Things I write.

A Day in Sicily

Sicily is an absolutely beautiful island off the coast of Italy, and Messina, our first port of call, on the Navigator of the Seas, is only 2.5 miles from the mainland. It originally broke off from the coast of Africa, not the coast of Italy, and the influence of certain aspects of Arab culture and architecture are still apparent. Rising above the island is Mt. Etna, an active volcano that erupted as recently as 2003. Workers have developed techniques over the years to divert the flow of lava away from populated areas, but you can see the toll that Mt. Etna has taken on the landscape. There are sensational cliffs and rugged mountains. The climate is extremely dry, but many fruit trees and beautiful flowers grow on the mountainsides.

Messina itself is not overly impressive, so we took an excursion to Taormina 35 miles away. Greeks originally founded Taormina in 358 B.C., although the layout of the town gives it a distinctly medieval feel. Our guide mentioned that Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Germans, French and Spanish have occupied Taormina at one time or another before uniting with Italy. Additionally, it has withstood earthquakes, fire, volcanic eruptions, and World War II. So, in other words, the whole place is volatile.


Cars are not allowed in Taormina, so the streets are narrow and cobbled. This time of year the area is packed with European
tourists on holiday, and it is scattered with knick-knack shops with unfortunate t-shirts and mugs featuring the Godfather.  In spite of this we managed to find a couple of spots that were less crowded and more pleasant. We ate lunch at Ristorante Gambero Rosso. If you walk by this restaurant, they don’t give you any choice but to come in. You pass by and they say “hello! How are you! How many? Two? Great! This way!” before you can get a word in edgewise. Although we were lured in, it ended up being a great choice. Later on we found Arte Mediterranean Café for the most phenomenal cannoli and gelato on earth.
Honestly, all you have to do in Taormina to have an amazing time is take a long walk.
This evening we’ve been laying low and watching the Olympics which is interesting to watch from Italy…you end up seeing a lot of fencing, weight lifting and water polo…

Travel Bug: Civitavecchia, Italy

 

Travel to Europe is long and at times stressful, but the journey to Civitavecchia was totally worth it.  A somewhat worn-out seaside town, the views from almost anywhere are beautiful here.

Upon arriving in Rome, you board a train out to Civitavecchia, usually for the express purpose of docking a cruise ship a day later, and this trip was no exception.  Having traveled for about 30 hours without sleep, we walked from our charming bed and breakfast up into the town for take out pizza (post-afternoon nap, of course).  The shop was filled with locals, which meant that this was going to be great pizza.  In fact, we hadn’t encountered any American tourists in this town at all.

We stayed the night at Bed and Breakfast Casamica, which has only two rooms.  The other room was occupied by a friendly family from Madrid, who we ended up chatting with for a couple of hours over a bottle of wine and a slab of prosciutto as the sun set.  Our room lead out onto a patio shaded by an overhead lattice of grapevines and a beautiful view of the Mediterrean Sea.  Unlike the other seaside port areas I’ve been to, this town appears to be unaffected by the influx of American tourists that take over every summer.  Maybe I’m just deluding myself, since Civitavecchia is the main port to Rome after all, and, I’m assuming, innundated by tourists during the high season.  But this particular day, I saw few people who looked American (i.e. wearing Nikes and fanny packs), and heard virtually no English.  Although the local venders and business owners don’t appear overly annoyed if you don’t speak more than five words in Italian, they also don’t cater to tourists…. There are no golden arches jutting into the sky over the red roof tops, no run-of-the-mill cheap souvenir shops with stupid t-shirts reading “I got drunk in Civitavecchia”…. you get the idea.   The point is, I’m sure there are far more charming and “Italian” small towns out there, but the view and close proximity to Rome definitely make it worth a visit, perhaps during a few week days that all the cruise ships are at sea.