Arriving to Lucio's place as couch surfers we are pleasantly surprised with dinner, Italian style; local bread, and pesto pasta preceded by a green salad with homemade olive oil, sundried tomatoes and merlot wine! All things we are happy to sample (for quality control of course!). After way too much food, (Lucio wouldn't take no for an answer) and some fantastic conversation about the mafia scene in Sicily we headed for bed. The next day we are off to Siracusa to see Ortygia the tiny bridge connected island. We headed towards city center and veered off to the archeological park where we magically managed to just walk in...no 10€ admission fee, what? We viewed the entire Roman amphitheater for free and not until we walked towards the rest of the park and saw the sign, did we figure out it is actually free day for everyone, first Sunday of the month, should have known. After seeing the Greek theatre it was so evident how much more brutal the Romans were, with a pit to wash out the blood and guts from all of the fighting, versus the Greek theatre intended more for drama and non-violent theatre it is actually still used today for shows. We visited the Orrechio (ear) of Dionysius a limestone cave dug out for local water storage, which vaguely resembles the shape of an ear, not to mention the acoustics of the 213 foot long cave are incredible! With our daily dose of history in the bag we ventured off to wander the city. We parked just on the edge of Siracusa and strolled onto Ortygia over one of the four bridges connecting the small island. Luckily from one end to another it is only 2 kilometers long because in less than 30 minutes of rambling down alleys our blue skies were fading to grey. It was incredible to watch the harbor as the dark skies rolled across the water to our side and all of a sudden the downpour started. We ran between closing restaurants and between fumbling shopkeepers as locals were yelled "storma, storma" sandwich boards were blown closed into the streets and shutters slammed open, dust being kicked up and thrown like crazy by the gusts. It has been dry all summer and the rains have arrived. We took refuge in a coffee shop until time to head home for the night.
The next morning we are driving an hour before the sun has even decided to start his day. It is our last day in Sicily and our agenda is full with visits to Mount Etna, Taormina and Tropea on our journey to Rende near Cosenza in the heart of Calabria's region. The drive up to the 2,500 meter station is chocked full of aggressively sharp turns and filled in on both sides with chunks of lava rock. We hike around a bit, the wind chill is frigid, it feels like the middle of winter, not the morning preceding an 80F day. The chunks of lava ranged from pitch black to coral red in color and as sharp as coral as well, but with a higher density. Really amazing to consider the lava debris and flows in action, this volcano is very active, with two episodes in the last year alone. Pockets full of lava rocks we took our driving descent down the volcano, not long before we reached Taormina, a city built high into the cliffs North of Etna by the Greeks. Showcasing a beautiful theatre overlooking the volcano and the ocean. Unfortunately for us the storm that had chased us from Siracusa the day before has continued to follow our tracks and overtook Etna just as we were thinking about paying to see the theatre, mostly renowned for the view, so we decided to save our 8 euros, for Cannoli! Regarded as one of the best producers in Sicily, (the birthplace of the dessert) Laboratorio Pasticceria Roberto is renowned and certainly delicious to our 2€ standards. The shell is stuffed with ricotta cheese as you wait and the pistachios are sprinkled on top only after, for the most authentic of desserts. Walking through the streets of Taormina is genuinely a struggle with the amount of tourists clogging the adorable historical streets. Feeling unable to escape to any undiscovered and solitary streets we make our way back down the terraced hillsides and onto the ferry that sadly carries us away from Sicily. The rest of our day is spent winding up and down the hills and beaches of the Calabria coast, not too shabby for a Monday.
The Roman theatre