Sicily is an island that is technically part of Italy but it’s changed hands so many times over the centuries that I don’t think its fair to call the inhabitants here Italian. They are a wonderful mish- mash of European and north African cultures. It was hard to see during the short time I was there and to be honest I didn’t know anything about the history of Sicily until I was on the tour bus on my way up Mount Etna.
I had never been on an organized tour before, so piling on to a bus and letting someone else do the driving was a nice change. It was especially nice because it was an early morning tour so I ended up dozing in and out for the first part of the ride. I fully woke up when our full sized tour bus going up the side of a volcano came across a small car coming down the same volcano on a road that was barely wide enough to accommodate the bus.
Once we got past that little glitch, the rest of the ride up was easy. Near the top there’s a tourist area with a shop, restaurant and restrooms. The restrooms are not nearly adequate for the large amount of tourists that visit the volcano every year. There were, at least, three other tour buses at the volcano when we pulled up and the line for the two tiny restrooms was out the door. The line to get food or buy souvenirs was almost as long , so I didn’t spend a lot of time inside.
The top of the volcano wasn’t nearly as impressive as I thought it would be. to be honest all you could really see from the area I was in was the crater like rim around the top. If you’re not walking along the rim itself (and you can) it just looks like really big sand dunes at the beach. I would have liked to go up onto the rim itself but I had mobility issues at that time and if I had gotten up there I would have had to slide down and that just wasn’t something I felt like doing.
After walking around a bit and collecting a bit of volcanic ash into a sprite bottle they rounded us back up onto the bus. We were quickly on our way down the side of the volcano again. I felt rushed. This was the one thing I feared from going on an organized tour but I felt I had to give it a shot. Honestly I think everyone should try it. A lot of people like the structure and ease of not having to plan too much. I like to have a bit more control over my time but that’s just me.
From Mt. Etna we drove for over an hour to Taormina which is a stunning seaside town/tourist attraction. It has the famous Teatro Antico di Taormina which is an ancient Greek theater on the far side of town. Our tour guide assured everyone that it was just a short walk away but that we only had about half an hour to take in this gorgeous town. Unfortunately me and many of the people that were on the tour never got to see the theater because of the limited time we were there. In order to make it work we would have had to not look at anything else and almost jog down and back in order to take a quick picture in front of it. I did manage to get some very nice picture of the plaza and shops though as we waited for some of the folks that decided it was worth the effort.
After hurrying back onto the bus we made our way back to the port. We got back in time to get settled in before the sun set. I sat on the balcony of our rear facing stateroom as the ship pulled out of port and watched Sicily fade into the night as we sailed on to our next port. I would love to get back to Sicily and Taormina some day and take it all in on my schedule. As it is I’m glad I took the tour and got to see what I saw. I was a novice traveler then and had never been out of the country before. I was a bit awestruck those first few days. I’m not now and I think it would be a far better adventure now.