We arrived in Acrireale (about 10minutes by train north of Catania) and stayed for two nights from the 17th June at “La Timpa” camping ground which was more like a 5star property. We were high up on the
mountain with a spectacular view over the sea and with a lift down to the volcanic beach below where we swam.
It was an idyllic spot with tables and chairs below many gum trees. We saw the fishermen coming and going to the nearby harbour and the boats at night shining their lights on the water to catch squid.
As soon as we got there we took the lift down to the water and had a swim, although the water temperature was pretty cold. The camping ground provided many lie-lows and we just relaxed
for the afternoon and in the evening we walked down the hill to the town and had a nice seafood meal. The only drawback of walking down the hill is having to walk back up after a meal.
The next morning after breakfast overlooking the sea we decided to stay another night and went again by lift down to the sea for a swim and sunbake.
A taxi picked us up in the early afternoon and took us the 15minutes to the train station at Acrireale to catch the train into Catania. It was quite warm (30degrees) and we walked around the town before
taking a 35minute ride in a motorised little train around the city to see the sights. When we got off we went to see the “Duomo” and then walked back up the hill to the former very opulent Benedictine monastery which was now used as a university. It was a beautiful place to have a university with long high corridors and lovely garden aspects.
We had to try a lemon granita (a specialty of Catania) which was very refreshing as we walked around.
We had a coffee and snack on the way to the station where on the way we bought delicious peaches and cherries for next to nothing.
We all ate a pizza at the lovely restaurant within the camping ground and called it a night.
On the 19th June we drove about 1 1/2 hours to restaurant “Belladonna” on the way up to Mt Etna.
The brothers Belladonna have the local IGA supermarket in Wembley and Vince one of the owners had recommended to Helen that if we went to Etna we should call in and have the mushrooms at his family’s restaurant. When we arrived early for lunch before 12 o’clock the family (an uncle and cousins of the family in Perth) welcomed us like long lost cousins. They proceeded to ply us with every different kind of mushroom cooked in 7 different ways for an entree! and more porcini mushrooms done with pappardelle pasta. Needless to say we were so full by the time we leftand were worried about any sort of climbing of Etna. The restaurant was covered in ash 3 years ago and they told us that it needs to be cleaned away as soon as possible or it sets rock hard. The clean up cost them over 6000euros! They have luckily been spared from further eruptions as ash from eruptions up to three weeks ago have because of wind direction fallen on the other side of the volcano. There are many signs on the road advising drivers to be careful of falling ash and stones.
From the restaurant we drove the other 10kms to the parking area and caught the cable car further up Etna. We then were ushered into 4wds for a bumpy ride to 3000metres and the closest point to the main crater.
Etna had been erupting for up to 20days prior but there was only steam coming from the main crater and several smaller craters about which we were not unhappy.
Francoise and I did the 40minute walk around a couple of craters formed by the 2002 eruption. It was interesting to see that with the latest eruptions the lava dust covered the winter snow and the ice has remained and is dripping as it slowly melts.
The lava which had flowed into the sea and rivers were just amazing in their formations.
Some of the land just south of the craters looked like the Australian bush. In all of Sicily and in Italy in general there are a lot of Eucalypt groves.
The variety of oleander shrubs, standards and hedges in every colour as well as the masses of
bouganvillea were beautiful and one display was better than the next and we found them especially on the south and east coast of Sicily and into Calabria and Basilicata.
We caught the cable car back to the rifugio and continued down the mountain to travel to our next stop of Taormina. We travelled to just north to the camping site at St Alession Siculo which was right on the sea.
On the 20th we parked and went up in a cable car to the historic hillside village of Taormina which is one of the most touristic towns in Sicily. The “teatro Greco” and town are beautiful as are the views from the village however it is overrun by tourists so we didn’t spend a lot of time there.
We continued on to Messina and the ferry in the late afternoon and luckily caught a ferry which left immediately and only took 20minutes for the crossing back to Villa San Giovanni on the mainland in Calabria. We all have indellible memories of beautiful Sicily.

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