The Mount Etna Region

Our last week in Sicily we stayed at a terrific house built from an old winery on the slope of Mount Etna in the town of Trecastagni.
It was comfortable, quirky, and quiet--well, except for the canon fired every morning and evening to chase away the pigeons!

One of the fun things about this place was that you could see the top of Mount Etna from the backyard, and we enjoyed watching it all that week,
as it smoked away. (It is still an active volcano, and the last major eruption was in April 2013--though there was a minor eruption in December 2015.)

One of our stops that week was at Taormina, a bit too touristy of a town overlooking the east coast.

The town has existed since antiquity, and perched at its highest point is an ancient theater, restored and still used for plays,
built in the third century BCE by the ancient Greeks and largely rebuilt by the ancient Romans in the second century CE.

The town stretches out mostly along one main street parallel to the mountain, with side streets climbing up or diving down from it.

The Palazzo Corvaja was buit in the tenth century by the Arabs.

The Palazzo dei Duchi di Santo Stefani ("Palace of the Dukes of Saint Stephen") was built in the fourteenth century, during the Spanish era.

There are mansions built into the mountainside by the wealthy who visit or move to Taormina.

Down one side street we discovered a display for the Catholic festival of Corpus Christi.

Inside one small chapel were these statues of twin saints.

One afternoon on our way back to Trecastagni we stopped at Motta Sant'Anastasia, with nothing to recommend it
except for this twelfth-century Norman castle, now housing a small museum with replicas of medieval clothing.

Catania is the main city on the east coast of Sicily.

Its main square, Piazzo Duomo, was designed in the baroque period--like the rest of Catania, rebuilt
after a 1669 eruption of Mount Etna that covered much of the city in lava, followed by the 1693 earthquake.

There is also a huge outdoor market, called the Mercato della Pescheria, held daily in Catania.

The Badia di Sant'Agata ("Abbey of Saint Agatha") honors Catania's patron saint.

The Collegiata: yet another of Catania's baroque churches.

The church and monastery of San Francesco all'Immacolata ("Saint Francis of Immaculate Mary") was built over the ruins of an ancient temple.

The facade of the Church of San Nicolò l'Arena ("Saint Nicholas of the Arena") was never finished.

The church and its attached monastery are huge, and were built over the ancient Roman arena.

The Castello Ursino was built in the thirteenth century and is one of the few things to have survived the 1693 earthquake
and the 1669 eruption of Mount Etna. It now houses the city's art and archeological museum.

One day we visited a series of small towns along the coast.

Our first stop was at Acireale, and its cathedral.

Santa Maria la Scala is the small fishing village nearby.

A bit further south along the coast is Aci Trezza.

A bit further south again is Aci Castelli, named for the Norman castle built at its edge.
We had a fantastic lunch of fresh fish and seafood on the waterfront.

One day we drove up the slope of Mount Etna. The vegetation pushes out from the volcanic rock until, as you get higher, it becomes entirely barren.

Near the summit, where the hiking trails begin, is a collection of souvenir shops.

On the eastern slope of Mount Etna is the town of Zafferana Etnea, an attractive place with a large main square.
Much of the town was rebuilt twice in recent times, after being covered in lava in 1852 and again in 1992.

That's it for our trip to Sicily! Here we are flying out of Catania airport, catcthing our last glimpse of the city and Mount Etna in the distance.

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