Our next stop was Naples where we had planned to go to Capri. When we awoke and looked at the dark and gloomy skies outside, we decided to make it a “sea day at port". We enjoyed walking around the city and on our way back to the ship we stopped at one of the local restaurants where we went inside for a coffee and pastry.
Sicily was our next stop where we went to the port of Catania. Normally we stopped at Messina but it was nice to go someplace different. We left the ship with the intent on taking a train to Taormina where we have been before but we met another couple (Dave and Mandy) who were looking at getting a taxi to Mount Etna (the local volcano). We decided to share a taxi with this couple to go to Mount Etna first and then drive down to Taormina before going back to the port. It looked like a nice day down by the port but by the time we got up to the “top” of Mount Etna (which was 7000 feet still 4000 feet below the summit) the weather was very overcast and cloudy. We decided to take the cable car up which got us a 1000 feet further up and the skies were actually better when we made it through some of the clouds. We hiked around for a couple of hours as the fog and clouds swirled around with the heavy breezes. We eventually got up to around 8300 feet where we were able to get a good view of the summit. We were dressed in shorts and short sleeved shirts when we left the port in 70 degree weather but were just a little surprised at the freezing temperatures (below 32 degrees) and snow when we ended up hiking. Fortunately, they rented nice warm ski jacket for fools like us who didn’t expect that type of weather. We then got back in our taxi and headed to Taormina which we had discovered on our last visit to Sicily. When we arrived in the city our first stop was to have lunch at La Christina’s Cucina restaurant that was known for their “arancini” (baked rice balls stuffed with cheese and spinach) that we had the last time we visited. We found the restaurant and enjoyed our meal with a little wine and beer. We then took a leisurely stroll around the town admiring the flowers, shops, cliffs/beaches and unique style that this little village has to offer. We had hoped to go to Caste Loma which was very close to Taormina, and has a special type of almond wine, but we found that it was not walkable and will have to try it out next time we are in the area. We took the taxi back to the ship to board and head out to our next destination.
This was our first visit to Valletta, Malta. We didn’t have any significant plans but took the Hop On/Hop Off bus to view the city highlights and to see the Blue Grotto. Along the bus ride we marveled at the hundreds of stone walls around the island. It turns out that in 5000 BC farmers inhabited these islands and built stone walls to terrace the fields. When a farmer was dying he built several more stone walls to partition the land so his sons could have an equal portion of his land as his inheritance. We are not sure where they got all of these rocks but there are literally hundreds if not thousands of rock walls around the island of Malta. Our first stop of the bus was at Marsaxlokk which was a small fishing village on the west coast with very colorful fishing boats. We then got back on the bus for our next stop at Blue Grotto. There we boarded one of the many boats (for 8 Euros) which take you in and out of the several sea caves in the area, one of which is called the Blue Grotto. It was a very nice place to visit and we saw many divers in this area. After our enjoyable boating trip we stopped at one of the restaurants and enjoyed a little snack with some beer/wine before heading back to our ship. Malta was a very nice port stop and if we go back again we will take a trip to Goza which has many beaches and coastal water features that look very interesting.
We now have a sea day where we can get some rest before visiting Palma de Majorca, Cartagena and Gibraltar.
Sharon & Greg