Well I am almost recovered from our ten-day tour of Europe. We had a rough start because we arrived in Sicily in the middle of a Catania train strike. We waited three hours in the station and could not understand what was going on, because none of us spoke Italian. I got to see some very angry Sicilians (there was some violent gesticulating involved), but it was worth it when, after another train and two buses, we reached Taormina. Perched on mountain, it is an incredibly charming town that is dripping with history, filled with good food and provides mouthwatering views of the ocean. In fact, the Mediterranean supplies the scenery for the stage of the Ancient Greek Amphitheater in the town. When the Romans took over, they built a scaenae frons or colonnaded backdrop, blocking the panorama (silly Romans), but luckily the structure is crumbling away.
So after some delicious lunch and granita (Sicilian ice, served with a pastry), at the recommendation of my cousin, we went shopping and walked around the gardens. Then I was able to meet up with my extended family that lives there. They own a hotel and invited us into their home to talk, which was a little difficult since they speak little English and I speak no Italian. But it was so special to meet them and be welcomed with open arms. I am keeping in contact with them and already hoping to go back!
The next destination brought more ruins with a visit to beautiful Agrigento. Claiming to have more Ancient Greek ruins than Greece itself, the Valley of the Temples is a huge park of Doric structures and ancient olive trees. Also, due to the elevation, there are some amazing views of the island and ocean. The Temple of Concord (pictured right) is one of the best preserved because it was built on a layer of soft clay, which acts as a shock-absorber during earthquakes. Maybe if we built our structures on a bed of clay, they will last 2,400 years also.
The last stop in Sicily was Palermo, which is a city that has a lot of history, but is, for the most part, unkempt and rundown. There are numerous stray dogs on the streets that are dirty and malnourished. However, there are some great sights to be seen, like the Fontana Pretoria and the Cathedral. We also had some amazing meals there, but my friend kept saying “sí” whenever anyone asked her a question in Italian. So we always ended up ordering more food than we meant to. But we had some delicious pistachio gelato because of it, so I am not complaining.
However, I had the best gelato I have ever tasted in Rome, where we spent our day-long layover. We walked around, hitting the highlights and enjoying the beautiful weather. We saw the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Castel Sant’angelo, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza San Pietro (and the Vatican) and Piazza Campidoglio, which was designed by Michelangelo. We did not get to tour the inside of all the buildings, but we got a taste of the Rome’s beauty, history, and ice cream. If you ever go, make sure you get the Tiramisu gelato from Geolitti. They claim to have the best in the world, and I believe them with all my heart and taste buds.
Stay tuned, because our trip also included five days in Barcelona that I will have to tell you about in my next posting.
But I am now back to London and classes. And in other news, I am trying some new things for breakfast this week. Guess what they call English muffins here. Muffins. Teehee, that makes me chuckle…