Today we had planned to visit the Aeolian Island of Vulcano; the weather is unsettled so we are switching our days and visiting the Alcantara Gorge and Taormina. Travelling inland we can appreciate the local agriculture with the benefits of extremely fertile volcanic soils, allowing the almond trees and lemon groves to thrive in this region. In fact, although it is only early February, lemons were being picked ready for sale!
We arrive at the Alcantara river Gorge, formed by the waters running of the slopes from Mount Etna, reaching a depth of some 65 metres, 50 of which are above the water level. This natural phenomenon is well worth a visit, here the waters are icy cold, even during the hottest summer months. There is plenty to do once you arrive, a highlight being a trail along the top of the gorge which offers fantastic view points looking down into the gorge. Down at the river level we sat in the sunshine and completed the river workbook units.
After visiting the farmers store, with tasters of the local orange marmalade and olive pates, we departed for Taormina. By now we are all looking forward to our afternoon pizza making session at the authentic family run pizzeria Al Varo in Taormina. Marco our expert pizziaola gets us involved with the pizza making and spinning and we all get to prepare our own large pizzas which are enjoyed by all!
After a local dessert we are on our way to the Greek Theatre in Taormina – an absolute must when visiting the town as the view through the columns of Mount Etna during sunset is stunning – a perfect spot for that all important group photo opportunity.
Today we are off to the Aeolian Island of Vulcano, being February there are only 60 inhabitants on the island (during the Summer months this quickly increases!) so we feel like we have the island to ourselves. Our expert guide Pietro is there to meet us off the hydrofoil and we begin our trek up the gran cratere at a steady pace – no rush as we have plenty of time allocated to enjoy the climb. Once at the top we all agree on what a wonderful achievement it was ………..the view from the top is amazing as we can see most of the other seven Aeolian islands which are grouped together as a UNESCO world heritage Site, including Stromboli steaming away! We get up close with the Gran Cratere fumeroles, evidence that the activity here is very much alive! On our descent there was time to visit the bubbling mud puddle before heading back by hydrofoil to the mainland. We round the day off with a shopping trip to a local mall for those all important gifts, before enjoying our final homemade evening meal at the hotel.
After a leisurely breakfast we say our farewells to the hotel staff and head for our flight home,
Arrivederci Sicily !
A piece from the party leaders post-tour questionnaire:
If I were to identify the best moment of our tour it would be…
“Climbing Vulcano. A tough challenge for some, but the sense of achievement on getting to the top and seeing the grins on their faces was truly amazing!”