Saturday, July 4, 2009

Father's Day in Sicily! - Part Two

We had to bid our farewell to the Aeolian Islands as there was so much left to discover on Sicily and so little time. So we ferried back to the mainland and I was amused by the truck that greeted our boat filled with fruits and veggies. I wonder if it is fresher, cleaner or safer to do this? Somehow it seemed strange and the opposite....but the colors were magnificent.We continued to circle the island in our driving tour and made it to Syracuse (pronounced and sometimes spelled Siracusa). This pretty town on the water is bursting with Greek ruins. And you know us, if there is a Greek theatre in the vicinity - we are there! We had a little trouble getting oriented as the town center and the Greek theatre are in opposite directions. We ended up dripping in the heat and at a grocery store just trying to grab anything for lunch since we were so turned around. Nothing like a banana, some bread and cheese, and a bag of cherries to revive. We were back on course soon. We reached the theatre and it was quite the spot with views out to the green, green water and a much-appreciated ocean breeze. We pushed Connor up to the top and took it all in. There were cool, shaded caves along the back of the complex where Connor was sure bears must live, because "bears live in caves!"Connor had us in stitches when she grabbed the guidebook and started pointing at the pages spontaneously saying we should go "here and here and here and here" --- can you tell she is OUR daughter?!? Guess she got the travel genes too!At the Greek theatre the pink flowers that graced all of Sicily were especially gorgeous. Connor had fun singing and dancing in the sunshine underneath them.
We found another enormous cave under the theatre. It was shaped like the ear of an elf and had bats in it, but still no bears! Another toddler hit! Echos are tons of fun in caves!
Nearby was a Roman theatre too. It was overgrown, but still a jewel.
Having had our fill of ruins we walked back to the main town. Syracuse ended up being a classic, quaint Italian town like in your imagination. With a charming church, an immaculate town square gleaming in the sun, art abounding and right on the dazzling emerald sea. The Greek ruins may have originally drawn us to the town, but the main historic center - which is an island - was the cherry on top.
This sculpture resided in Washington DC awhile. I think I remember seeing it there - called "The Awakening." Now it is in Syracuse, Sicily. Go figure!
We stayed the next 2 nights in Taormina, Sicily. It is a hilltop town that could not be more appealing. Kirk announced at the end of our stay that Taormina is his hands-down favorite Italian town. Wow, move over Rome, Florence, and Lake Como! While I am not sure I am ready to crown it at the top of my list, it is certainly near the top!
We stayed at Villa Schuler. The views were stunning and we both agreed that if we ever knew anyone wanting to honeymoon in Europe, this would be a great spot! Our room was big and private and the included breakfast was tummy-pleasing (with a strawberry or coffee granite and eggs made to order - now that is the way to start a morning!)This is the view from the breakfast balcony. That is Mount Etna in the distance. Pretty incredible! Luckily no eruptions, but it was cool to see all the mini craters leading up to the top. We even caught a rainbow over it one day. You can hike up Mount Etna, but we opted to be more low key with a beach day instead.As we were driving into Taormina I saw a shiny bride marching down the main street with her father, goin' to the chapel. She had her long veil draped over her arms and was waving to the tourists. Later as we wandered the town we found the chapel where they were tying the knot. The romantic in me took over and I got completely wrapped up in the festivity. I don't think I quite counted as a "wedding crasher" but I was taken with the love and good will from not just the guests, but the passersby too. For Father's Day we took the funicular down to the beach for a low key day celebrating Kirk! We happened upon a beach a little off the beaten path called Isola Bella. With an umbrella and lounge chairs nestled into a cozy cove we swam and sunned and ate watermelon (yum!)With so many rocks we did miss the North Carolina soft sand beaches. Connor was the only one who had the proper footwear to take the hard rocky beach without wincing.
Kirk's Father's Day gift was this wooden paddle and ball set. I knew it would delight Connor and in turn would delight Kirk, which is what the day is all about, right? Connor loved playing with the ball. But it proved a difficult feat to hit the ball and stay balanced with all the rocks at our feet.
Our little diva, enjoying the Italian sun!I adore this Father's Day shot. Makes me so happy as a mom and as a wife to see my husband father our child with such loyalty, love and patience.After naps and showers we were out and about in Taormina. We walked from one end to the other. We tried to get into the Greek theatre there, but we were 5 minutes too late. Bummer. It was ok though. There was so much else to see and experience.Throughout Sicily we were both a little disappointed with the pizza. The pasta was pretty good, but the caprese salad was the best! I think I ate caprese salad everyday (along with my daily sugary granite!) It is easy to make caprese yourself, but it just is so much better when served.And the gelato did not disappoint....At Villa Schuler there was a large pond filled with turtles and fish. They had no idea what they had coming for them once Connor discovered them. She did not want to leave her beloved "turtles and fish." The turtles were all happily sunning themselves on the rocks when we arrived but promptly took cover when Connor started doting over them. She fed them enough bread and crackers to last through the entire summer. We hope we didn't make their bellies explode with the feast!
After 2 charmed days and nights we had to leave Taormina. We tore ourselves away anxious to see our next sights, but sad to leave such a wonderful spot. We drove southwest to Agrigento and to the "Valley of the Temples." We spotted the ancient monuments (that are actually on a high ridge, not a valley) from quite some distance and they proved even more spectacular up close. The hilltop is the place of seven ancient Greek temples attributed to gods and goddesses. It was a breezy place due to the nearby ocean winds, making for a comfortable day. I always think of beating sun when I think of ancient ruins, but these were quite the opposite!
We had a few more adventures in Sicily, but since this post is already a novel....more to come. Click here for full album photos of our Sicily part two shots.

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