I feel so bad for not posting in about a month. My life has been crazy and this is the first time in weeks that I’ve had to time to just sit down and semi-relax.
A few weeks ago I traveled to Taormina, Sicily to visit my friend Emily. I landed in Sicily on Thursday evening and had to take a one hour bus ride to Taormina from Catania. Sicily is soooo different from the mainland. I found the people to be much nicer and in general everything moved much slower and no one was in a rush to get anywhere. Emily met me at the airport and then we hopped on the bus. After searching around for my hostel, we finally found it. It was a really cute place and it was super cheap too!
On Friday morning I woke up and sat out on the terrace that was connected to the hostel. It had great views of Taormina, the ocean, and Mt.Etna. Taormina is breathtaking. It sits on pretty much a cliff face so the views can’t be beat. Around 1:00, I went down into town to meet Emily for lunch after her class. I met her friend Leslie who was studying at Babilonia with her and it turns out she knows someone at Marywood. Small world! After lunch, we walked around and she showed me all of her favorite places. A few weeks earlier I showed her around Rome, so it was nice to be a “tourist”. Taormina is very small, but it is very quaint and I felt right at home. We stopped at the public gardens and then met up with Leslie for granitas. I got a chocolate and strawberry one and it was so good. Emily’s host mom, Emanuela, invited me over for dinner. It was so nice to have a home cooked meal and be forced to speak only Italian. She made spaghetti and sliced up some nice bread for us. I thought that this experience would allow me to speak more Italian on a daily basis, but I am around other American students all day and when people find out I speak English there is no turning back. She asked me a bunch of questions about my study abroad experience and about life in general. After dinner we hung out in the living room and watched Italy’s version of Deal or No Deal. Instead of models, the had a person from every region of Italy holding a box. I like this version much more. It was so cool to be in an Italian household and see how they live. If I could do one thing about this experience over again, it would be to live with a host family.
Saturday was the day!! The day Emily and I were to scale Mt. Etna. Well… not exactly scale it, but you know what I mean. We hopped in a van and headed 90 minutes north to the park where we could access the mountain. Emily’s professors were our mountain guides and they only spoke to us in Italian and once again I was thrilled. We hiked up a “hill”, which was more of a very steep incline. We had a great view of everything below us, but unfortunately it was very overcast that day so we didn’t have a great view of the rest of the island and the ocean liked I had hoped. We were able to look into craters and learn about the its previous volcanic eruptions. I kept saying “what? are we on the moon?” IT honestly felt like we were and I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. We headed back down the mountain and as we were walking downhill I slipped on some rocks (not my most flattering moment). We had lunch and then took a 15 minute drive to one of the lava grottos. I had no idea what to expect and when we got there I was very surprised. It was an underground cave that was made by a lava flow thousands of years ago. Hiking helmets and flashlights were provided and after we suited up, we headed into the cave. Each of us had to lower ourselves into the opening. All but three of the members in the group were over the age of 40 and I thought they would struggle a bit, but the other ladies powered through! The ceiling was very low, so I understood why we needed the goofy looking helmets. A year ago if you told me I was going to be walking through a lava grotto and climbing Mt. Etna, I wouldn’t have believed you. After the long day, we went to get dinner. The city of Catania and the surrounding area is known for a dish called Pasta alla Norma. It is topped with baked ricotta cheese, which is only available in Sicily. It is in the running for the best pasta dish I’ve had so far in Italy. And that’s saying something because I eat some form of pasta almost every other day. Emily then took me to a place called C&G which is a pastry/gelato/cake shop. We split a chocolate truffle bomb and as usual it was delicious.
On Sunday morning I checked out of the hostel and Emily wanted to take me up to a church called Madonna della Rocca. The climb up was a bit difficult. Very steep steps and a higher altitude doesn’t mix well, but it was so worth it. The view was spectacular and I got some great pictures of Mt. Etna from afar.The church was small, but perfect to sit down in and reflect on things. Being up there made me realize how amazing my semester has been and how lucky I am to be able to experience some of it with my best friend.
NEXT STOP: Paris!!