Okay, be honest. Before the G7 meeting, had you ever heard of Taormina? If I had, it didn’t register, until we booked this trip.
But before heading to Taormina, we still had lots to see and do in Catania. I’ll tell ya, I was totally unprepared for how much I enjoyed Catania. What a pleasant surprise. It was easy to get around, with lots to see, and of course, with an abundance of great restaurants.
The city was conquered by the Romans in 263 BC, and as with other areas in their empire, the Romans left their mark, which the city has wisely preserved.
Yes, Catania has the requisite number of churches, fountains and statues. It also has lots of interesting streets, like this one. It isn’t immediately apparent, but as you climb all those stairs,
you are rewarded with views like this.
As one would expect of a city smack dab on the ocean, Catania’s fish market was HUGE, as were its products. Check out that swordfish.
Coming from coastal Massachusetts, however, this girl wasn’t all that impressed.
I DID get excited about the market’s fruit, though, especially those cherries. I don’t know who was more excited about my purchase–him or me? To show his appreciation, he gave me a slice of the most delicious cantaloupe I’ve ever tasted. Fresh, delicious fruit… aah, that’s what I call quality of life!
But I didn’t fill up on cherries. Good thing because we had yet another incredible lunch at a little outdoor cafe off of the main square, across from the cathedral. You’d think by now I would remember to write the cafe’s name down or take a picture of the menu, but I did neither. Sorry, future visitors to Catania. I believe it was on the corner, facing the elephant’s behind, where the tan umbrellas are.
On to Taormina, where security was tight. Good thing our group was in great shape, because we had to walk quite a distance. Bus access into the town and to the amphitheater was limited, even though the leaders would not be arriving for another week.
The amphitheater was the perfect spot for a group photo. And what a group we were! All seasoned travelers, everyone was considerate, friendly and easy to be with. Of course I had my favorites (and they know who they are), but I would be thrilled to see any of them on a future trip.
The Greek Amphitheater is still used for outdoor concerts, but those white plastic chairs are not normally in place. People usually sit on the stone steps, bleachers or the grassy sections. The plastic seats were set up for the following week’s G-7 conference.
The view from the site is unforgettable. See that cloud of smoke in the distance? That’s Mount Etna.
And that’s where we were headed on our last day in Catania. But first, one last shot of Taormina. Yes, the streets in the city are a bit steep, but none of our group needed a golf cart to get around. (I’m just sayin’…)
Okay, so I’ll admit it. I was absolutely thrilled to be able to hike on an active volcano. Of course, this being OAT, we were accompanied by Marco, our expert local guide who made sure we were safe at all times. Marco came equipped wth visual aids, walking sticks and hard hats!
We learned our group was unique, in that EVERYONE made the hike and descended into the lava tubes. Apparently this was a first for Marco. He said on all his other tours a couple of people waited at the base and didn’t take part in all the activities. Yay us!
Here’s one of our guide, Daniel’s, photos. As you can see from our clothing (and my hat) It was cold and windy on the volcano. I was glad I’d packed my fleece!
So why did we need hard hats? Well, when you climbed down into a lava tube, it’s a good idea to protect your head and turn your head lamp on.
Yet another one of Daniel’s photos–the group inside the lava tube.
If you think this blog post was a whirlwind, you’d be right. And that’s how it felt to be on the trip. A very nice, interesting, FUN whirlwind. We definitely got a lot for our money!
We said good-bye to our new friends at that night’s farewell dinner.
Most were headed home, but very early the following morning (5 AM), Mike, Owen, Shirley and I started our Malta adventure, which I’ll be posting about next.