Sunday, July 12, 2009

2009-06-18 Italy Trip - Messina, Sicily

View Livorno to Messina, Sicily in a larger map

Up early and down to breakfast getting ready to go to Messina and on to Mt. Etna. Had Eggs Benedict. Justin had blueberry pancakes (I know!)

Took a 2 hour ride on the tour bus (number 13) to Mount Etna. It was quite amazing to see all the lava flows. There was a large eruption in 1908, and another in 1983, and more in 2001 and 2002. A whole town of 550 was engulfed in 2002, but luckily nobody was hurt. We walked around one of the dormant lower craters and took lots of pictures. One thing that intrigued me was that while we were on the most barren part of the craters, we were absolutely inundated with lady bugs and another type of beetle. There was no vegetation to speak of apart from the small cushions of low flowers (the first colonizers after the lichens) and I didn’t see any aphids on the flowers (lady bugs love aphids) so I couldn’t figure out why we were being covered in lady bugs. Another mystery for another time…

After returning from the tour, we grabbed a buffet lunch on the ship and ventured out into Messina for some more touring and perhaps a bit of shopping. We went to the Messina Cathedral which had been destroyed six times by earthquakes and wars and rebuilt each time to look like the original design. The clock tower was installed in 1933 and is the largest astronomical clock in the world. It has LOTS of moving statues that come out and perform on the hour, half hour, and quarter hour. The best show is at noon, but we were too late for that. We paid € 3.50 to climb the stairs (Eva says she counted 264) in the clock tower and it was quite a feat in the heat. We got to watch some of the movements from the inside on the quarter hour and the way it was designed to move and even make the figures “walk” was astounding .

Next to the clock tower is the Fountain of Orion which commemorates the completion of the aqueduct. It's a beautiful fountain and I found the Latin inscription online that adorns it, but cannot find a translation. Anybody? "NILVS ECO ICNOTVM SEPTENA PER OSTIA FESSUS HIC CAPVT IN CREMIO ZANCLA REPONO TVO"

We were told by our tour guide, David, in Pisa to try the cassata and granita (gra-NEE-tah) in Sicily. I had two granitas and found them very refreshing. Interesting that the one on Etna was vanilla and € 3 and the one in Messina was limone (lee-MON-ay=lemon). It was much better and only € 1 in a small gelateria (jel-a-ta-REE-a). Very refreshing on a day when the face is melting off your head.

Back to the ship for dinner : baby shrimp cocktail with caviar, hard boiled egg, and Belgian endives (I LOVE endives), followed by medium rare roast beef and chocolate bread pudding. Meredith had Asian rice noodles and shrimp (I know! Things are falling apart!)

After dinner we went to the duty free shops and nosed around for a while. Uncle Scott and Pop-pop went to the casino and played quarter slots. Pop-pop hit for six hundred quarters ($150). He kept playing for ~2 hours winning enough to keep him going. Uncle Scott hit for 155 quarters and kept going until he was only $3.25 ahead and quit. Pop-pop cashed out with $139. Way to go! I dumped $20 and at one point had doubled my money, but like a good tourist, put it all back in and walked away with nothing within fifteen minutes. I offered to treat everyone to pizza to celebrate their winnings (it’s free), so we went to the pizza buffet at 23:30.

Going up Mt. Etna.

Karen and Stephanie on Mt. Etna.

Like the surface of the moon...

Messina from the top of the clock tower.

The rest of the pictures are here.


Max said...

more, more, want to see more..

Becky said...

Oh boy Oh boy Oh boy Oh boy! That side of Etna you were on we never saw. Too much SNOW! :) Heading now to Flickr to see the rest! Ah Sicilia!

Becky said...

The Flickr photos of Etna are great! What a difference 3 months makes. You guys are in tank tops and shorts while Sis & I were bundled up in coats, gloves & hats and were still cold as we threw snowballs at each other on the lava fields.

jbf said...

More to come, but in Venice.

Your pics are beautiful --lava fields in the snow.