Gardens and Ruins and Volcanoes, oh my!

It has been a very interesting past two days. The holiday season is winding down here in Sicily, so there are a lots of events happening to celebrate. But before we get to that, lets back track a little bit.

Yesterday, Caroline and I decided to go exploring through the botanical garden here in town. It used to belong to a wealthy women who lived here in Taormina who then donated it to the town for public usage. The garden is a beautiful place filled with fountains, monuments, and lots of scenic overlooks.

Statue of the women who once owned this garden.

Front view of one of the "studies" that was built in the garden to overlook the sea.

Fish pond located in the garden.

REALLY interesting duck that was swimming around the pond. Have absolutely no idea what type it is. It looks almost like a toy but I promise it was alive....

Nativity scene that was found randomly tucked away in the garden.

After going through the botanical garden, Carline and I went to look at some of the other ancient ruins located on the other side of the city. If you look back to previous blog post, you will find that I had already went to the giant Greek amphitheater that was later added upon by the Romans, but there is also a smaller one located in the city.

Local ruins on the way to the smaller amphitheater.

Ruins on the side of the roadway.

View of the amphitheater from the entrance.

Full view of the theater.

So that pretty much covers the things I did after school yesterday, so now lets move on to today.

Mt. Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in Europe. In fact, it even erupted while I was here. Yesterday morning clouds of smoke could be seen leaving the mouth of the volcano. Unfortunately the full eruption happened in the middle of the night so in the morning we just saw the remits of the main activity. Fortunately, the eruption wasn’t too major and none of the local towns were drastically effected, although some had to suffer through the sulfur smell in the air and decreased visibility due to volcanic ash.  Today, I decided that I really wanted to get a chance to see Mt. Etna while in Sicily due to its close proximity to Taormina. So we found a local touring company that has space available for today. I highly recommend using a company when going on such expeditions because trying to transverse the mountain on your own is very very dangerous.

So we left early in the morning to set out on the adventure. On the way we stopped in Catania, which is the main city right at the base of the volcano. Then on the way up, we stopped at a local shop that made all of its products from things grown on the volcano. For those who don’t know, volcanic soil is very very fertile because of the mass amounts of nutrients present in the soil as well as the material’s porosity and thermal capacity. I must say, all of the products there were delicious although some had a slightly different taste then we are normally accustomed to because of the difference in soil composition. For example, normally cauliflower is all white when grown and thats what most people know it to be. But when grown in the volcanic soil, the cauliflower takes on a purplish color.

After having a quick snack, we continued up the mountain, flighting through the rain that eventually turned into snow and then hail. In order to get into some warmth for a bit, the tour guide decided to take us caving in one of the naturally occurring caverns. It was really interesting to see all of the different types of formations that occurred due to the lava flows moving at different speeds. We could even see the seam where the rock formation came together to make the cave over a flow of lava.

A valley of volcanic rock seen while driving up the mountain.

A bat sleeping inside of the cave.

Caroline and I at the back of the cave.

After going through the cave, we continued further up the mountain to come to one of many craters found on Etna. Mt. Etna is different from some volcanoes in the sense that there isn’t just one opening where eruptions will occur. There is a series of channels which causes new craters to form occasionally.  When talking to a local who grew up in a town not to far from Mount Etna she said that the mountain looks different than it did when she was a child. Considering that she is rather young, it shows that the mountain can have noticeable changes even within 25 years.

One of the craters toward the top of Mt. Etna.

Twin craters near the base of Mt. Etna.

When getting back from Etna I got some much needed sleep while the locals celebrated one of Italy’s national holidays, Bafana Day. This is the last holiday of the winter season signifying the close of the holiday season. it is said that on this day an old woman or a witch comes on the rooftops and brings socks to the children containing either sweets, cakes, and gifts or coal, depending on wither the child has been good or bad that year. Unfortunately, the celebrations were cut a bit short because there is currently a thunder storm occurring, but I am sure there will be more adventures to partake in tomorrow.

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