Italy & Tunisia 2005 >
Eastern Sicily

We crossed from Malta to Sicily, and in a whirlwind of three days caught glimpses of quite a few places, some of which were more fun than others. Pozzallo, Ragusa, Siracusa, Noto, Mt. Etna, Taormina.
The sun rises during the 90-minute hovercraft ride to Pozzallo, in the southeastern corner of Sicily. It was the start of day that was planned to have lots of travel connections, and some efforts we made to improve them actually made them worse. Travel Connection Hell...
All of the stress involved in getting to Siracusa evaporated immediately upon arrival at Airone B&B, a delightful little place located deep on the island of Ortygia, which is basically the "medina" of Siracusa. Here's a typical street in this area.
Our second day was spent completely in Siracusa. We spent the morning walking around Ortygia. The main museum was closed for restoration, so we visited the rustic cathedral and an underground space used as air raid shelters during World War II. The cathedral was originally a Greek temple honoring Athena -- when they built the cathedral they left the Doric columns in place. Around Ortygia...
A wonderful little trattoria we stumbled on, and returned to have dinner at. The initial attraction was that it didn't say "pizzeria", therefore it had the potential of not being exactly the same as everything else. (Dave does a pretty good job of avoiding "everything else".) The Menu...
Dumping construction refuse from the ceiling to a truck. It made a wonderful sound.
In the afternoon, we went to the "archaeological park" in the modern downtown area. This cave is called the "Ear of Dionysus" because its acoustics allowed him to hear anything that was said in it by his staff. Why would his staff go in there to talk anyway?
Inside the Ear.
There was the usual Greek theater in these Roman ruins. This particular one had a structure that looked like a three-story outhouse. Maybe it was the sound booth.
More chariot ruts. Still not the same dimension as railroad tracks, nor even each other. There are niches in the walls for gods or art or ads. Straight ahead you can see the conical Sanctuary of the Weeping Madonna.
Ruin of the Roman amphitheater.
It's pretty expensive to buy a ticket to see the archaeological park. It's even more annoying when there are large sections of it you can't actually go in anymore, such as this area.
A detail on the outside of the Basilica of St. Giovanni. Beneath the Basilica is the second largest set of Roman catacombs outside Rome, but we couldn't take any pictures during our tour of it.
The Sanctuary of the Weeping Madonna, which strikes me as Siracusa's answer to the Crystal Cathedral. Inside the Sanctuary...
As we walked back to the island, we passed this panda refrigerator. It seems Japanese in its kawaii.

"Something cute gets you here. If only I could come up with a Hello Kitty smart bomb."

—Shintaro Tsuji, Sanrio CEO.
We passed this guy building a boat.
On the third day, we drove to Noto, Mt. Etna, and Taormina. Like Napier in New Zealand, Noto was destroyed by a disaster, in this case an eruption of Mt. Etna, and was entirely rebuilt all at the same time. We were disappointed that a particular patisserie our food book mentioned was closed for vacation, but we peeked in several churches, and it was interesting to see how stylistically similar they were.
In particular, they were mostly white, and they had paintings which "didn't stay inside the lines". Around Noto...
There wasn't much to see at Mt. Etna, but it was a good excuse to get outside and walk around. The entire upper part of the mountain was covered by fog. We did get up high enough to see big areas where lava had killed off the forest the last time it erupted. At least we saw that between fog banks. We walked up to the top of a little hill near the parking lot.
Grass growing in the lava.
Making baby ladybugs.
Taormina was very picturesque, but it was unpleasantly touristed. Here's its Greek theater, just as the rain was subsiding. People waited out the storm in the little niches behind the seats.
A glimpse of the town behind the stage.
Pasticceria Etna makes all of these these cheese sandwiches, fried eggs, prickly pears, and mandarin oranges out of marzipan.
On to Napoli, Pompeii, and Herculaneum

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