Since I’m crazy as can be the idea of staying in just one place for seven days was out of question. Let’s don’t forget the fact that one can not miss the opportunity to go to Sicily for an hour and a half. But first thing first …
The day started rather hard with getting up at 5 AM. It wasn’t pleasant at all, but sacrifices must be made. The good people of Virtu ferries who we traveled with, had warned us to get some warm and windproof clothes but when the average temperature on the island is 30 degrees there’s no way you carry them in your baggage. The result was putting on jeans on top of shorts and changing on the ship…
The company was supposed to pick us from our hotel and get us to Sliema port, where to ship was waiting. We, like a good and obedient tourists, were ready early and had the pleasure to talk with an Australian traveler, actually tried to talk since our understanding of the Australian accent was below any talkable point.
Never mind, we arrived at the port, where I expected (I know almost nothing about boats) small boat. We were greeted by a huge ship, or at least in my eyes, which transfers people, cars, cargo and whatever. We got in on a special decks, where-surprise, really nice and comfy seats, tables and view to the sea. I’ve been on a ferry in Turkey, but they had nothing in common. There were even movie showings.
Virtu ferries is the only company that operates this route, but if you have the nerves to spent hours poking in the internet, you may find that little tour agencies sell their package, sometimes cheaper. I found one here. Everything was done online, I got the tickets in my email and had no problem. You can choose to ride only in one direction, the arriving point is the city of Pozzalo, or to be like us – a day tour to Taormina and volcano Etna. I recommend the second option, if you go alone you won’t be able to reach far than Catania.
When we arrived the people on the trip were put in few buses, separated by language. Our tour guide was a very nice Italian with perfect English. The first stop was Taormina, the trip took us about two hours and a half. The town is one of the most popular sea resorts in Sicily, despite it’s location on a high mountain and you should spent at least half an hour drive to get to the beach. Since ancient times the town was famous and many important people visited it. Nowadays, every year they host an international film festival,where big and small celebrities gather. The views from the town are spectacular, the most beautiful ones are from the Botanical garden, where you can also see the always grumpy volcano Etna.
The town itself is small, but filled with picturesque alley and many, many tourists. There’s a smell of freshly baked pizza or the local almonds cookies in the air. Everything is colourful and splendid.
The main attractions are the remains of a Roman theater and the Botanical garden, but you can just roam around the streets and definitely must try pizza or pasta. There is no food tastier than the Italian one. Sicily is famous for it’s produce of pistachio, which grows really well on volcanic soil. The resourceful locals use it in many recipes, one of them is the pistachio pesto. When you add a little meat and garlic the result is magnificent.
A must is the Sicilian canola-divine pastry with ricotta cheese. I have no idea how the Italians manage to make everything so tasty, for instance in Malta, which is so close, the taste is different.
And last, because I’m already drooling, are the almond biscuits. You mustn’t leave without trying them, they melt on the tongue and the taste is …
I’m wrapping up the culinary detour and am starting to tell you about a magnificent and unreal place – volcano Etna.
Etna is one of the places where you most definitely feel the power of nature. You are shaken and quite scared of the sight of an enormous mountain made by dried lava. The idea that it can wipe everything you see in no time is unsettling. Thanks to this tour I found out that there are two types of volcanoes – black and red. Black ones remain still and silent for years until they erupt and make huge messes, like the one in Iceland, whose name no one can pronounce. Etna is a red volcano, constantly active and erupting lava often, thanks to that haven’t bursted big in ages. During our visit it has erupted a little, but the crater is so high and away from tourist spots that we saw just a bit of smoke.
The landscape, or at least where our bus was allowed to go, was like a moon surface. There are a few craters, everyone marked by a sign with the name and the year of the eruption. The whole road is made on lava and it is repaired regularly. The last one was in 2001. The Sicilians had left few destroyed houses, swollen by the lava, to remind us of the volcano’s power. It is beyond me how anyone would still build and make this place a home, but there are all kind of people. If you want, you can climb to the highest allowed point, and choose to do it by jeep or a lift. For us, the price of 30 euro per person was a big no and saw only the lower craters, which were quite a lot. For me, this tour was one of the highlights of our vacation.
Deeply impressed and a little tired we headed back to the boat and to the hot Malta. I forgot to mention that the tour company warn you to take windproof clothes. The winds on Etna are scary… but after all you are 2000 m above sea level…