EOS Volcanic: Sicily, Magna Graecia, land of black earth and prickly pears!

12 NOVEMBER 2019

EOS Volcanic: Sicily, Magna Graecia, land of black earth and prickly pears!

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A nine-day road trip starting in Athens, Greece and taking us to the formerly glorious cities of southern Italy and Sicily, where ancient Greek architecture and culture are visible wherever you look – and where, as we were to discover, the motto “una faccia una razza” is ENTIRELY accurate…

We started off in Athens, seven of us in a van, and drove north to the port of Igoumenitsa, where we took an overnight ferry (full of Greek, Italian and Romanian lorry drivers) to the bustling port of Bari. Daybreak on board was slightly marred by the dawn discovery that we couldn’t find the van keys, but crisis averted we headed south towards the island of Sicily. The experience of driving in southern Italy was the ‘polar’ opposite of driving in the Nordics – chaotic signposting, GPS mishaps, manic drivers in the fast lane, all topped by the unforgettable incident of being instructed to REVERSE onto the highway by a toll booth employee!

Nonetheless, we were rewarded for the long drive by the first sight of Etna’s smoking craters at sunset, a memorable view which was promised us for the next five days, since our rented villa was located at the foot of the volcano, a straight line up from the city of Catania.

Without going into too much detail, here are some highlights of our Volcanic Road Trip:
Two visits to Etna: the first on a glorious, hot, sunny, clear day, where we took the funicular and 4x4 buses to the high craters and were able to walk around and photograph the amazing geology of the volcano and the spectacular smoke explosions regularly topping the peak. And the second to the lower craters on a windy, freezing, cloud-covered day, which made our walk incredibly atmospheric, culminating in a view of the year’s first snow at the very top!
Our tour guide, Matteo, a true Sicilian gentleman who made our visits to Syracuse, Catania, Noto and Taormina all the more memorable with his knowledgeable advice and constant efforts to give us that extra glimpse of Sicilian life.
Pistachio pizza in Pedara and Giuseppe’s trattoria in Bronte, among other delicious meals.
Street photography in Syracuse, in the narrow streets of Catania, in seaside Cefalu, in the markets of Palermo.
Landscape photography on the slopes and craters of Etna, in the ancient Greek theatre of Taormina, at the fortress on Ortygia island.
The two cats that adopted us at our villa – at least two of our group wanted to bring them back to Greece!
Waterfall bathing in Alcantara gorge.

Our last night in Italy, spent in busy, bustling, loud Bari, with its narrow, narrow streets and its host of crazy characters.All in all, this road trip to Sicily was, for us, the absolute confirmation of the “una faccia, una razza” cliché! There is so much on the island that is familiar to us Greeks, both historically and culturally – something that is not all true in the north of Italy. More than a geographical journey, this felt like a journey back in time – to the glorious days of Ancient Greece, but also to a few decades ago in certain aspects!

We will be back, however, not least because there is one loose end that needs to be tied up – rough seas prevented us from visiting our second volcano, Stromboli, and if Etna is anything to go by, we love volcanoes!


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