|Greek amphitheatre at Taromina|
|Here it is in a beautiful painting by early 20th-century Hungarian artist Tivadar Csontvary Kosztka, now in the National Gallery in Budapest. Kosztka captured the beauty, color and spirit of the place.|
And the crystal blue Mediterranean all around, this photo taken at 2700-year-old Siricusa as we crossed the bridge to its ancient island town of Ortygia with its precious Greek heritage.
|Only photo I've ever seen of |
Messina in ruins from the 1908
Mt.Etna eruption, by Wilhelm
Von Gloedon (wikipedia).
How wrong I was.
Now of course I deeply regret not asking my grandmother all the questions I had as our Gate 1 tour group drove from exciting Palermo across the hilly island, intensively cultivated wherever possible, surrounded by the vivid blue Mediterranean, and with the ever-present Mt. Etna on the eastern horizon. Excellent weather added to the glow, with the exception of a few sprinkles in Taormina. We all bought unbrellas that we didn't need that day, by the way, the seller right there as we stepped off the bus. Ah well, we just helped the Sicilian economy, I thought.
|With super guide Flavia in Erice.|
|Best lunch ever, me and my sis|
|Monreale Cathedral (right)|
and street scene
|Main plaza,Old Palermo|
|The Il Mirto e la Rosa, where |
we had a memorable dinner.
and like every other Sicilian monument a living organism of change overtime; and the Plazza Pretoria, dominated by an intricately carved central fountain, a combination of Norman and Baroque styles predominating. Palermo is also noted for its cuisine, and Andy and I enjoyed some of our best meals in its great indoor and outdoor cafes and restaurants, surrounded by centuries of history.
|Greek theatre, Siracusa, with tour guide.|
To this day, we learned, there is a closer affinity with Greece than with Italy among many Sicilians, a lingering appreciation and connection that surprised me. I never thought of myself as having any Greek DNA, but now I wonder!
|Segesta Temple, 5th century|
The Romans especially exploited the island without restraint, destroying or building over everything Greek. "The Romans were cruel and oppressive rulers," Patricia, our local guide in Siracusa said, as she walked us through the fantastic ruins of the huge Greek amphitheatre and ancient caves. Other local guides said the same thing, Giovanni at the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento, the largest and best preserved temple ruins outside of mainland Greece, and Elizabeth in Taormina at another enormous Greek theater. These are the towns and sites that preserve and honor the bygone era of Greek Sicily, the birthplace of Archimedes, of great artists and thinkers, perhaps of the Sicilian language itself.
|Andy keeping up with our|
energetic tour group!
|Lovely Erice .Actors filming a movie!|
|Marsala winery and Stagnone Lagoon, the Salt mines|
Taormina, with its winding
streets, plazas and stairways.
After walking, or trying to walk, the black lava-crusted slopes of Mt. Etna, around the Crateri Silvestri, a fascinating close-up view of this rumbling volcano, we headed for Taormina. There we stayed for three glorious nights at a lovely villa, privately owned, in Giardini Naxos, on the Bay of Naxos. Ancient places, sacred spaces. From our balcony we had fantastic views of modern residences built on the hillsides; a Florida-like landscape beautifully planted and graced with statuary; the sea and Mt. Etna clear and bold, not at all menacing.We definitely had "a room with a view." In fact, all our Gate 1 hotels were terrific, well located, clean and comfortable.
Andy and I sat on the balcony of Sant'Alphio Garden in Giardini Naxos in awe. "Can't believe we're here," we'd say. Together, in Sicily, on a magical heritage tour. We felt our brother Loren's spirit, wished he could have been with us in person. Our parents and grandparents, too.
|Taromina central plaza around fountain of Diana. .|
|At a cafe on Taormina's main square, with new friends.|
another World Heritage Site. Our tour guide Patricia led us around the incredible Neapolis Archaeological Park and the "Ear of Dionysus," an awesome limestone cave with outstanding acoustics in a lovely park, to the Greek-Roman amphitheatre, and then to the center of the gorgeous old town of Ortygia.
|Down this street to the sea, Siricusa|
with Christine and Tom to a neat cafe.
From the hills to the sea, the glory of Greece and Sicily's Grecian past filled our senses. "The Greeks had a good eye for beauty," one guidebook writes, "and were experts at choosing the most strategic sites for their majestic buildings. Their temples, for example, were deliberately decorated with stuccos containing white marble powder, so that they would shine brightly in the rays of the sun." Siricusa outdid them all!
|At Greek-Roman amphitheatre, |
Siracusa. My PCV friends Ilse
and Jud will recognize this pose!