Monthly Archives: October 2022

Mljet Island, Croatia

Monday 31st October 2022
Well, I am sure you can guess what we tried to do last night. Our tax! Of course it was fraught with problems. Surprise, surprise. Hehehe!
1. – No phone signal in the National Park so we can’t get our password code for MyGov
2. – David’s Digital identity wouldn’t work without a code. I managed to set up a Digital identity.
3. – David’s efforts were a complete fail. I managed to get my tax done but can’t lodge it as I need David’s income.

This morning David made 2 or 3 trips 1km down the road to where you can get phone signal to try and sort out his tax log in again. Total fail. Oh well! We tried, obviously a little late. Time to go explore Mljet Island’s National Park.

We stayed in a lovely little apartment on the water at Saline last night. We woke to a beautiful sunny day and decided we would explore this part of the island by bike today. So Martina organised for bikes to be delivered to us at 9am this morning. Right on the dot, they arrived (100ku each, we think for the day but we are not sure). So of we go at about 10am on a bike for a welcome change.

We set off from Soline, it was a beautiful peaceful ride along the water’s edge on a bitumen road. Only wide enough for one car with the occasional passing bay along the way. This is the road we travelled in the dark last night. I really enjoyed being away from the crowds, the hustle and bustle of the city and back in nature. We arrived at Pristanište, paid our National Park fee of 70kn each (about 14AUD each) as the office was closed last night. Our fee included a boat ride to Sveta Marija Island (St Mary’s) which is a pretty little fairy tale islet featuring a picturesque Benedictine Monastery which once served as a creative hub for artists of various vocations. The ferry was just arriving so we hopped on and went to the island and enjoyed a little walk around seeing most of the things on offer. Then we hopped back on the ferry and did a little trip to the north western part of the large lake. It was very pretty and peaceful on the water, even more so because the boat was solar powered. So quiet. David managed to sort out his password for his tax so we will be able to get that done tonight. Yay!

We then hopped back on our bikes to contine our loop of the large lake. We headed on the edge of Mali Most (Small Lake) and made our way to Pomena. This was a tiny fishing town with many restaurants and cafes but unfortunately the season is over and most of them were closed. We went for a walk in search of a cafe but ended up at the fast food take away cafe. It worked out okay as we sat under a shelter on the water’s edge and enjoyed our first hamburger and chips since we left home. The fries were really good.

After a very filling lunch we rode to Sparožni rat where we went for a short hike and happened upon an old cannon in a shelter, anotherr shelter and a long tunnel. David went for a walk in to the tunnel and explored for a little bit. Then back on the bikes to complete the rest of our loop around the large lake. It was picturesque all day. We arrived back home about 3.30pm and had a rest this afternoon. Both of us actually had a sleep which was well needed. We had planned a hike about 4pm but we might do that tomorrow, maybe.

Dubrovnik to Mljet Island, Croatia

Sunday 30th October 2022
Another day in Croatia. What a beautiful place!

After a little bit extra sleep because of the daylight savings time change, we headed on our way out to do a quick trip up the cable car to see Dunbrovnik from the Srd. We would have walked the 2.2km up the hill but David still wasn’t up to it. We instead paid 220kn ($44AU) in total for us both to go up one way in the cable car. Eek! Well, you do, what you have to do. It was a beautiful view and we enjoyed this view for the next 40mins walking down the switchbacks to the base of Dubrovnik again. It was a lovely couple of hours in Dubrovnik before we headed on our way north.

We managed to get out of our parking spot at the apartment without any damage, it was a really tight squeeze, and the road out was just as squeezy. Once on the main road though, it is heaven. The traffic is a lot slower, the roads wider and the going a lot easier and less intense than the last few weeks in southern Italy. David is a little bored already, he loved the intensity of the driving in Sicily. Oh well, I am enjoying it a lot more, even though I am not driving. Being a passenger was pretty stressful in Italy, so I am looking forward to a lot more enjoyable drive now.

The view on our drive today was beautiful, we drove along side the water most of the way. The water was a gorgeous blue and crystal clear. Along with the blue sky we are blessed to be enjoying, it was a lovely day. After a short while driving we stopped at Plaza Veliki Val (the beach) for some lunch and a swim. The water was so clear although quite fresh and the beach was white pebbles. A challenge to walk to the water. Oh well, we did enjoy a refreshing swim before we continued north.

Along the way to our destination we stopped at Ston, where we climbed a wall similar to the Great Wall of China. It was a a steep climb out of Ston up lots and lots of steps. Unlike the Great Wall of China, today’s steps were an even height making for a lot easier walking. The view at the top was beautiful looking down to both Ston and Mali Ston. From Mali Ston we had a 1km walk along the road back to the car.

After our walk, we headed on our way again as we had a 45min ferry (177kn) to catch from Prapratna to Sobra before our 50min drive to our accommodation at Saline, within the Mljet National Park.

Our drive to Prapratna was problematic. David took us across the salt flats and google decided to take us along a not so great dirt road which in the end turned out to be roadworks, after driving for about 20mins the road was unfinished and we didn’t know if we could get through. So with only 40mins to get to the port, we turned around and drove back up the dirt road. A little more difficult in our Peugeot 208 front wheel drive than we are used to. We made it to the ferry with 10 mins to spare, bought our ticket and boarded just before deparrture at 5pm. The boarding process of these ferries is seamless. The ferry ride was uneventful and quicker than expected. Although it was still dark when we disembarked.

Now for the drive to our accommodation. It is only 28km but 50mins drive. It must get a bit hairy along the way. At one stage David decided not to take the dirt road (I think he had enough of dirt roads today) and drive an extra 15mins, luckily for this decision as we were informed when we arrrived at our home, that it was closed. Phew! We finally arrived at our accommodation and werre greeted by a lovely young lady who has organised our bikes for tomorrows adventure. Anyway we have had a big day again today. So nighty night. BGig hugs to you all.

The Walls of Ston (Croatian: Stonske zidine) are a series of defensive stone walls, originally more than 7 kilometres long, that surrounded and protected the city of Ston, in Dalmatia, part of the Republic of Ragusa, in what is now southern Croatia. Their construction was begun in 1358. On the Field Gate of the Walls (Poljska vrata) there is a Latin inscription which dates from 1506. Today, it is one of the longest preserved fortification systems in the world.

The wall, today is 5.5 kilometres long, links Ston to Mali Ston, and is in the shape of an irregular pentangle. It was completed in the 15th century, along with its 40 towers (20 of which have survived) and 5 fortresses. Within, three streets were laid from north to south and three others from east to west. Thus, fifteen equal blocks were formed with 10 houses in each. Residential buildings around the edges. The Gothic Republic Chancellery and the Bishop’s Palace are outstanding among the public buildings.

The main streets are 6 m wide (except the southern street which is 8 m wide) and the side streets are 2m wide. The town was entered by two city gates: the Field Gate (Poljska vrata) has a Latin inscription and dates from 1506. The centres of the system are the fortress Veliki kaštio in Ston, Koruna in Mali Ston and the fortress on Podzvizd hill (224 m).”

Dubrovnik, Croatia – Day 2

Saturday 29th October 2022
Today we will spend the day in the Old Town of Dubrovnik. We have bought a 3 day pass to some of the sights of the Old Town, so we will visit some a Modern and Contemporay Art Museum, the Rector’s Palace and the Franciscan Monastery.

As we walked down the Main Street we chanced upon a procession of flag bearers in Army and Police uniform marching down the street, we are not sure why but we felt very lucky to see it.

Our First stop today is the Rector’s Palace – We enjoyed our time walking through the museum looking at all the old relics, paintings, furniture and other interesting objects, plus a display about the war in 1991. We also spoke with a girl who worked there and found out about the procession down the main street earlier this morning. Apparently October marks the anniversary of The Seige of Dubrovnik.

We then walked back to the Franciscan Monastery which was also very interesting.  The monastery houses the inventory of the old Friars Minor Pharmacy from 1317, the well-preserved pharmacy furniture from the 16th century and the 15th and 16th century vases from Siena and Florence. Other exhibits include various presses, mortars, a 14th century still, manuscripts of recipes, precise scales, quarts, etc. In the Museum library there are valuable copies of manuscripts and chorales, as well as the valuable paintings by unknown masters, a 14th century head relic of St Ursula, and a collection of ex vuoto jewellery.

We then walked to the beautiful beach, enjoyed the sunshine, had a rest and a swim. The water was a little fresh but lovely all the same.

We then headed to the Museum of Contemporary and Modern Art which had some interesting sculptures, paintings and photography works. As always there was varied artworks which I always find interesting even though I don’t always understand them.

David headed home and as I walked back through town there was a performance by an orchestra with war pictures in the back ground. They were playing quite sombre and moving music. I watched this for a while and then headed back home for dinner.

I love being so close to the town as I was able to head back down there tonight to see the city under lights. David is still not well so he stayed home. The city was beautiful at night and the atmosphere was still celebratory. When I reached the stage in front of the Cathedral the performance was in full swing. There was a big crowd an dthe music was quite upbeat, with people in the crowds singing along. It had a really good vibe. I watched again for a while and then headed back home.

The Rector’s Palace – One of the most significant monuments of profane architecture on the Croatian coast, the Rectors Palace, was the administrative centre of the Dubrovnik Republic. Its style is basically Gothic, with the Renaissance and Baroque reconstructions. Today the Rectors Palace houses the Cultural-historic Department of the Dubrovnik Museum with exhibition halls arranged to display the original setting with antique furniture and objects for daily use, as well as paintings by local and Italian masters. The Museum also guards a collection of old coins used in the Dubrovnik Republic, a collection of arms and utensils of Domus Christi Pharmacy from the 15th century. Apart from being exceptionally beautiful, the Rectors Palace Atrium has excellent acoustics, and is often used as a concert venue.”

The Siege of Dubrovnik kicked off at around 6am on 1 October 1991 when the Yugo=slav Army (JNA) started their advance on the territory between the Pelješac and Prevlaka peninsulas on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. The JNA attacks and bombardment of Dubrovnik, including the Old Town – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – culminated on 6 December 1991 with 430 soldiers and 116 civilians killed. 2,127 homes were burnt in the Dubrovnik county, with 7,771 people left homeless. As many as 33,000 had to flee their homes during the siege and the JNA attacks. The bombardment provoked a strong international condemnation of the JNA and became a public relations disaster for Serbia and Montenegro, contributing to their diplomatic and economic isolation and international recognition of the independence of Croatia.”

Bari, Italy to Dubrovnik, Croatia

Friday 28th October 2022

Friday 28th October 2022
Well, this morning we woke up n Croatia. We travelled for 12 hours overnight on the ferry from Bari in Italy to Dubrovnik in Croatia. We now begin another adventure. We both slept well last noight o the boat and were grateful for our cabin.

After disembarking at about 8.30am, we hired an Uber to get us to our hire car. We hired with Sixt this time and their office was in the fancy Rixos Hotel about a 10min drive away. After collecting the car, checking it over and sitting in it for a while as David wasn’t feeling up to getting started. It is always difficult to get moving in a new country, with new signs, a new language and a different vehicle. I booked the same car as we had in Italy, but as always they say a particular car or similar. This time we got a Peugeot 208, unfortunately it is a little bigger making driving a bit more difficult. Oh well. Here goes.

We managed to make it to the supermarket without too much difficulty. A shame we can’t say that for the shopping experience. Another country, another language and different grocery packaging, makes for a very slow shop which ended up costing us $4 for parking. Oh well. We will eat healthy for the next couple of days. We had to replenish the essential things like oil plus a normal 3 day shop as we only had minimal left from Italy.

We then headed to our accommodation. This was a little apartment in a good location. About 10 min walk from the Old Town and also a beach. As always, this means narrow streets, minimal parking and a big headache. After much manoeuvring David managed to park, too close to the car next door for comfort but it was what had to be done. Fingers crossed we will have no damage tomorrow.

After lunch and a rest, we headed out for a walk. Dubrovnik is well known for its magnificent Old Town that is encircled with massive stone walls completed in the 16th century. These ancient City walls with their intricate and complex system of forts, bastions, case-mates, towers and detached forts are quite amazing with the most incredible views. The walls are the most important feature of Dubrovnik and a world renowned iconic symbol of the white stone beauty and they are the main reason why Dubrovnik is now known as the Pearl of the Adriatic. The characteristic appearance of Dubrovnik is unmistakable as no other city in the world has retained their medieval walls so perfectly and that is why Dubrovnik is included in the World Heritage List from UNESCO as far back as 1970.

Most of the buildings have had their tile roofs replaced due to the whole town being bombed in 1991. You can see the new roofs are the vibrant colour and there are very few of the older ones left.  We enjoyed a walk on the wall for a couple of hours, enjoying the view, experiencing in your mind the feelings you would have had defending your people from intrusion. It was such a magnificent structure, its size and position on the water’s edge as always making it difficult to penetrate. As always, I struggle to understand how they managed to build such enormous walls, so long ago.

The town has also been made famous from the TV series “A Game of Thrones”. You can even do a Game of Thrones tour.

Doors, doors, doors – Matera, Italy

Thursday 27th October, 2022
I did a little time focussing on doors in the town of Matera today.

Matera to Bari, Italy

Thursday 27th October 2022
Well what a lucky find our little apartment in the heart of Matera Old Town. We woke and David wasn’t feeling very well. Runny nose, sore throat and headache. After a doing a negative RAT and breakfast we went out sightseeing again. This time taking a different route down to the outer wall of the old town. From here you could go into the Parco della Murgia Materana which was in to the gorge and across a suspension bridge. Then up the other side where you could go in to some primitive cave dwellings. They ranged in size from tiny holes that you would have to slither through that opened up larger inside. To larger 2 entrance caves with two or three rooms. You could see shelves and bed insets into the walls. It was a very interesting morning, unfortunately David wasn’t well enough to do the hike but he explored the other section of the old town we hadn’t seen last night. Once we checked out and I got back from the hike in the gorge, we went to see the Casa grotta del Casalnuovo. “This was a cave house which was a typical house of the Sassi, excavated on several levels in the limestone rock. Made up of 5 rooms, it has been preserved up to now, the furniture and original household tools that attest to the daily life of the family who lived here until 1958. And in general, the ancient peasant and shepherd culture of Matera.” We also visited a church which was on three levels, it was very simple as well. After our little visit in the sassi, we headed on our way, a short 20min walk back to the car. A short stop for the best gelato just outside the old town.

On our way again, we have about an hours drive to Bari, where we will catch the ferry tonight to Dubrovnik Croatia. First stop though, it is time to return our battered car to the car hire company. On arrival we had to explain about the graze from the incident in Bellagio and the horse bite from Sasso Gran National Park. The graze from Bellagio was poo-hooed as nothing and the horse bite they could not believe. They have never heard anything like that before. A bit like the excuse “The dog ate my homework”, very hard to believe. Anyway, on reading our policy we thought we would be up for 2 x incidents at €1000. Lucky for us the cost for the repairs plus time off the road for the car only came to €510.73 total. What a relief! We still may be able to claim some back on our insurance, only time will tell. The guy at Avis was great. He then booked us a taxi to the Port ticket office, organised for it to wait whilst we converted our tickets, and then dropped us to the Port to await our ferry. We were travelling on Jarolinija and sailing at 9pm. We thought last checkin was at 7pm, but it really was checkin started at 7pm. SWo we had a long wait for checkin as we arrived at 4.30pm. Oh well. We wanted to ensure we had enough time at the car rental for hidden problems but there were none.

We leave Italy tonight after 6 weeks exploring, from north to south and east to west, in a roundabout, zig zag fashion. We have enjoyed it immensely and have covered so much ground. We have seen beautiful scenery, magnificent churches, buildings and incredible architecture. Such an amazing history in this old country.

We boarded the ferry at about 8pm, went to our cabin, then enjoyed some pasta for dinner. We then headed back to our cabin for hopefully a good nights sleep. It was a little rocking and rolling but not too bad at all.

 

Mt Etna (Santa Venerina), Sicily to Matera, Italy

Wednesday 26th October 2022
Today we had a slower start to the day. Woke up and took our time getting organised to leave Sicily. We have definitely left many stones unturned here but it is time to move on. We set-off on our very big travel day at 9.30am. Today we will drive to Messina Port (80km – 1.5hrs) on the freeway this time, with a major wrong turn at the end which sent us 1km in the wrong direction, over tram lines and a few tricky turns. Maybe adding about 15mins to the trip. Anyway we managed to get to the ferry port and board with only about 10mins to spare before it was on its way. Pretty good timing as they only depart every 40mins.

The ferry trip only takes 15-20mins and then you are on your way again from Villa San Giovanni on mainland Italy. Right in its toe. We then, or should I say David, drove 378km more over the next 5 hours to a lovely little town of Matera. It was picturesque drive even though it was on freeway most of the way. It was also only 3 euro in tolls which is amazing.

Well we arrived at Matera after google giving poor directions to the Parking Station and then me giving directions to a wrong turn, which also took about 15mins to recover from. We laugh all the way, David thinks I am losing in the tally of poor directions but I think he is. Hahaha! After a 1.2km walk to our apartment which is located in the centre of Matera, 50m from the Duomo and its Piazza. It is the most amazing location. After checking in to our little apartment we headed out for a walk around the town. It was perfect lighting at sunset as we meandered through the rabbit warren maze of streets and alley ways. We also saw a trail over through the gorge to what looked like abandoned caves on the other side. It was a beautiful walk. The city was amazing. Once again we could spend a couple of days here but we are out of time. We made the most of the twilight and night to explore as much as possible, we will try to go fore a little walk in the morning before we drive our last couple of hours to Bari tomorrow.

“Matera is a city in the region of Basilicata, in Southern Italy.

As the capital of the province of Matera, its original settlement lies in two canyons carved by the Gravina River. This area, the Sassi di Matera, is a complex of cave dwellings carved into the ancient river canyon. Over the course of its history, Matera has been occupied by Romans, Longobards, Byzantines, Saracens, Swabians, Angevins, Aragonese, and Bourbons.

By the late 1800s, Matera’s cave dwellings became noted for intractable poverty, poor sanitation, meager working conditions, and rampant disease. Evacuated in 1952, the population was relocated to modern housing, and the Sassi (Italian for “stones”) lay abandoned until the 1980s. Renewed vision and investment led to the cave dwellings becoming a noted historic tourism destination, with hotels, restaurants and small museums like the Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario, with period furniture and artisan tools – and a vibrant arts community. Nearby rock churches include St. Lucia alle Malve, with 13th-century frescoes.

Known as la città sotterranea (“the underground city”), the Sassi and the park of the Rupestrian Churches were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. In 2019, Matera was declared a European Capital of Culture.”

Mt Etna, Sicily – Italy

Tuesday 25th October 2022 
Another early start for us today. We are climbing Mt Etna and need to be at the meeting point at 2000m by 8.45am and our home in Santa Venerina is at least a 38min drive on many bends and narrow Sicilian roads. Sop we left home at 7.30am packed for a big day as the tour goes for at least 5 hours. Unfortunately David woke up a little unwell, so wasn’t sure if he could manage the hike. So we drove to the start , discussed his options with the tour company – Aitne, tour guide – Francesco, and he decided to travel up on the cable car and return (30 euro each). On the cable car we met an Italian guy and his wife who after chatting for a couple of mins we found out that he had lived and worked as a chef in Castlecragh for 6 years. So uncanny, what a small world we live in. Castlecrag is 5mins from our home in Willoughby. He couldn’t believe it either. He now lives in Italy.

In the end David did this little tour – Climb Mount Etna in an off-road vehicle and walk among the extinct craters and lava flows in the company of an expert guide who will tell you all the secrets of Europe’s largest active volcano. You will admire incredible landscapes while exploring one of Sicily’s most iconic places. (38 euro)

This is the tour I. did – Trekking at 2900m: By cable car, the first uphill section is reached, reaching approximately 2500m. From there, via a route that avoids the most crowded areas, you reach on foot the altitude of 2900m where you find yourself in front of the craters and their life! To complete the understanding of the volcanic phenomena we visit the eruptive theater of the 2002-2003 eruption: its splendid craters and the impressive eruptive fissure. Finally a visit on the highest edge of Valle del Bovewhere to appreciate the evolutionary history of Etna with a stunning view.(45 euro). We learned a lot about the volcano, lava flow, explosive eruptions, and much more. All now in my memory bank for the next 30 seconds. It was a great hike up  with a lovely view for lunch. On the way down we did some ash running/galloping down very steep slopes. You move forward, lean back and gallop down the hill. A very quick descent. Our tour group handled this very well, so we went on a steeper slope. We then arrived at the cable car where we split the group, some went down the cable car and the rest were offered to run down the next 600m elevation in 30 mins over a couple of kms. It was nuts and when I can’t walk in the next few days I will have to remember that I am not as young as I used to be. It was incredible to leap through the air and land, burying your feet about 15-30cms in the ash and then keep on bouncing down the hill. A very steep hill at that. We ran sometimes 3-400m in length at a time, sometimes 2-300, although it was very dusty. Each time we stopped we learned a bit more about Mt Etna.

We both had a great day, although I would have preferred we were together. My memory of the knowledge imparted by Francesco is limited but he was amazing, with a zest for life, volcanoes and the outdoors.

David at least got to see some craters and walk on Mt Etna and he probably retained more information from his guide than me.

It was a great day!

Mount Etna, or simply Etna, is an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily, Italy, in the Metropolitan City of Catania, between the cities of Messina and Catania. It lies above the convergent plate margin between the African Plate and the Eurasian Plate and is one of the highest volcano in Europe and one of the most active in the world. The volcano shaped the Sicilian history and landscape and still affects the island today. It is an UNESCO World Heritage site since 2013 and the smoking volcano craters and the old and new lava flows are always an impressive experience for visitors. It is 3,329 metres tall with a base circumference of about 150 kilometres.

With the cable car “Funivia” from Rifugio Sapienza you will reach about 2,500 metres. From there you will have two options, the first is, to join a guided hike in the volcanic area, known as the Valle del Bove up to 2900m and the second is a less strenuous tour with a 4×4 jeep ride to 2750m.

Mt. Etna is an active and constantly changing volcano as it is in a constant state of activity, a mystery of nature that fascinates everyone and makes us a little afraid too, with its explosions, the high lava fountains, earthquakes! The fertile volcanic soils support extensive agriculture, with vineyards and orchards spread across the lower slopes of the mountain and the broad Plain of Catania to the south.

Over a six-month period in 2021, Etna erupted so much volcanic material that its height increased by approximately 30 m, and the southeastern crater is now the tallest part of the volcano.

Eruptions of Etna follow multiple patterns. Most occur at the summit, where there are five distinct craters – the Northeast Crater, the Voragine, the Bocca Nuova, and two at the Southeast Crater Complex. Other eruptions occur on the flanks, which have more than 300 vents ranging in size from small holes in the ground to large craters hundreds of metres across. Summit eruptions can be highly explosive and spectacular but rarely threaten the inhabited areas around the volcano. In contrast, flank eruptions can occur down to a few hundred metres altitude, close to or even well within the inhabited areas. Numerous villages and small towns lie around or on cones of past flank eruptions. Since the year AD 1600, at least 60 flank eruptions and countless summit eruptions have occurred; nearly half of these have happened since the start of the 20th century. Beginning in February 2021, Mount Etna began a series of explosive eruptions, which have had an impact on nearby villages and cities, with volcanic ash and rock falling as far away as Catania. As of 12 March 2021, the volcano has erupted 11 times in three weeks. The eruptions have consistently sent ash clouds over 10 km into the air, closing Sicilian airports. There have been no reports of injuries.”

The story behind the Moors Head ceramic vase in the last picture below – “Teste di Moro. The legend behind these figures comes from the XI century when the Moors dominated Sicily and, like so many legends, is supposedly all the fault of Cupid.

One day, a girl who lived in the Arab district of Palermo, the Kalsa, was taking care of some plants and flowers on the balcony of her house.  Suddenly, a dark-skinned merchant passed by and they immediately fell in love with one another.  They began their love story together until the young girl discovered that her lover already had a wife and children waiting for him back in his home country.

One night while he slept, the girl, crazed with jealousy, thought of a way to make him stay with her forever!  Without blinking an eye she cut off his head and decided to use it as a vase to grow her beautiful basil.

As people would walk by her balcony, they began to become jealous of her thriving basil, and so they began creating colorful vases with clay heads.  Today there are many different styles of ceramics heads, but the most traditional are a man of colour and a beautiful girl.”

Stromboli, Aeolian Islands to Mt Etna, Sicily

Monday 24th October 2022
Well it was an early start this morning, up and on our way by 6.45am. In the dark again. We came home last night to our takeaway breakfast ready to go. So we headed down to catch the 7.15am ferry to Milazzo Port Sicily. To our surprise the wharf was so crowded. We were expecting a few people but there was an excursion of 75 boys from England leaving today as well. They were half of the 150 people on the hiking tour the night before us. So it was very crowded on the ferry and it was the first time on all our ferry trips that the boat left late.

Oh well, it was a magical day weather wise and a very pleasant 2 hour ferry trip. The ferry is a hydrofoil and goes very fast. We arrived at Milazzo at 9.35am, walked to the Del Porto Garage about 5 mins down the road, picked up our car and were on our way. David felt a little out of practice having not driven for 4 days, especially as the drivers in Sicily are like the ones in southern Italy. If you give them half a blink, they are on their way, even if there isn’t enough room. You just have to nudge your way in and go for it. By the end of the day, David was back in the swing of it and driving like an Italian.

We had a choice of driving back through Messina to Taormina (72mins) or head through the centre of Sicily through the mountains (2.5hrs). Now I am sure you can guess which way we went. Once we got through the suburbs near the port, after a few wrong turns, we got on the road to the mountains. David was in his element, it was winding, narrow and racing driver practice, He loved it. He should have been a racing car driver. We finally arrived at Taormina at about 1.30pm, after missing the turn into the car parking station, it took another 15mins to get back there. We then headed to the Old Town. This was really just the Main Street of the Old Town which was really nice. The buildings, the facades, the shops, the churches and the Duomo were all lovely. A typical old historical town. We spent the afternoon waking the main street, then out of the town to the gardens, then back in to the town to the Greek Theatre which was a huge outdoor arena and was quite spectacular. Then we walked the Main Street again for gelato, then down the cable car (only 3euro each, each way) to the beach and Isola Bella (Bella Island). The water at the beach was so clear and once again was walking on pebbles. We enjoyed our time there but are really looking forward to being back in the mountains tomorrow.

We then drove to Santa Venerina, to a lovely 2 bedroom apartment with all the facilities. Time for a home cooked stir fry veggies and chicken. Yeehah! We feel like we might turn in to a pastry, cake or pizza, we have eaten so many of them in the last week. We are situated at the base of Mt Etna ready for our trip up there tomorrow.