Week Two

La vacanza in Sicilian continua. We continue with our tour of Palermo and then head off to see the various towns and numerous ruins. There is lots is to see.


Monreale, Italy

Just eight kilometers from Palermo is the town of Monreale with one of the most magnificent cathedrals built. You can take a bus from Palermo up to Monreale to see as a day trip. Public buses run but traffic on the road up to Monreale moves slow. It is a great drive and the road up and been written about by writers. Tree-lined, fountains and sights.

One of the sights is the cathedral - it is one of the most magnificent cathedrals in Italy. What you see today is pretty much as it was build. The knockers on the brass doors are by the famous Bonanno Pisano from 1186. But as impressive as it is on the outside, it is inside, where the sparkle with the gold of its mosaics will hit you. The mosaics date from the 12-13th Centuries and illustrate events from the Old and New Testaments. See the cloisters, they were built at the same time as the cathedral. They are open from 9 to 12:30 and 4 to 7 pm. Sundays only from 9 to 12:30 and they are closed on Mondays.

The cloisters at Monreale are an impressive.


SegestaOur next stop is Segesta which is located about 75 km from Palermo.Here you have an opportunity to see one of the best doric temples in Sicily.


SegestaThe original town is deserted but what is left on the landscape is the temple. This temple stands now as it has for some 2,400 years. I could not help but be overtaken with a feeling of calm when walking between the columns and looking out over the hills. You are looking at pretty much what the settlers from Troy and Phoenicia saw in their times.

The temple has 36 columns and according to what is written, worship and sacrifices on the altar would have taken place in the open centre of the temple.

Luckily we made the decision to scrap the planned visit to Malta. Although we do want to see Malta, at this point we all came to the conclusion we would have been trying to do too much. Too bad the Hotel Imperial in Sliema, Malta would not return our deposit despite our request almost two weeks in advance. Keep that in mind if booking with that hotel.

San Vito Lo Capo

San Cap Lo Vito, Sicily, Italy

But by not going to Malta, we were able to go to San Vito lo Capo on the north side of the island. We stayed at the Hotel Miraspiaggia and although, for some of us, this was time to sleep and get better, the beach was fine. Doctor's orders: Spagetti Blanco. Not bad.

Unfortunately it was windy and boats were not available to tour the Riserva dello Zingaro. If you go to San Vito do try to book one of the day boat trips along the Zingaro.


Salt flats in TrapaniLocated on the western tip of Sicily, Trapani has always been an important port, with a heavy emphasis on salt, wine and tuna.

Go down the main Corso Vittorio Emmanuele as the street is flanked with numerous buildings displaying the impressive Baroque style of architecture. If you along the seafront boulevard, lunomare Regine Elena, it takes you past the port and you can see some of the salt flats. Out in the sea are the Aegadean Islands.


We drove out to see the salines -- or salt flats. They are a series of small pools or ponds that take in water from the sea. This area of the Mediterranean has virtually no tide variance. So, the water comes in, sits and then is pumped into successive pools. Windmills drive the pumps. As the water evaporates the salt crystals form. They are then shoveled into small piles. Left for drying.

A short stop in a fish market in Trapani really brought out the feeling of life in Sicily. The air was abuzz with fish vendors all yelling out how their fish was the best. Customers, shrewd as ever, had their own comments and the price bartering and selection seemed to go on forever.


SelunteMoving along, we next visit Selinunte to see more temples. The site, as the town has been destroyed, sits on a spur overlooking the sea.

The town was established by the Dorians in 628 BC. Lots of fights with the people of Segesta and in the end the Carthaginians were called in to destroy Selinunte in 409 BC. Anyone who had not been killed were sold as slaves. Even though some came back, the city was destroyed again cy the Carthaginians in 250 BC. So if that was not enough bad news, much was destroyed in a major earthquake in the Byzanthine era.

In the 16th Century Sicily rediscovered the site. Today you can freely walk the site or take one of the tours.


Founded by the Carthaginians, it was attacked and won over by the Romans in 241 - not easily, as it took some ten years for that siege to be successful. Because of salt and marble in the area it became an important port. It is an interesting town to visit.

In Marsala we discovered not only a very pleasant and elegant town, but the drink of the holiday: Tea Freddo con Lemone Granita. Nothing hits the spot better on a hot day.

Marsala Barogue architecture of Marsala
Grand gates to the city. Baroque architecture abounds.

Jugs from a Greek boat that sunk thousands of years ago.

  Stunning architectural detail.

We toured a naval museum, the Museo di Capo Lilibeo, which houses the remains and a rebuilt model of an ancient Phoenician war ship of the 3C BC. The boats had significant treasures that have been recovered from greek and roman trading boats that sunk thousands of years ago.


Villa Palocia HotelOn previous trips we have stopped in the town of Sciacca - Gerry our tailor is from here and there was no question, we had to see the place. On this trip, however, we stayed at a hotel just outside the town - the Villa Palocla Hotel - A Great Place to Sty in Italy -- here we stayed for a couple of nights and toured the area.

Finding it was only possible with the help of some very friendly guys in a bar. We were lost. Glenn when into a bar in Sciacca to ask for directions. Soon there were major discussions and although it was not clear what was being said, it was obvious there was no agreement on how to find the Villa Palocia. Arms were pointing everywhere and within a few minutes one of the fellows signaled to follow. He got on his vespa and lead the way as we drove through the town and out to the road that would take us to the hotel. Yes, Sicily is friendly.

The Villa Palocla has very nice rooms, a good restaurant and a pool that can become a destination holiday!


CaltabellottaCaltabellotta is on of the towns listed as "the most beautiful" so on one afternoon we took a very long windy road high into the hills to tour this town. It is located 3,100 fee up the slopes of the Sicani Mountains.

Not much going on in this town but it was scenic complete with men watching their herds of sheep.

CaltabellottaAt the top are the Gothic churches of San Salvatore and the Chiesa Madre. Take the time to walk out to the escarpment behind the church as you will get a stunning view of the Verdura Valley.



Noto, Italy

Noto has been on our list of towns to visit for some time.

Noto The town is located about 35 kilometers southwest of the city of Syracuse. We stayed at the Noto Marina, a hotel along the coast and then traveled into the city centre to see the stunning architecture and try out the restaurants. I don't think we would do that again, head right into the city.

Noto is a baroque jewel and we followed the recommendations of others --see it now before it disintegrates completely! The soft colour of the rose-coloured stones is memorable. Chiesa di S. Domenico e Convento is pictured to the left.

NotoNoto was one of the cities leveled by an earthquake in 1683 it was totally rebuilt in the Baroque style - the popular style of building in Sicily at the time.

The main street to walk down is the Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Walking along the corso takes you to a number of piazzas. From these you can take steps up into the upper levels of the town.




The Palazzo Ducezio, is noted for its elegant portico is built in Neo-Classical style. On the left side of the Cathedral is the Palazzo Alfano and next to it is the Palazzo Villadorta. Villadorta was built for a Sicilian aristocrat in a fanciful Baroque style back in the 18th century. Palazzo Villadorta has impressive wrought-iron balconies and a series of fantastic statuettes of nymphs, lions, ogres and other mythical animals.

Near the end of the Corso is the Piazza XVI Maggio with the Church of San Domenico and its curving facade built in 1727 by the architect Gagliardi.


Siracuse, Siciliy, Italy

Dating back to 743 BC this was at one time the richest city in Sicily. We headed over to the Lungomare di Levant - which is the old fortress town. There we take a horse-drawn buggy ride and see the main sites. Now this is traveling.

Siiracsa Siracusa
Cross the bridge to the Lungomare di Levant Piazza del Duomo
Siracusa Glenn in Siracusa
Italian guys. Somewhat Italian guy.

The piazza del Duomo is busy and our guide stops to allow us to go into the Duomo. It has a 17th century Baroque facade but also includes some of the parts of the ancient Doric temple of Athena. You can see the capitals of the pillars of the temple in the wall of the church. The centre hall of the temple is the central nave of the church.

Gotta go back to Syracuse.


Toamina,Sicily, Italy

Arentha RocksWe spend the last few days of the second week at the Arathena Rocks Hotel - A Great Place to Stay in Italy - in Giardini Naxos which is located just south of Toarmina. This is the life. We mark this hotel as a destination in itself.

What we liked about staying here is it was like staying in someone's grand home. They looked after you like friends as opposed to the mechanics of many hotels.

Arethena Rocks   
Arathena Rocks  
Arethena Rocks   


TaorominaA morning in the pleasant town of Taormina is a must. The Corso Umberto I is the main street but there are unforgettable views and sights on many of the side streets.

The Greek-Roman theatre is large. Built by the Greeks is was originally used for dramatic performances. But when the Romans took over, there were some changes to house the gladiator-type spectacles.



Looking for a place to eat? Try:

La Griglia, Corso Umberto, 54

Ruins in ToraminaWe had a very enjoyable lunch there.The next day in the morning we took an unexpected board ride along the coast. A fellow came by in his board and blowing a horn made from a sea shell, called for people to join him.


Mount Etna

In the afternoon we boarded buses for a sunset tour of Mount Etna. Whether it is a sunset, sunrise or day visit, a trip to the top of Mount Etna rocks you. Mount Etna is the largest and most active volcano in Europe. On a previous trip there was an eruption and from our hotel we can see the red lava flowing from the top.

Chris Grant on Miount Etna Mount Etna
Chris at the 2,000 meter level. Mainly chunky lava. But check out the capri pants. He wore them everywhere. At 3,000 meters the landscape is very different This is on the edge of one of the largest craters. That is steam rising not clouds.
Mount Etna  
Glenn near the edge of one of the craters.  
Mount Etna  
Amidst all the gray there is colour up there.  

The volcano rises to a height of 10,758 feet and there are over 200 craters.

At 2,000 meters the first base is not that impressive,although you do where the lava flows where it has flowed right over previous buildings.

Mount EtnaBut at 3,000 meters you feel like you have entered another world. A world of death. Everything is dark gray, there is no life. If you place you hand on the ground and dig your finger in, it is warm.

Gas seeps out of the ground. An always, the wind is blowing.

Just when you thought there was no life, on the sides of creates something grows and it is vivid greens, yellows and oranges.




Towns in Siciliy