Published: March 29th 2012March 28th 2012
From the hotel
Wednesday – Mt Etna and the Murgo Winery
We headed out for our trip to Mt. Etna at 9:00. At this time of day the mountain is clearly viewed from our terrace. Shortly, the mist from the sea will roll in and cover the summit. Since the road to our hotel is so narrow, we have to take a van to a parking lot where we meet the bus. Soon we are on the highway heading to the south slope of the volcano. The landscape is kind of barren and the soil light and chalky. The island here is mainly limestone but shortly we entered the volcanic zone where the soil was dark and rich. Here flowers bloomed, lemon groves were laden with fruit and the vines were beginning their spring growth. Etna wine is now being marketed to the rest of Italy. The volcanic soil gives the wine a flinty taste that is not to everyone’s liking. The villages, like Taormina abound with flowers; geraniums, buttercups, poppies, primrose, roses and daffodils. Not to be outdone the trees and vines compete for attention; flowering almonds, wisteria, forsythia and magnificent magnolias in shades from red to salmon. It will be hard
Lots of snow
to get home to brown trees. I hope the leaves have started to pop. As we climb the mountain I can clearly see that the large black finger running down the side that I thought was rock is, in fact, black ash and gravel from the recent eruptions. During the last months, the volcano has had “mini eruptions” lasting a few hours or less. This is a new behavior. Usually, there is a large eruption with lava flows that can be very destructive. All the tourist attractions, hotels and restaurant on the north slope were buried under lava from a previous eruption.
Soon the terrain became barren and we drive by lava flows from many previous eruptions. Next the snow appears, sometimes covered with black ash and soon reaching depths of 6 or 7 feet. The air is noticeably cooler. We get out for a potty stop and then hike to the Silvistri crater. Actually the area is a series of craters and the ground is either icy or gravelly and a challenge to trek. Still this is an awesome sight. The valley is far below and above we can see steam from the active vent. The ground is
Bubbly aging in the bottle
black, brown, russet and white, the sky is grey and the only primary colors are in the clothes of the visitors. I make it though another walk without falling on my face or tailbone.
From there we visit a local winery for a wine tasting and tour. It is a beautiful setting and quite a sophisticated production facility but the wine is to thin for my taste. Still at 7e I take a bottle to bring home.
Pam has not been feeling great the last couple of days so she is bagging dinner. After a brief rest I head out to the nearest restaurant to the hotel. Here I meet up with a dozen of the group and join them. Not long after another group of eight arrives and soon just about everyone is there. W had a great meal and many laughs. He who shall remain nameless ordered the same wine we had tasted at the winery for 17.5e a bottle. Oh well, it wasn’t half bad with home backed macaroni with grilled eggplant cheese. Not bad at all.
Thursday - Taorimina
While the group went to the “Godfather Villages” and Messina, I
Jamie doing handstands
headed back to town for another look around. It was another beautiful day, warm in the sun but cool in the shade, a perfect day for walking. I explored more alleys and found a few neat picture opportunities that I had missed the day before. While looking in a shop the owner proudly showed me that the goods were produced in Italy, not china. I enjoyed a typical breakfast of brioche and chocolate gelato. Headed back t the hotel and sat by the pool reading and writing. I looked up at Etna and saw a large column of steam coming from the flank. As it moved down the mountain the white snow became black ash before my eyes. It was very, very cool. Joined the group for lunch back in town and Pam coerced me into another gelato. Bad girl! Back to the hotel, packed, happy hour, a light supper and an early night. Wake up call is 3:00 am.