Sicily Alcantara Etna and Syracuse

Etna informationA wonderful holiday in Sicily Alcantara Etna and Siracusa. During our holiday in Sicily, we were staying at the foot of the beautiful town of Taormina, which is next to the beach and the picturesque island Isola Bella. On the first day of our stay, we were able to choose additional excursions to explore the island. The first stop on the way to Ethna was the botanical park in the Alcantara River Valley. The place is famous for the rock formations that came up when the hot lava from the volcano encountered the cold water of the river. I’m not sorry, but I did not get too impressed with what I saw. The sun was already hot, and there was an unpleasant wet heat.

We walked through the garden on stairways and playgrounds, which revealed views of the narrow rocks, between which the river sprang and small waterfalls. Plant species dominated olives, various cacti, bamboos, and citrus trees, which were not picturesque in early September, as they neither bloomed nor matured, but tied small green oranges. By contrast, cacti all over Sicily had been depleted with already deceptive fruit, and we just picked up some of the park from the park, attacking the land. After the valley of the Alcantara River, we continued to the town of Randazzo.

Our guide was a nice and hearty guy who tried along with the trip to advertise other services – perhaps the business of acquaintances or relatives. Ranadao is a small town and its most remarkable building is the Santa Maria cathedral of the XIII century, which is made of black volcanic stone and this gives a special color to its façade. After the shopping, which we prudently skipped, we finally headed for Etna – Europe’s largest active volcano. The parking, which was included in the price, is about 1900 meters above sea level. There is a narrow road with many turns, the bus constantly beeping to warn potential drivers coming from the other direction. We reached the parking lot.

From there there are two options to wait up to the summit at about 3000 meters: with a lift that was not working then, and with jeeps. The price was 57 euros, which seemed too much to us. You can also walk, of course, if you have time and enjoy such transitions. People who have gone upstairs say that it is worthwhile especially if the volcano is active and smokes or sparks. The view of the island and the sea was also good, but only if you are lucky enough to catch a good time. Otherwise there is just lava, a lot of lava …

Our friendly guides on the bus even suggested to us if we did not go upstairs to take the rest to a typical Sicilian lunch. We refused – we did not go to lunch, but see something, even at the foot. So suddenly, part of the group drove up the jeeps up, the rest went to lunch by bus, and we stayed in the parking lot alone. We walked up the road for a while – we found a roof of a lava-buried house, ominously towering burning trees, and amazing contrasts between the lava and the lush vegetation right next to it. The road was steep and sandy and our passing jeeps lifted huge clouds of dust. The sky was covered with thickening gray clouds, and it was good that the walk quickly tired of us, and we went down in time. Etna is not just a volcano, Etna is a mountain and it should not be forgotten.

In the meantime, we bought souvenirs from a volcanic rock and collected lava chunks from the parking lot. In Sicily, almost everything can be found – statuettes of different sizes and shapes, jewelery, bronzes and all other trinkets. As we headed back, the water drained, and as soon as we reached the plain, the sun was warm again, and the heat returned. In the coming days I noticed that clouds are almost always flooded over Mount Etna, so it is likely that it is often raining there. Our second trip was to one of the most remarkable Sicilian cities – Siracusa.

I have remembered this day with an inexorable roaring sun, unbearable heat, dazzling glimpses of white stones, and a city almost devoid of vegetation colored in a hot ocher. Syracuse is the birthplace of the famous mathematician Archimedes. It is believed that the ancient city was founded in the 8th century BC. of the Greeks. He played an important role, he was allied with Sparta and Corinth, and in the 5th century he was rivaling Athens with size and influence. Later it became part of the Roman Republic and the Byzantine Empire. It is astonishing how much has been preserved in the different ages, given that over the years Syracuse has experienced a series of destructive disasters: two earthquakes in 1542 and 1693, the second of which has completely changed the city, epidemics of plague and cholera, as well as heavy bombing during the Second World War.

Our first stop was at the Neapolis Archaeological Park, ie. the ruins of the ancient Greek city of V-III c. BC. Consideration took us about an hour and a half. The main sights of the complex are the antique stadium, the amphitheater (the largest in Italy) and the altar of Jeron, which, with its impressive size, resembles the foundations of a building and I would never think of myself as a site used for sacrifices. Curious place is the Dionysius Ear Cave, which has a very specific shape. It is supposed to have been a limestone quarry.

It is used as a reservoir by the Greeks and Romans, while one of the devastating earthquakes makes it unhelpful for this purpose. The enormous central square of Siracusa is surrounded by richly decorated buildings, among which the cathedral stands out. It comes with an entry fee, but the experience is worth it. At the other end of the central square is the Basilica of St. Lucia, dedicated to the Saints’ protector of Syracuse, whose feast is celebrated on 13 December.

Our walk ended at the well of Aretusa. According to the legend, the nymph was persecuted by the river god Alfei and asked Artemis for help. In the early afternoon we finished the tour of the city and headed back to the hotel in Mazarro. I know we saw the main sights of Syracuse, but time has not come to us to enjoy the atmosphere and to tour the small streets of Ortigia streets. I recommend a longer stay and time is not as hot as last September.

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