Day 1: After exploring Milan and Venice by myself, I met up with N in Florence for one night, then we flew to Catania in Sicily. We rented a car and stayed at this lovely little Airbnb with a family of kittens in the courtyard, and spent our first evening walking around the center.
We got dinner at Trattoria Vecchi Sapori, and at one point, a parade of horses came trotting down the street in front of us. Accompanied by music, each horse was dressed differently and trotted differently. Before I could figure out what was going on, it was over.
Day 2: Woke up to crying kittens and mama cat. The kittens had fallen from their perch into our patio. N saved the day and helped the kittens back into their nest.
We drove to a nearby town, Noto, and walked around for a bit but didn’t stay long. Instead, we went to a nice beach, Cala Mosche, which took a bit of walking to get to, but was worth it.
Driving around Sicily can be beautiful (the highway median is composed of these gigantic flowering bushes), but the drivers can be very aggressive. Starving, we had dinner back in Catania at 7+ Pizza.
Day 3: N saved the kittens again in the morning. We had some time to kill before our flight to Malta, so we drove along the coast. Most of the coast is occupied by commercial, run down, beach developments, but we found a deserted and kind of creepy section with a gated residential area that didn’t really look inhabited.
**Intermission – 48 Hours in Malta**
Day 5: The second half of our Sicily stay was in another Airbnb, but this time, along the side of Mt Etna in a quiet village called Praino. It was the perfect place to stay after a week and a half of running around everywhere. The property was surrounded by gardens full of fruit and olive trees, and we made dinner at home with groceries from a larger neighboring town, Milo. As we sat down to eat around dusk, we could see bats coming out, we heard the bees returning home to the tree right by our Airbnb(!), and we also heard and saw the neighborhood goats being herded back home as well. It was the most perfect and picturesque mountain life scene.
Day 6: Mount Etna is the first active volcano that I have seen up close and personal, and it is massive. The most recent eruption was just two and a half months before we visited and nearly took out a BBC crew. My knee had been bothering me for the past week, so we drove to the more popular southern face, Rifugio Sapienza, at 1900 meters, and then took the lift roundtrip for €30 up to 2500 meters. From there, we walked to Torre del Filosofo at 2920 meters, where we could peer into the smaller craters (you can also take the bus for €49). Holy crap is it windy up there! You can rent shoes, socks, and a jacket for cheap at the base. We were lucky and it was a relatively clear day, and we could see all the way down to the ocean. On the way down, we did this kind of sliding/falling/sinking type of walk through the volcanic ash, which was surprisingly fun. Note, you will have super fine ash in all the crevices, just accept it.
It’s not a difficult hike at all, and you can also skip the cable car as well. In the winter, you can also ski on a volcano!
Day 7: Drove to Taormina where the G7 had just been held a few days earlier. Parking was a bitch to find. Save yourself some time and just park in the first parking garage you see. Taormina is beautiful quintessential Sicily with art, shops, and flowers everywhere. It’s situated on the top of a cliff with spectacular views of the ocean. It’s also a popular cruise ship stop, so beware of the tourist traps.
The morning we drove to the airport, it was a very clear day, so we could see Mount Etna making clouds.
Lessons and Tips
- Rent a car and drive around to the smaller towns
- Eat a lot and relax
Photos taken with the iPhone 6s or Fujifilm X-E2s