Mt Etna is a pussy

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April 7th 2013
Published: April 8th 2013
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Gelato of the day - GMB - Zuppa Inglese(Italian for English Soup)the ice cream had slivers of crystalised fruit.

Our hosts were ready with our breakfast after we had had a good nights sleep although the shower had again proved to be a challenge with the same set up as the previous night and the hot water appeared to run out.

Despite what we thought were the usual thick walls between rooms Gretchen reckoned she heard all the action from our neighbouring room although I slept through it all.Perhaps her next door was just a noisy sleeper.

Mt Etna revealed more of herself this morning and we got more photos before the cloud came acrossAt 3323m above sea level it dictates the weather in the area.

However she was all quiet overnight and no sign of the tell tale steam or smoke we saw yesterday.

Our hosts encouraged,in Italian and a bit of broken English,to journey back to spend some time in the hillside town of Taormina and we are very pleased we did because it was a little gem if perhaps a bit touristy as well.

They had suggested we park Cindy in a large carpark on the main road and take the bus up to the town which is 200metres above sea level and served by a road with several hairpins as it climbs sharply.

Driving along we missed the carpark and because the road had moderate traffic we went on to find a place to turn around and go back.As we found a place to turn we also found the cableway that also went up to the town and so opted for that instead of a bus.

We shared our cable car with a couple from London and it was good to talk to someone who understood English fully,even with a Kiwi accent,for a few minutes while we were transported upwards.Unfortunately no one had bothered to clean the windows of the cable car and so the expansive view was spoilt a bit by not being able to see all that clearly.

The town is a bit of a tourist trap selling all the usual things tourist's want to buy and take home as memories of their holiday.We don't have room for anything more than the odd fridge magnet or as Gretchen found a little turtle made from Mt Etna volcanic rock.

The main attraction in the town is the Teatro Greco built by the Greeks in the third century BC but changed around by the Romans in the first century AD to accommodate gladiators and animals.We opted not to go inside as the place was full of tourists but instead find a vantage point higher up where we got a good view albeit across the other side of the town.

The town has all the brand shops and it was interesting watching women especially walking the opposite way along the 'mall' carrying their Dolce Gabana etc etc bags with their purchases.One woman,not sure if she was a local or not,who really stood out in the passing crowd was wearing a vest with CocaCola sayings inscribed on it and in the Coke colours,very innovative!

Outside a church that we went inside of was a gypsy guy who was begging and rather than having a small cardboard box or similar to collect donations he had a large piggy bank!

From a good vantage point near the town's square you could take in the ever present Mt Etna,the town of Castelmola a further 600metres above Taormina with houses perched on the rocky outcrop(how one got there was a mystery)and below the much photographed Isola Bella about 50 metres off the coast road we had driven along.

We thought about walking back down to our car but there was no obvious way other where the bus came up and once we reached the road we would still have a good walk to the car at the foot of the cable way.So we opted for the cable way to return to sea level.

We then headed the car in the road around Mt Etna and by the time we got up to the 1000 metre mark on the mountain where the road then ran basically on the level the temperature had dropped from 19C which it had been down at sea level to 11C which we guess demonstrated how much closer to the snow level we had got ourselves to.

As we passed around the other side of the mountain we stopped for lunch in a driveway of a closed factory(it is Sunday after all)with a clear view of Mt Etna in case the cloud lifted fully.

We set ourselves up with rolls,butter,salami,cheese,bananas and a bottle of drink inside the car as the outside temperature was still 11C and tucked into lunch.We both got the same ghostly feeling at the same time and there suddenly was a man outside the window indicating it was fine to stay where we were but suggested we move the car slightly so to be out of the way completely of any cars that came down the slight hill out of control.We had thought we were the only people anywhere around except for those passing by in their cars.

Onwards we headed around the mountain towards Catania where we would join what was essentially the coast road and drive on to our next stop,which is for 2 nights,which is in Siracusa.

As we have found each day the afternoon drive has a lot less traffic to contend with as the locals take their siesta and this was just as well as Victoria took us on a merry chase through the narrow streets of Adrano still around 1000metres above sea level.

Gradually the road descended through rough farm land with prickly pear growing in great volumes(what it is used for here is unclear but it almost looked like it was being farmed) and eventually we were back on the SS114 and running close to the coast again.

We reached out hotel which will be our base for the next two nights just after 4pm.The Best Western Siracusa North is a bargain at €36(inc breakfast) and is brand new with carpet on the floors rather than tiles in the room.AND a toilet seat that is fully attached to the bowl!

After a rest we headed into the city and found a pizzeria where the owner produced a menu in English and we had a very filling meal of chips, pizzas and a couple of beers for €20 with a gelato on the walk back to the car.

Tomorrow will be sightseeing amongst the Greek ruins from 600BC.

Mt Etna is really just a big pussy cat,all soft with its snow cover,and no growl........or at least last night and during today.

Distance travelled today : 172km

Distance travelled since Tauranga : 19,744km

Additional photos below
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8th April 2013

You're very brave taking a cable car in Italy. As long as there were no US Marine Corp planes around.....
9th April 2013

It was a three minute ride.The Poms we shared the car with on the way up did say they had travelled it the day before and the car had to be stopped a couple of times because the wind was making it swing a bit too much.We did note that it didn't look too far to the earth below.The only problem was the face of the hill was almost sheer!

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