Entry #16 June 3, 2011
By the title you can see that this is a pack it all in day probably to make up for the leisurely days we have just had. Breakfast was at 7AM and the bus left at 8 for a 2 hour drive to Mt Etna. We did not go to the top which would have taken another 3 hours on a tram lift. Instead, we walked around the Silvestri Crater which is a cinder cone from an 1892 eruption. The weather at this mile high location was a bit brisk and our LL Bean windblock fleece was perfect to keep us warm. The bottom of the crater was filed with trash which detracted from the naturalness of the site. Tom asked about upkeep and trash policing. He was told that there are no volunteers in Italy as in the USA to help keep parks clean. Retired people who we have seen in many US parks are not doing that sort of thing in Italy. The retired Italian men sit around in the town squares sipping expresso with their friends instead of helping with park upkeep. Our guide explained that this was slowly changing and he belonged to a volunteer group. Tom found earrings (a gift for Anne on our 45th anniversary) made from obsidian from Mt Etna.
Another hour and a half in the bus got us to Catania and a museum that is not in the guide books. The invasion of Italy in WWII began in Sicily and this museum has been established in a vacated industrial complex. While it is well done, the entrance is through a Disney-like reenactment of an air raid complete with the sounds and vibrations of falling bombs. Tom grew up as a very young boy in the war years and could relate to the displays that reminded him of his uncles who had served in this conflict. He saw medals and other uniform decorations that are just like the ones in his collection (see pictures) from the uncles.
Lunch was memorable since we got to visit with a contessa on her farm. This contessa was not dressed in a flowing gown, but farm apparel consisting of blue jeans and a cotton T shirt. We felt this was the highlight of the trip in Sicily to meet such a down-to-earth person.
The last leg of the trip in the bus was a bit over an hour and this long day ended at our hotel in Siracusa (actually the Island Ortigia) where we would stay for 2 nights. After the big lunch at the contessa's, we settled for a gelato for "dinner."