My stepfather often told me, when I was being unreasonable: "Why don't you broaden your pitifully narrow horizons." This blog reflects my desire to do just that. It involves tales of my adventures in extraordinary places but also ordinary places made extraordinary by the people encountered and the food.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Another castle and Siracusa

For the second day in a row my day started with a castle. This time it was the remarkable Castello Eurialo.
Called the Castle of Euryalos in English, it was built between 402 and 397 B.C. and is the largest and most complete military structure from the Greek period. Apparently it took roughly 60,000 men to construct the fortress in six years. It is impressive with its well-preserved walls and tunnel system. If you're in the Siracusa area definitely check it out.
Siracusa, here we come!
Here again the notable meeting of the modern with the ancient is apparent as cars zip by Greek and Roman ruins.
The Greek theater of Siracusa.
The ear of Dionysius.
Apparently prisoners were kept within the cave and the cave's design allowed the guard standing outside to hear even the softest whispers uttered so there were no secrets.
Roman sarcophagi
Again, a cat sees history as a resting place.
Roman amphitheater
What remains of the church of San Giovanni, built between 700 and 800 A.D. and damaged by the earthquake in 1693, is famous for its catacombs.
San Giovanni's famous catacombs, second in size only to those of Rome, were reused ancient aqueducts.
Photos are not technically allowed so I had to take these in secret.
It seems that there are Greek or Roman ruins around every corner here in Siracusa.
The cathedral of Siracusa was built in the 7th century over the 5th century B.C. temple of Athens. The facade was rebuilt in Andrea Palma in 1725-53.
The columns from the original Greek temple can be seen incorporated into the walls of the existing church.
Local fisherman hope for a good catch.
So we leave Siracusa after having spent a marvelous day within its boarders.

I have apparently reached my 1 GB limit for photos I can store on Blogspot so my choices are either pay a fee each year to have increased storage or start a new blog elsewhere. I now have a new blog hosted by which has unlimited photo uploads. It's simpler, but will offer you the same opportunity to see my photos and read my ramblings about my travel experiences.
Here is the link to the new blog: the button near the bottom that says "Latest Entry" to read my current post.

Here is a link to my first post using TravelBlog:

A castle and Catania

As a general admirer of castles, I was eager to explore the giant castle I saw atop a hill from Taormina and Teo was kind enough to accompany me.
We packed up our camping gear-- this time we camped in an official campground with hot showers and such, which was excellent-- and followed the signs for the Arab-Norman castle of Calatabiano. It's speculated that the castle and surrounding area was founded by Arabs primarily because the name Calatabiano comes from the Arabic Qalat-Bian, or castle of Bian. The castle was later altered by the Normans who took it over in 1072. Today it is a wonderfully well-restored castle whose restaurant and large assembly room can be reserved for special events if you have a lot of money.
There is a cable car that takes you up up the hill to get to the castle and the ride offers fine views of the countryside and the church which stands near the castle.
The panoramic views from the top are even more stunning.
The castle is still in the process of being restored. There's a whole other level underground that is still being excavated and prepared for future tourists. The castle is already stunning so I can only imagine what it will look like after it has been completely restored.
Ok, I've resigned myself to the fact that I will never be a rich woman since I have prioritized my life differently, but man, when I see things like this I can't help imagining how amazing it would be to rent this castle for a night, fly all my friends and family over on my jet, and throw a stellar party.
As reality would have it, I must content myself with an espresso, a fabulous view of Mt. Etna, and a dream.
 On to Catania we go, leaving our dreams of partying in a castle behind us.
Catania, founded in the 8th century B.C., has suffered several catastrophic earthquakes owing to its location so close to the active volcano, Mt. Etna. Much of Catania was destroyed in 1169, and again in 1693. As an unfortunate consequence pretty much everything was rebuilt in the Baroque style. Previous blog posts have expressed my opinion on Baroque.
 The Duomo of Catania, built originally in 1078-1093 on the site of Roman Achillean baths, was rebuilt in the Baroque style following the 1693 earthquake.
There is much more to see in Catania, but we were tired and ready to have a picnic on the beach where we were staying in a bungalow for 20 Euros a night.
The sunset over the sleepy little beach town of Brucoli as we head back to our campground bungalow. Tonight was lesson one on how to fish! I caught a lot of rock fish from the cliff, but no luck with real fish.
Tomorrow Siracusa (Syracuse) is in our future!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Messina by day and a terrific trip to Taormina

We awoke on a beach in Messina to a glorious sunrise.
 We, or rather Teo, packed up our sleeping bags and we made our way into Messina in search of the much talked about Sicilian granita and coffee.
Trust me, it's the effect of the sunrise that makes Messina look so romantic. The grit of modernity is evident when the sun shines fully.
After some searching we found a place that served granita, which is a glorified slushy served with hot buns. Granitas come in various flavors. I chose almond and it was delicious. The hot bun melts the granita as you dip it. 
There are some nice beaches in the areas surrounding Messina but besides the fact that it was too cold to enjoy them, our mission was more historic. Taormina was waiting.
Taormina, about halfway between Messina and Catania, was inhabited by the Siculi before the Greeks arrived in 832 B.C. It is most famous for its Greek theater but the town itself is quite lovely as well.
  These old aqueducts are now a playground for cats.
Taormina offers glimpses of the ancient mixed with the modern at every turn.
This is the Greek theater Taormina is famous for. Since the bricks are clearly Roman its thought that Romans built over the original Greek construction.
And so we pass through the arch to exit Taormina after a terrific day of touring.
We had a castle and Catania to look forward to tomorrow.