free.
Beautiful churches in city center
The finest and freshest fish, fruits, vegtables, meats, poultry, and cheeses were available in their open air marketplace
Largest veggies we have ever seen!
Baroque architectures abound in Catania
Lots of building look dingy as they used lots of volcanic stone to rebuild after the Etna’s area earthquake destroyed much of the city in 1693.
Streets look dark and intimidating, but the people we met were quite friendly. One bar even gave us free traditional Siciliana dolce when they found out we were American tourists!
Lots of huge churches in city center
The Liotru. The elephant was taken as the symbol of the city in 1239 when the city was dominated by the Carthaginians. The obelisk set on the back of the elephant was brought to Catania from Egypt during the crusades.
This monument is truly a sight to see.
Dinner was at a traditional Siciliana restautant. Although horse meat was featured on the menu, Sandy opted for pasta al mare with pesto while I chose risotto al fungi. After consuming a healthy amount of vino we walked home.
So far we have walked an average of 8.3 miles per day. Our goal is to incorporate our hiking throughout our “vacation portion” of this trip to retain our fitness level before we begin the camino.
Day 2 in Catania
We headed up to Mount Etna as we were looking forward to taking a great hike up to the active portion of the volcano. Our hotel desk employee told us yesterday that there had been recent snows on the summit but we were well prepared so off we went. We traveled in our Fiat Panda up the Etna Sud route to the highest point possible. Wow were we in for a surprise! There must have been hundreds of locals and an equal number of tourists on the mountain side. Here are some photos of a few things we saw:
Our ride. I was sure I told them I wanted a Ferrari.
On the way to Etna. Lots of sleds for sale. We found out why a little bit later.
Heading up the cable car to the furthest most point near the top
It was COLD and windy near the top
Lots of families having fun on one of the most active volcanos in the world. Never saw so many snowball fights in my life
Site of the 2001 volcanic erruption
The site of the 1986 erruption.
They name their volcanos! This crater is named after my Uncle Sid.
Favorite photo of the day. It looks like it is 3D.
After climbing up Etna Sud we headed down Etna Nord. We happened to end up in a little seaside town called Acicastello. We were impressed by the castle, built on and into a huge deposit of volcanic rock right on the sea.
The Castle was build by the Normans when they occupied Sicily in circa 1090.
This door in an upper floor was about a 12 inches thick
The castle offers quite a nice view.
Some guy photo bombed this great view of the Mediterranean.
That’s all for this post. Next post in a couple of days after visits to Siracusa and Agrigento.