Destination: Messina & Taormina, Sicily (Italy)
Where we stayed: Crown Princess
Best restaurant: Yummy...Sicily is the home of Italy's best cannolis! We had two of them, Tracy liked the Sicilian one with marscapone cheese and Jason liked the chocolate one.
Best of: The view from the amphitheater was spectacular!
Worst of: It seemed like everyone on the ship visited Taormina, the crowds were unbearable. Luckily everyone was gone after 1pm and things quieted down quite a bit then.
Sicily...home of the godfather and the mafia. Unlike "Casablanca" (previous posting), Francis Ford Capolla actually filmed the Sicily part of "The Godfather" in Sicily. As one of the poorest regions in Italy, Sicily lends itself to organized crime. While it still continues till this day, it's highly unlikely any tourists will get sight of it. While you can take a tour out to see where the film was shot, we opted to visit Taormina instead.
After avoiding the big bus tour groups for most of the trip, we ended up going on one here. The private transport allowed us more time at the site than would have the train, which went back to Messina at 1pm. It ended up working out quite well as it was more of a transport than a tour and we were were able to walk around on our own plus get a little history and culture along the way from the guide. They took us to the top of the hill overlooking Taormina to the ruins of a castle and the little quiet town just below. After wandering around and admiring the view, the bus driver took us to his little restaurant that he just opened. Called El Padrino, or The Godfather, he let us try some of his almond wine.
After trying the Almond Wine, we arrived in Taormina town. We broke away from the pack and wandered around the turning and twisting cobblestone streets in search of more peace and quiet than the two main drags would allow. We found two different cannoli shops selling both the sweet and the cheese varieties. We also ran into Peter and Nina (we saw them everyday of the cruise either intentional or by chance) where Peter snatched up the last of the fresh Buffalo Mozzarella from the local grocer and shared the delicious treat! As if we needed to eat more, we returned to meet some other friends for lunch were we were serenaded by this gregarious man.
Long before the mafia and Capolla's Godfather took over the island, it used to be home to the Greeks and then later the Romans. The island was primarily used to grow grain to feed and support the growing Empire. Remains of both cultures still exist including an amphitheater with great views of the Mediterranean as well as Mt. Etna, Europe's second highest volcano and still active.
We finished up our day down in the port town of Messina. While it's more of a business town than tourist, it does have a fairly nice church and the world's largest Astronomical Clock in its bell tower. The Church is a curious blend of Gothic and Baroque. It even sports mythical creatures including Mermaids. Outside of the church on the square sits Orion's Fountain, the mythical founder of the city paying homage to the city's Greek history.
Back on the ship, we set sail and woke up the next day in Naples...free of any horse heads in our bed!