The Colours of Sicilia

Over at the Daily Post this week the photo challenge is saturated. Michelle W. tells us to ‘show us a photo of whatever you’d like, but make sure it’s saturated. It can be black and white, a single color, a few hues, or a complete rainbow riot; just make sure it’s rich and powerful. Let’s turn the comments into an instant mood-booster!’

I went to Sicily back in the summer and I found plenty of rich saturated colours, in the natural world, the food and the art. I’d like to share these with you.

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Do you have some vibrant imsges to share? join in at http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/27/photo-challenge-saturated/

Taormina’s coast at Isola Bella

At the bottom of Taormina’s steep hill there are a choice of beaches and on our final day in Sicily we visited Isola Bella. We had been warned that the walk down would take about twenty minutes but that the return would be a killer climb for an hour. As it happened, we came across the funicular close to the Porta Messina that runs down to the shore and costs just a few euros. 2013 Jul 03_5510_edited-1

We sat with a lovely young man from Taiwan who told us he was heading for his favourite spot on the beach. In the space of fifteen minutes we learnt that because he can work anywhere, he spends his life globetrotting. Expecting to be told that he was some sort of technology expert or even a writer we asked what work he did that allowed him his beach lifestyle. His answer – he is a number cruncher! Apparently he does food statistics on a global scale, one of those strange jobs that people are doing being the scenes without us ever knowing. He was kind, respectful and quite happy chatting to we middle aged women, so we let him show us the way to the beach and then released him so not to cramp his style. 2013 Jul 03_5520_edited-1

The tiny island, you can walk across if the tide is out as long as your feet can bear the pebbles. 2013 Jul 03_5524_edited-1

We decided on a short boat trip, the water was crystal clear.

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The edge of the Grotta Azzurra which was a bit disappointing, I expected something a bit grander – but I was probably sulking because I couldn’t get a decent photo because of the heads in my way!

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Uh, what can I say?

It was a relaxing hour and the views were stunning of the coastline, the hills above Taormina and the ever present Etna. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re in the area and if you go prepared you can swim from the boat!

Teatro Antico Taormina . . .

. . . and some of the views from it!

The theatre was built by the Greeks and then re-built by the Romans, on the side of a hill overlooking Giardini-Naxos and Mount Etna. Originally it could seat 5000 and the Romans used it for gladiator battles, today it is still in use. We had just missed a film festival and the throne in the photo was for the next production, Verdi’s Rigoletto.  I can imagine that it would be mind blowing in this setting. Apparently Plato conceived his theory of forms in the amphitheatre, and it does have a feel about it that somehow grabs at the belly.

Sicily is full of antiquities, but if you go, visit Taormina and the theatre that is part of its ancient heart.

An Elusive Gorge and a Hill Top Perch

Travelling friend and I set off in search of the Alcantara Gorge, driving through Piedmonte Etneo and  Linguaglossa, climbing higher and weaving among olive, peach and almond groves. Our plan was a stop at Castiglione, the gateway to the Alcantara Range, and here it is on the other side of the valley from our zigzag road, with the mountains in the background.

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At the bottom of the town we parked for free again – in fact we didn’t once pay for parking, amazing when we are used to paying around £2 an hour in the UK. Leaving the car, we asked an elderly man for directions through the maze, to the castle. He was a delight and loved practicing a few words of English with us and asking about our city. We followed him to his wife’s shop, which he unlocked just to give us a tourist map, and point us along the road.

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The empty streets.

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Looking back where we came from.

We didn’t see another soul walking, but it was hot and I guess they were being sensible and taking a siesta. Or perhaps it really was a ghost town and we imagined our nice gentleman. We went in ever decreasing circles until we reached an empty piaza with a closed cafe and as we didn’t bring enough water for the hot climb, we kept going upwards and found one open. Another place where they don’t see many outsiders, but the owner was very friendly. We had cold drinks under the shade of a canopy and within a few minutes some locals appeared, all men. I think there must be some secret jungle drums, that makes them wake up and come to check people out!

Some town views.

Refreshed, we found the path up to the castle hoping to go inside  – it was locked up and there was no evidence that it would be opening any time soon. This is looking through the gate.

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So we found a different path back down the hill, this is the view from behind the castle towards the Alcantara.

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We should probably have asked for directions when we stopped for gelato back at the cafe, but as we could see the only possible road to the Gorge, we didn’t worry.

Before we left town we enjoyed the peaceful stroll and the air of faded beauty. If there are no tourists in early July, then there are probably no tourists and it’s very sad if the town continues to deteriorate, like this.

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Check out the balconies and in the top left, the remains of a flight of steps.

We loved Castiglione regardless of it’s disrepair. It’s strange to walk around a whole town for a good two hours and see just our kind old man and four other customers in the cafe. So we drove out in search of the road to the Gorge and soon realised we must have missed the turning. Never mind, there should be more than one way of reaching it shouldn’t there? We tried three and none led us there so we eventually gave up, headed back to Fiumefreddo where our hotel balcony was in perfect condition with a fabulous view of Alcantara!

 

 

Taormina

I think this must be taken on the streets for festivals because it had long handles. It was inside St Pancras , a chiesa built on the ruins of a Greek temple of Jupiter.

From S Pancras

Just up the hill are the ruins of a small Roman Odeon.

Roman Odeon

Some impressions of the town

The beautiful Piazza 1x Aprile

Piazza 1x Aprile

I wasn’t very interested in going to Taormina because it’s such a tourist trap, but of course there’s a reason for that – it’s stunning! I’ll be back in a few days to share some more photos.

Bella bella!Farewell for now.

 

 

Missing the gelato

Have you ever visited a place and felt that you nust have missed it? After an early Sunday morning start and jeep tour of Etna (I know, I’m getting to it!) travelling friend and I had a couple of hours to pass before dinner, and amazingly since we had hiked up five thousand feet, still some energy left.

On the way we went through Giarre and Davide explained the hideous traffic as all the locals heading for their nearest beach at Riposto. We thought we would check it out. Compared to the country roads, it was still busy at five thirty and Giarre was only place in Sicily where we experienced the wrath of a Sicilian driver thoroughtly irritated because we tried  to take a wrong turning. He even did fist waving. Maybe one day he will find out what its like driving on the wrong side of the road, in chaotic traffic with a distinct lack of direction signs!

After going in circles for twenty minutes looking for the Old Town of Giarre because the guide book said it was nice, we found ourselves at Riposto, with a quiet road to park on and a nose for the direction of the coast. The only shops we saw were selling clothes, for skiny women to wear clubbing and gelatto shops. I’ve since learnt that Riposto has a reputation for the best gelatto anywhere, but we were stuffed from cheese and honeytasting at our late lunch and looking forward to antipasti and fish for dinner.

We could smell the sea and were anticipating a paddle and stroll along a nice beach, it must be good to account for the morning’s traffic and crossed onto the prom heading south. There was no beach, just a few metres of rocks with quite a bit of rubbish. Oh well, the fresh air and gentle stroll was nice as were the views of the mountains so we pootled for an hour befre giving it up as a bad job.

We chose to drive the coast road in the hope that there would be somewhere pretty to stop again but instead got in a traffic queue. It seems that the place for a market in Riposto is the road beside the sea, we we were going slow enough to have reached out the windows and bought from the stalls each side. Now, I’m a real fan of a good market, especially in foreign countries, but I’m not a fan of cheap imports and I can’t imagine who would buy such junk and there was masses of it. Sad to see when there is so much creativity and wonderful local produce, such as the cheese we had tasted earlier.

There was nowhere obvious to stop and see if the beach got any better, Riposto just trickled on until we reached Fiumefreddo. The beach there is still shingle but very clean. I’m sorry Riposto that I can’t write that I found your beauty and that it was a pleasure to visit. If I’ve missed something wonderful perhaps you’ll invite me back and show me around, I promise to tell everyone they must go if you do! Meanwhile you get a four out of ten I’m afraid.

Sicily, Linguaglossa and its Chiesa’s

When I travel I like to explore the smaller towns and villages and Linguaglossa totally fits the bill. The town got its name from the lava stream it was founded on, literally ‘red tongue’, in the 16th century. Here is one of the piazzas with the town hall on the right, and the Chiesa S. Francesco di Paola with its single remaining bell tower on the left.

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Click to see the baroque splendour of the chiesa.

The town has a relaxed and friendly feel.

Lots of murals were tucked away in the back streets.

We met a lovely lady in the information centre. Her English was about as good as my Italian but we managed to find out that this painted wagon was originally used to transport timber down from the mountains.

wagon

The jewel in Linguaglossa’s crown is the Chiesa  Madre Madonna Delle Grazie (Madonna of the Miracles) which they started building in 1613. It has three naves filled with magnificent paintings, sculptures and a wooden lacunar ceiling.

If you ever visit Sicily, Linguaglossa is the gateway to Etna Nord and it’s well worth spending an hour or two there. I hope you enjoyed your visit with me.