April-May 2005 in Italy and Malta

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April 17-22 Rome
Arrival in Rome,
Tourists in Rome

April 22-24 Bay of Naples

April 24-27 Capri

April 27-29 Amalfi to Maratea
Amalfi Coast and Paestum,

April 29-May 3 Sicily
To Sicily,
Sicily (Taormina)
Mosaics at Villa Imperiale di Casale,
Valley of the Temples,

May 3-6 On Malta
Blue Grotto and Temples
Valetta and Archaeological Museum,
Exhibits in Archaeological Museum
Hypogeum, Gozo and Ggantija,
Tarxien and Clapham Junction

May 6-7 Sicily, Scilla and Charybdis

May 7-8 Tropea (Capo Vaticano)

May 8-10 Puglia
Matera, Grotto, Trulli of Alberobello

May 10-12 Abruzzi National Park

May 12 Tivoli, Villa Adriana



A map of Sicily, showing some places we went.

The image I had of Sicily before we left Canada had been of a sun-baked arid rugged landscape. Perhaps it is like that in the heat of summer, but at the end of April and the beginning of May it was green and flowery. As we drove around, we encountered so many amazing vistas that we almost became jaded with them. If a view wasn't truly three-star, it was "ho-hum, another fantastic vista."

From Messina, it was an easy drive along a toll aurostrada to our initial destination, Giardini-Naxos. Giardini-Naxos is a beachfront tourist town beneath the more famous Taormina. Its name (which translates to "Naxos Gardens") is historic, accordng to our landlady at the Villa Mora hotel. Naxos was the first Greek colony on Sicily, named after the Aegean island. It is at the end of the bay you see in the picture from our hotel window. The gardens are actually up in Taormina, and Giardini-Naxos links the gardens to Naxos.

From our hotel window, the Giardini-Naxos beachfront. Taormina, on the ridge above Giardini-Naxos
What kind of palm is this?

Our hotel was set back from the actual beach road by a small parkette, but our balcony provided a good view past the palm trees in the parkette. I took the picture of the lone palm tree simply for the colour of whatever fruit is hanging from it. Are they dates? I don't know.

The parkette proved to be a bit of a problem one night, as they closed the road for a very loud rock concert under our window. But for the most part it was just fine.

The next day, our first quick trip was up to Taormina. When we had arrived, we had seen a beauriful rocky island or peninsula just before we got to the Taormina turnoff, so we wanted to see that again, but only after seeing Taormina itself.

Taormina is known for its wonderful views along the coast, and especially for a Greek Theatre, which is said to provide the best view of Mount Etna. One can imagine that the ancient Greeks built the theatre there for just that reason.

Looking down from Taormina Giardini-Naxos from Taormina The Greek Theatre and (left) Mt. Etna
Panorama of the view south from Taormina, with Giardini-Naxos and Etna.

A few days later, we went to Malta, but we came back again to the Villa Mora in Giardini-Naxos and revisited Taormina. I show those pictures here rather than in their chronological order.

Taormina evening Etna snowcap
Bird of Paradise flowers in Taormina Gardens Marble slabs are as common as plywood sheets.
Taormina sidestreet I know it's one way, but which way?

We had three days to explore Sicily from Giardini-Naxos. The first day, we visited the Villa Imperiale de Casale, which is a 2nd century Roman Villa that must have been owned by someone very rich and important, possibly a member of the Emperor's family. It is quite extensive, but its main claim to fame is the wealth of extraordinary mosiac floors that survive. I show a few pictures of them on the next page.

The next day, we took a trip around, and partway up, Mount Etna. To me, Etna was very different from Vesuvius. Vesuvius is an interesting part of the landscape, and one is always conscious of what it did to Pompeii and Herculaneum. It is there to be seen. But Etna seems to have a brooding presence and a personality. It looks at you, as much as you look at it. It's more than just a part of the landscape. It involves you in itself in a way that Vesuvius never does.

The last full day was devoted to a long trip to Agrigento, to see the misnamed "Valley of the Temples", with a return along the coast to Gena and return by way of Catania. Finally, before catching the plane to Malta, we visited Siracusa, where Archimedes was killed by a Roman soldier.