About Me

I am a 45 year husband and dad, currently adjusting to life back in the United States after living in Italy for a little over two years. I love spending time with my family, cycling, model railroading, mosaics and watching TV and movies.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mt Etna and Teatro Greco

We woke up to beautiful sunshine today, so we decided to take advantage of it and head to Mt Etna.  Sicily's most famous landmark is also Europe's largest volcano and one of the worlds most volatile.  It stands at 3323meters (10,902 ft) above the Ionian Sea.  Mt Etna's has claimed its share of victims, despite the fact that it is continuously monitored by 120 seismic stations and satellite surveillance.  In 1971 an eruption destroyed the observatory at the summit.  In 1983 an eruption finished off the tourist cable car and visitors center.  In 1992 a stream of lava threatened the town of Zafferana Etnea on the south side of the mountain.  In 2001 - 03 a series of explosions damaged the infrastructure of the tourist and ski village on the mountain's south side. And, just recently in January 2011, lava once again poured down the mountains south east side, this time with no damage.  

Mt Etna looms over the east coast of Sicily.  Those are not clouds at its peak, but steam plumes.  

We drove around to Etna's south side to ride the cable car up the mountain.  This area is a ski resort in the winter and open to tourists in the summer.  

In March the mountains sits deep in snow.  The Italian Polizia act as the 'ski patrol' here.  

The views from the top are spectacular.  And the skiing looks great as well.  I saw a few bare spots on the mountain.  I know from past experience that scraping your skies on rock is not good.  I wonder how much worse it is to hit lava rock, which is much more abrasive!

Brandon all bundles up.  He actually ended up un-bundling a bit since it was such a beautiful warm day.

The peak of Mt Etna, only a few hundred meters above us and puffing steam.  Awesome and a bit scary at the same time.

Brandon had lots of fun in the snow. 

Snow covered today, but in the summer you can ride the cable car to this level, then hop in a 4x4 truck that will take you to closer to the crater.

Brandon does a little 'jacket sledding' 

Snow cat grooming under one of the higher lifts

I think Brandon was more impressed with the snow than the fact that we were standing on a volcano

Puff's snack on the way back down the mountain

We enjoyed the south side of Etna, so we decided to drive around to the north side where you can also visit the mountain, although not quite as high up.  Along the way we spotted this fox in the snow. 

You can see the black streaks of lava from the January eruption.

Driving through old lava fields as we head around to the north side of Etna

More lava fields and another view of the puffing Etna

The north side viewing area is not as spectacular as the south side.  Plus, the clouds were building, which limited our views.  Brandon and I ended up having a snowball fight.

It was about midday when we headed back to Taormina.  We wanted to visit the Greek theater which we missed seeing the other day.  

View from our room.  We made a quick stop in our room (we were now in our reserved 3 person room) and dropped off a few layers.  As you can see, it looked a lot more like spring in Taormina than it did on Mt Etna.

Time for some lunch.  We enjoyed some pizzas and pasta at Vecchia Taormina Pizzeria, then wandered through town towards the Teatro Greco.

We thought this pot was pretty cool.  There were several of them lining the steps of a little side street.

This week has been full of Carnevale festivities in all the towns around Sicily.  We caught this little parade.  Notice that Donald Duck and Minnie Mouse made appearances - although I somehow doubt they were official Disney appearances.  Oh, and a skinny Superman showed up as well.  

Taormina's most famous site is Teatro Greco.  It was built in the 3rd century BC.

The Greeks intended to take full advantage of the views of Mt Etna and the sea, but the Romans later obscured all this with the building of this backdrop colonnade.  

Not very interested in tragedy, the Romans also demolished the stage and orchestra pit to create a semi circular arena for gladiators.  

Brandon sits where Greeks and Romans once sat

View of the sea from the teatro

View of Taormina from the teatro

Brandon and his puffle

As the sun began to set, we wandered back through town, taking some side streets to find new nooks of Italian culture and architecture.

Marzapan is very popular.  With it they create all sorts of real looking fruits, vegetables and other interesting works of art that are edible.  For those that haven't tried it, its very rich and very sweet.  You only need a tiny bit.  I prefer it as a filling in chocolate.  

Nicely decorated balcony on a back street of Taormina

Electrical boxes can cause death!!  

We had a great day on the mountain and visiting more Greek archeology.  We returned back to our room early this evening.  I headed out to find a light snack for dinner.  I ended up at Carpe Diem, our little bar from last night, and bought a couple of Arancini and some drinks to bring back to the room.  The owner and Salavatore were there and were pleased to see me.  They ended up sending a bundle of cookies with me for Brandon and Katrina to enjoy.  

Tomorrow we hope to visit the Aeolian Islands, but the weather may not allow it.  We shall see...

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