Thursday, November 04, 2010

From Rome to Palermo in Eight Days

Our tour of Sicily began in Rome and over 10 days took us down the west coat of Italy through the Bay of Naples, Sorrento, Isle of Capri, and Salerno to Taormina on the eastern tip of Sicily.

In Rome, we took some private time to walk around the Vatican which was only a few hundred metres from where we were staying. It has an ancient security wall around its perimeter and although aged, is still very impressive. Inside, it is spacious with lovely gardens and multiple buildings. (Photo of Chris at Vatican main entry - second left)

As part of our tour, we visited the Vatican Museum which is chock full of religious artifacts going back thousands of years. Most notable are the dozens of embroidered carpets representing decades, if not lifetimes of work for their artists. Truly beautiful works, like much of the work done throughout history in the belief that they were being done in the service of one or other gods. Zeuss for example; ancient Romans slaughtered 400 oxen per year to keep Zeus on side. It seems that Zeuss didn't reciprocate, so eventually he went the way of all gods ... into the wastebin of rationality. I wonder how long it will be before the current gods are seen for what they are and also discarded.

As part of our tour, We dined in a few nice restaurants experiencing the Italian/Sicilian cuisine, walked the local streets looking into the large number of high range fashion shops and more, scurried out of the way of Italian drivers, and (Robin) noticed that there are so many lean, shapely women who jam themselves into tight, tight jeans and wear long leather boots. Delightful!

The Isle of Capri is beautiful with lovely views of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Clearly a tourist destination, it has numerous old, stately hotels and charming shops (Photo of Robin in cake shop). We visited the "famous gardens" and Faraglioni Rocks and a funicular ride was included (inclined railway).

Taormina, Enna, Erice, Agrigento, and Palermo were all worth visiting, but Taormina was our favourite. It exists on different levels up the hillside.

At Palermo we did a guided tour of the Valley of Temples, considered the finest Greek sanctuary in Sicily and rivaling those of Athens in their grandeur. (see photo). Our Sicilian tourist guides had an annoying language characteristic that seems to be universal among Sicilian tour guides (who taught them English?). They seem to add a after everything so a sentence in Sicilian English could sound like: "The Romans-a came here-a about 2,500 years ago-a. I have no idea where this peculiarity of speech comes from, but it seemed that they were adding it intentionally to emphasise its existence. Very peculiar.

Italian cities are obviously overcrowded with thousands and thousands of small cars crammed into everything that looks like a parking space. There are literally thousands of SMART cars (Mercedes Benz) and they park everywhere ... perfect for that type of environment and no doubt run on the smell of an oily rag. (see photo) I'd love one to drive about Alice Springs. The lack of car parking space and density of population in high-rise buildings has also created cities that are absolutely filthy, mor like some of the Arab countries we have visited than like Germany, which is quite the opposite.

We flew from Palermo to Munich and after staying overnight in a ridiculously expensive hotel (conveniently situated near the airport), we took a train from Munich to Bad Aussee and thence a taxi to the Mondi Resort at nearby Grundlsee.

More about Grundlsee next post.


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