Italy Vacation 2003
Day 6, Friday, Oct. 10th

Today we head to Taormina via the Villa of Casale. We left Agrigento at about 8:00 heading for this Villa located at Piazza Armerina. The driver Mario and Tour Director Alison tried to take a short cut to get to it and got lost. They finally found the way. Some roads had been washed out sometime previously which partially caused the problem. Here's the map of today's travels in green.

It's interesting that this Villa of Casale at Piazza Armerina isn't listed in the Italian travel guide I've been using to fill in some of the mental gaps I have. After all, this happened 3 months ago!!! The very limited information I do have for this comes from the Insight Tour Itinerary and what I can remember.

This fairly large 3rd or 4th century buildings floors are nearly completely covered with mosaics. Here is a sample of some of them:

This first picture is a merge of 3 pictures showing one of the largest (but not the largest) of the mosaics.

All these have complicated stories associated with them but I don't remember most of them.
An interesting group don't you think?
This is from the 4th century!!??? Notice the upper left corner. This mosaic covered an earlier one. The bright spot is sun through a window.
This is the end of a larger mosaic. They don't appear too happy do they?
One part of the largest of the Mosaics. It depicts an important battle. Another section of the largest mosaic. It's all one long one.
A close up of one section of the largest one.
Cyclops, if I remember correctly.

It should be noted at this point that the colours you see here are somewhat more vivid than what you actually see when looking at them. The brightness and contrast had to be adjusted or you probably wouldn't have been able to see them well at all.

After leaving Piazza Armerina we headed to Taormina. During these tours, as many of you who may have taken one will know, you usually end up doing some sort of seat rotation on the bus. Ours was three seats in a clockwise direction. The window and aisle seats were also flipped with each move. The gentleman I was seated with was an older, Australian, single traveler who frequently had a full backpack of stuff in the overhead compartment. Suddenly, something started leaking out of the compartment and all over me. After a big brew-haw-haw, it was discovered to be this fellow's whiskey flask leaking in his backpack. I smelt like whiskey the rest of this day and he never carried the flask up there again. I'm not sure but I think it had broken somehow.

The central part of Sicily is fairly mountainous so to get to Taormina, which is located on the coast in an area called the Cyclops Rivera, it is necessary to drop down out of these mountains onto what is basically a coastal plain. As we came down we saw the view in the first picture below.

Our first view of Mt. Etna. Notice the gasses venting from the top.
Vineyard and Volcano.
A closer view of Mt. Etna. You can see the gases venting even better here. The venting of the gases is important to volcanolgists. The venting is an indication that any pressure that might exist is being released. If it stops, it's an indication that the pressure may be building. When it stops is one of the many indicators that an eruption may be coming.

These pictures were all taken from the southwest side of Mt Etna. Etna sits on the eastern coast of Sicily. To get to Taormina, which is northeast of it, we had to drive approximately half way around it. (See the map above.) On the eastern side it was so cloudy you couldn't see it as you will see in some of the pictures to follow. More about Etna tomorrow when we go half way up its approximately 11,500 foot height.

As for the rest of today, we go to visit the hilltop (maybe mountain top) town of Taormina. It has what you might call atmosphere and many well known people (as many as will fit in the limited space) have apartments there. There are probably millions more who would like to as well. The first two pictures below were actually taken on day 7 but I'll use it here to show you where the town actually is. There aren't many other pictures of the town as it is a very small place.

The hilltop town of Taormina.
A closer view.
Taken from in front of the church, this is the road to the Greek Amphitheatre. The main square is just to the left. Some of the many sidewalk (maybe roadside is a better description) cafes. Taken from the same spot as the previous one.
Walking down the main street.
The Greek Amphitheatre from stage left.

This less than perfect merge of 4 images shows the view looking towards Mt. Etna from the same level as the right image above. The town of Taormina is to the right with Mt. Etna behind the clouds on the left.

This image is from the top of the Greek Amphitheatre looking in almost the same direction as the one above.

The two picture merged image below looks the other way. The ones above are looking south maybe southwest. The next one is looking northeast from a spot just to the right of where the small picture was taken.

Off in the distance you can see the southern tip of the Italian peninsula (or boot as it's sometime called). Two days from now we drive up this direction to cross the Strait of Messina at Messina back to the mainland on our way to Sorento.

After this we headed for probably the most unusual hotel we stayed in. As with many other things it's built on the side of a hill. The pictures below are still video frames.

The entrance and lower part of the Hotel Antares. You walked a couple of hundred feet down that tunnel to elevators that took you up the white building on the hill top. That was only the first hill top. The hotel is terraced on a higher hilltop. This is were we stayed.
To get to the upper level, you took what is called a funicular. To get here, it took a trip through the lower lobby to the bottom of this, then up to the upper lobby. As you can see there are two funiculars. If you were going to the top, you always wanted to get the left one. The right one made stops at the terraces along the way.

This wasn't the original hotel we were to stay in. Originally, we were going to stay in Giardini Naxos, a resort town just to the south of Taormina. Because it was late in the season, that hotel had closed for renovations and this one was substituted. It was owned by the same people. Another level of this hotel was under construction higher up the mountain than this. It's located to the left in the lower right picture.

After sorting out the hotel process, (confusing initially but not so bad once you did it a few times) we had supper and a quiet evening. This concluded day 6. For most people, day 7 consisted of an optional tour called Adventure on Mt. Etna and Siracusa. More about this tomorrow.

On to Day 7.

Originally Created: January 17/18th, 2004.
Final Edit: February 19, 2004 8:45 PM