Day trip to Sicily and Mount Etna
A day trip to Sicily might sound a bit strange to those who know me a little as after all I live in the UK and Sicily would be a long way to go for a day's visit, unless I was very wealthy of course.
My day trip to Sicily though was taken during a two-week vacation on the Island of Malta a few years ago. The day trip to Sicily was to begin with a sea-trip on a high speed catamaran with promised views of dolphins plus a smooth fast journey.
At the time the price of the day trip to Sicily was not cheap but we felt it would be worth every penny.
Was that the case? Well, yes and no.
Let me try to explain and then any visitors to Malta who may be faced with the prospect of this day excursion can make an informed choice.
The boat leaves Valletta Harbour very early in the morning and so the first thing to bear in mind is that this excursion is a long day. I seem to remember we had to rise around 4.30 in the morning in order to travel to Valletta and catch our early morning boat.
Memories of our day trip to Sicily, and in particular our visit to Mount Etna, sprang back to mind with the travel chaos caused by the fairly recent Icelandic volcanic eruption.
Mount Etna is an active volcano that erupts fairly frequently although often the blasts are not classed as major eruptions. Over the years local residents have faced the threat of Etna erupting on a fairly regular basis but this has not deterred them and people still live quite close to Mount Etna.
Although we did not visit Etna to 'Volcano watch' our Sicilian trip did include a visit to the slopes of Etna; not right to the very top but as far as coaches are allowed to travel.
What were we thinking? Heaven only knows
Within a few months of our visit, Etna came alive and a massive eruption occurred. I guess it could have happened when we were there although, these days, scientists seem more able to predict such things.
My overall memory of Etna was that it was rather like a huge coal slag heap; you know a huge pile of coal, cinders and the leftovers of a fire.
The coach stopped where there were some shops and I was fascinated as these were all wooden and on wheels. This meant that these shops could be moved easily and quickly when the need arose.
I had thought that we would go right to the top of Etna and look into the molten lava.
Etna was smouldering when we visited and actually some of the best views of it were as we travelled to and from the volcano and from Taormina. On the slopes of Etna it was rather cold and all we could see for miles was a scene that looked like something from another planet; it was barren and harsh.
The Day Trip
Having made the early start from Malta we expected to be in Sicily quite early. Life is never simple though is it? The weather was windy and the sea became choppy. Our oh so smooth journey to Sicily was anything but. To this day Hubby always recalls, to anyone asking about our day trip to Sicily, that we saw no flying fish or dolphins just one huge wave after another and fellow passengers throwing up.
As one, the travellers on our trip became ill. Some managed not to throw up but looked ghastly. Others spent the whole journey in the toilets. The expected 90 minute journey became almost three hours long as we diverted to avoid the worst of the weather.
But we disembarked in Pozzallo in the south of Sicily to a lovely September morning.
It was still reasonably early in the day as the coach began its meandering journey to the north for our visit to Taormina, Catania and Mount Etna. Initially the scenery was pretty bog standard and this was a problem. With everyone having been sickly, plus the early start, it was hard to keep your eyes open on the warm coach as it sped along a motorway. I had been really looking forward to our day out but unfortunately snoozed most of the way across Sicily.
We stopped at Taormina for a light lunch before visiting Etna. Taormina is a charming place but pricey. We were to discover that shopping, be it snacks, meals, gifts or what you will is expensive on Sicily.
Hubby and I settled for a cold drink and hot pies which we decided to eat in the warm sun. We both sat fascinated as the congregation and guests of a local church wedding spilled out onto the streets in a scene that appeared to be from the Godfather gangster movie.
You can climb to an amphitheatre at Taormina which is worth the effort especially for its fine views of Etna.
From here our coach began the climb to Etna and up its winding slopes. We could see the evidence of previous eruptions. Houses and villages were buried under a pile of ash and debris.
Etna was worth visiting despite our visit not being as I had imagined. Whether I would want to do it now, I am not sure. For those wanting to reach higher there is a train which takes you the final lap before the last climb. I guess for us time was short.
Our coach tootled down to Catania which is a beautiful city but we were warned to be vigilant as pickpockets were rife in this city.
We had a final stop above a lovely looking resort where we bought the tastiest and most expensive ice cream I have ever consumed. The resort below looked so tempting too.
Pros of this day trip
The full itinerary depends upon who you book this day trip with. It does vary slightly. Of course the Mount Etna visit depends upon that volatile volcano.
When we visited we also had to take our passports with us from Malta and this may still be the case.
The Euro has made the currency easier when you are abroad in Europe.
If you are visiting Malta and fancy a hop over to Sicily go for it. Bear in mind though that it is gruelling in some ways and will not suit everyone. If we had known the timescales we probably would not have visited.
On the whole though I did enjoy Sicily and still have a couple of cinders from Etna's slopes in my garden.
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