Saturday, March 24, 2012

Taormina and Mount Etna

Thursday March 22nd
Davide, our host at the Agon B&B, served breakfast. We had a great conversation with him and the other guest, Suzanah from Germany. He gave us several tips on what to see and do.

Took a liitle bus up to the main town of Taormina, which is 200 meters above sea level. Met a nice couple from Canada on the bus and they gave us a couple more ideas.

Beautiful sunny day and we walk our way through some of the town to the ancient Greek theatre, which dates to the Hellenistic period, around 3rd century BC. It was transformed into an amphitheater by the Romans when gladiators took center stage after patrons grew tired of tragedies. At some point, in the Medieval age, part of it was used as a palatial residence. Lots of "recycling" of this property took place over 27 centuries.

The most spectacular part are the breathtaking views of the bays and particularly Mt. Etna. It has a looming presence everywhere in the area, from the amphitheater, from the town, from the seaside. There is still snow near the peak even though the eruption last Sunday melted some of it. Davide showed us his photos of the eruption in stages from start to finish. Locals do not live in fear of its eruptions; they, in fact, look forward to them. David seemed quite informed, since he is a guide,and said Mt Vesuvius is a dangerous volcano, but Mt Etna is a very different kind and people actually hope to collect lava. He showed us a piece he obtained last year.The country is trying to encourage people to move away from Mt Vesuvius and offering a bonus,but not enough for people to abandon their land.

Taoromina was chosen centuries ago as a favorable spot for it's climate and views. It has been popular with many celebrities (Sophia Loren, Burt Lancaster, Richard Burton, Natalie Wood, Tony Perkins, Liz Taylor...mostly oldies) and is the site of an annual film festival. It is a very nice town.

We just picked up sandwiches for lunch that a woman made with their great salami, several cheeses and tomatoes and sat in this beautiful, unique park facing Mt Etna. What a magnificent, peaceful place. Mom squeaked out a cribbage victory while we ate and enjoyed the view.

The park has numerous small unusual buildings, empty now, used for guests of the original owner, who was pretty eccentric. Lots of plantings only a few in bloom. The park honors WWI & II heroes...each olive tree is dedicated to two warriors. There is a two-man-propelled torpedo...they actually rode on and steered the device to the target, then dropped the warhead beneath the ship, and hoped to get away before it exploded. Now that is something we will pass on.

Isola Bella, an small volcanic island, is a long walk down steps and roadway to the sea, then across a stoney beach to a narrow path of stepping stones. Davide was the caretaker here some years ago. The structures have the same quirky design as the public garden in town. In fact, the same woman was responsible for both.

It has been built with stone and lava into a kind of labyrinth of passages and rooms at one time used for entertaining. It is in the process of being renovated so we were not able to walk to the top where there is a chapel.

It's a fair walking distance back to the B&B. We are lucky to catch a bus to the front door. Pretty tired so we just finished our lunch and called it dinner.

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