On a Mediterranean cruise we made a stop in Messina. This is a city where excursions depart to Taormina. This last city retains its medieval roots and especially its Greek theater, which is currently undergoing restoration. The city is pedestrian only and the walk from the car park to the theater worth it if only for the views of the volcano Etna
Absolutely stunning, the Valley of the Temples in the city of Agrigento has ruined walls and five Doric temples belonging to the ancient Greek city of Akragas. Situated on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, the fabulous buildings, some of which date from the sixth century BC, seem as if put there as if on a movie set. They were built there to protect seafarers who sailed the seas and to guide them safely to the city. The Archaeological Park is huge,it is divided into two zones (East and West), and it also has an interesting museum and other middle ages buildings worth visiting. Because of its beauty and the monuments, the site was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, is visited by many people. I recommend that you get there early in the morning, and if you go in summer, bring sunscreen. You'll be so fascinated that without realizing it you will lose yourself among the temples of this city of Magna Grecia for hours.
We spent two days exploring it's slopes and craters, finding pleasure in the contrast between snow and lava. Maps of the area are hard to find. On the first day we approached from north side starting from Piano Provenzana, where we met our guide from EtnaExcusion. We spent a lovely morning exploring recent lava flows and learning about vulcanology and the best local specialties available on the tavola calda. It was so clear we could see all the way Stromboli.
On the second day we decided to go it alone, approaching from the south. We took the funivia from Rifugio Sapienza and then followed the snow cat tracks to Torre del Filosofo at 2920m.
When we visited Etna, there had been a minor eruption 2 days previously and there was still plenty of smoke and steam issuing from the South East Crater. Highly recommended
The "Scala dei Turchi" or "Stairway of the Turks" in English, is a very beautiful and extensive rocky cliff overlooking the sea, which is located in REALMONTE, which is eighteen kilometers away from Agrigento in Sicily. What makes this cliff so beautiful is undoubtedly its color, as it is made of a stone called Marga, which is a completely pure white sedimentary limestone, where the wind and rain through the centuries have worn away at its extensive steps.
They say that the name comes from the ancient Saracen pirate raids and Arabs (generalizing: Turks) that protected their wind-powered boats amid these cliffs. Among the beaches that dominate the Scala dei Turchi are the Rosello, Giallonardo, Le Pergole and Punta Grande, which all are covered with excellent fine sand. From this exquisite location, the turquoise blue sea is really inviting for visitors.
What a place, what a location, what sea. Taormina is Sicily's star and certainly deserves the nickname it has been given. Nestled high on the hillside of Mount Tauro, it has stunning views of the sea, and a wonderful Greek legacy(the spectacular Teatro Greco was built in the third century BC), the beautiful medieval village has everything you need to make itself the choice for thousands of tourists who spend their vacation here. Ignoring July and August, when it really is impossible to enjoy, as you should, the city and its beaches, Taormina is amazing from every point of view. As in any other part of Sicily, here you find charming small hotels, restaurants and excellent designer shops. Add to this spectacular beaches and the silhouette of the legendary and powerful Etna, which always stands out very close on the horizon.
The town of Taormina on Mount Tauro has three treasures. Firstly, its architecture, which transports us to the Middle Ages. Secondly, the wonderful theater carved into the mountain and finally, the volcano of Mount Etna. Most day trips leave from Messina. It is not possible to take the car in the city. There are some parking spaces for buses and minibuses take visitors to the gates of the city. There are lovely shops and nice terraces across the main street of the city. The atmosphere is very quiet.
Situated on the Tyrrhenian coast, just 1 hour by train from Palermo, Cefalù is, as Taormina , one of the most popular vacation places in Sicily. Beyond its good beaches, Cefalu has a neighborhood that is spectacular and old. In La Rocca they live, as if tourism does not affect them in the least, medieval streets full of flavor and several churches and 'palazzi' that are precious.. Another corner is the port which is connected to the top of the old city walls staggered down an alley full of charm. Walking through La Rocca, one realizes that the beloved place has been used as the setting for films like Cinema Paradiso.
With its variety of architectural styles, the Cathedral of Palermo evokes a strong oriental feel, mainly due to its courtyard full of palm trees. Construction began in 1184 on the orders of the archbishop of Palermo, Gualterio Offamilio, who wanted to compete with the beauty and power of the Cathedral of Monreale. It has been renovated over time and splendid improvements like the portico of 3 arches (a Catalan influence) have been added. Is prettier on the outside than on the inside, which is quite sober. It is located in a very beautiful place where we were lucky enough to see the wedding of an Italian soldier.
As soon as you get to this wonderful corner built on Mount Giuliano, 751 meters above sea level, you start to breathe the Middle Ages. It unites many Sicilian features with Norman urbanism, the Arabic organization of houses around the courtyard, and a wide range of sweets and beautiful puppets. To get there, you can go by funicular or car (if you don't mind the turns), zigzagging for about 14 kilometres and enjoying the panoramic sea views. Various roads exist in the interior of its labyrinthine streets. It's a luxury to stop to chat on the patios with the locals, although my ideal is getting lost in the streets and discovering places eroded by the passage of time. The narrow streets are a maze of captivating living postcards. It's a trip back in time that's more than recommended, and the finishing touch will be one of their wonderful sweets accompanied by a good cappuccino.
This is one of the best beaches in Sicily. It's usually pretty crowded since it's the Palermitans' favorite beach and close to the Sicilian capital. It has crystal-clear water and fine white sand. As in most of Italy, the beaches are private (10 € for two rental chairs and an umbrella) but there is a public space. Along the beachfront promenade, there are numerous restaurants where you can try the famous arancini (breaded rice balls stuffed with meat) among other things. Parking is often a problem, so you'll have to look for private parking lots, which are actually empty lots where you can leave the car for around 4-5 €. These parkign lots are often run by local families.
Why is it that some of us like to go to the ends of the Earth? I was in Sicily, in the middle of the Mediterranean, and I decided to hop on the ferry from Trapani to Favignana, one of the four Egadi Islands. In only 20 minutes, I was closer to Tunisia than Europe. Favignana is tiny, just a mountain rising up out of the sea, with its solitude, cliffs, and coves jutting out of the transparent water. The entire island is dotted with the ruins of an enormous Carthaginian settlement which was once there. Favigana is incredible: instead of a yard or garden, the homes have excavated pits in the yard filled with ancient ruins. The most spectacular area is Cala Rossa, a name it got over 19 centuries ago (during the Punic Wars, in fact) when the sea was dyed red from the blood of so many Carthaginian soldiers. The cove itself is a natural wonder. Protected from the wind and surf by its massive cliffs, you can walk on the sand and see the sailboats and yachts passing by. Another gorgeous cove is Cavallo. It was there where, after a little dip in the water, I unrolled my picnic blanket and set out the feast I'd gotten in La Tavernette: fresh tuna on a baked roll, onions, capers, and tomato. Delux!
Why is it that some of us like the end of the ends? I was in Sicily, in the Mediterranean, and decided to go from Trapani take the hydrofoil to Favignana, one of the four islands Egadi. In twenty minutes I was even further away from Europe and closer to Tunisia. Favignana is tiny, a mountain that rises from the sea, and in four hours I saw the entire thing on a rented bicycle. The most fascinating thing in Favignana, apart from its coves, cliffs, loneliness, and warm clear sea is his story. The whole island is full of remnants of a huge Carthaginian city that existed there. Favignana is all pierced: The houses instead of orchard or garden have holes several meters where there are ruins, ruins and more ruins. The most spectacular area Cala Rossa. It got its name because during the Punic Wars, the sea was dyed red with the blood of hundreds of dead Carthaginians. Cala Rossa is a spectacular natural harbor. The Tramuntana is Protected by impressive cliffs, boats and yachts of all sizes. Another lovely cove is Cavallo. Here, I swam in the ocean and enjoyed the picnic in La Tavernetta: I ate a Sandwich with Fresh tuna, onions, capers and tomatoes.
Segesta was a Greek city. It was the political heart of the Elymians. The Doric temple is very well maintained, even though it is not finished. It was built just outside the ancient city of Segesta and has a very beautiful view over the valley. It is one of the best conserved Greek temples that exist, probably for several reasons: it is on top of a hill that is isolated, and there is no temptation to use it as building material, and it has never been defiled because it had not been completed. It is seen from afar, and to get to it you have to climb a high slope. Above is the theater of Segesta, which is also well conserved, so I guess it is in perfect condition, and must have a capacity to hold over 3000 people. In the summer evenings they have shows but we didn´t go to any. Do not do as we did and go at a reasonable time of day, not 12 noon, and don´t wear a hat and sandals, like me.
One of the most requested excursions on the island of Sicily is a visit to the Alcantara Gorges, formed after an eruption of a small volcano north of Etna. The lava flow slid into the sea forming the Schisò. Over time, the river eroded basalt forming high walls and creating an authentic barrel with black-walled gorges, light reflectance gives it an almost magical charm. The name of the river (Alcantara) is of Arabic origin and refers to a Roman bridge built for flood prevention. You may travel long the channel of the gorges in some areas if you have the appropriate equipment (shoes especially). Within the park's territory there are different paths, nature trails and where nature lovers can discover colors, aromas and vegetation. Among the different paths, is the "Path of Health", which is cultivated and processed for aromatic and medicinal plants.
Ortygia Island is situated in the city of Syracuse, the southern Italian island of Sicily. This is a small walled island connected by a bridge to Syracuse. Perfect for resting, jumping in one of its small coves or just to sit on a stone to watch the clouds pass by.
In Selinunte you hear about the stones. They speak with their silence of thousands of years. In Sicily and in the world the Greek ruins are famous and amazing in the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Selinunte. But, the province of Trapani, I was moved more, because they are in the countryside, without barriers or fences, surrounded by golden wheat fields and the ocean. From the Archaeological Park entrance you have to walk in the paths of earth. 1st you get lost in pastures, then you discover the Mediterranean full of blue and white foam that lifts the Tramontana. There are no homes or structures that pollute the horizon, there are remains of temples, columns severed by time. Some are still standing, others fall between coffins, tombstones and piles of broken capitals. The great Greek city, constructed in the 7th century, and now inhabited only by seagulls, pigeons and small lizards, has an equally hard spell. It is 1 of the most enchanting corners of the world.
The Villa del Casale is in the middle of the island of Sicily, and has been declared a World Heritage Site in the year 1997. It held up well through the mud that covered after an earthquake and today you will see teams of anthropologists with their faces covered with masks, trying to clean some of the 24,000 tiles that adorn its different rooms. The area of the bathroom, with its Trepidarium, massage and steam baths, exercise room, etc.. All the walls are still standing, there are wonderful mosaics, from the cameras of the lords until the servants. Common life scenes and festivals adorn everything, hunting scenes with wild animals, such as bears see on walls and especially on floors. They crossed to Africa to do their hunting. The 1st youth find BIKINIS, known throughout the history of mankind ...... There are a dozen of them training for a competition to be chosen as the "preferred" Emperor. If the same you see in modern gyms ... All wonderful. The Villa is in the midst of fully stocked plains and valleys. You'll love it .....
The Piazza Vigliena, better known as Canti Quattri, can be found in the intersection of Via Maqueda with Corso Vittorio Emanuele. It is the center of Palermo and can be found inside a circle formed by four buildings. Also it is known as Theater of Sun, as when the day passes, it gives the light of the sun to the four buildings.