November 6, 2011 Taormina and Enna

Mary: We wake up to the same howling wind and rain of yesterday. It is quite intense with gusts up to 40 mph. But we are not hanging around the hotel today! We will find somewhere to go where the weather is better.

But first, breakfast. Of all the food here at Villa Ducale, breakfast is the best. There is a whole table of savory choices – frittata, marinated vegetables, eggplant parmesan, cheeses, meats and on and on. Then there is a whole table of fruit and pastries. There’s also an area of English breakfast with scrambled eggs, pancetta and a vegetable. And a warming dome underwhich might be a savory pie. And of course there is cereal and breads. It is really fabulous!

Savory breakfast table

Sweet breakfast table

John: We decide to brave the elements and hope for better weather at our target for the day, Enna. We get the car and snake our way down to the Autostrada. The rain intensifies as we drive 40 km south to Catania, but thankfully clears as we head west through the heart of Sicily. After about 70 km we spy a city a bit off the road and quite high up on a rocky plateau.
Town on the hill next to Enna

Up we go, never leaving second gear. Jack the GPS is up to his old tricks, trying to get us to take shortcuts through streets no wider than the car, but we persist in following the signs for the Castello. Bingo, we are there, and find a parking spot right by the castle. We take this as a good omen.

Castello di Lombardi

Enna is at about 1000 feet in elevation. It’s Sicily’s highest major town, and was the central focus of the island’s indigenous populations. They chose well, because this place would have been really hard to attack. Nevertheless, it was conquered many times, by Romans (who crushed a major slave revolt as well), Byzantines, Saracens, Normans, Swabians (go Frederick II!) and later the Aragonese. All a familiar pattern to us by now. The only new wrinkle is that Mussolini brought back the Roman name in 1927. Prior to that it was Castrogiovanni (John’s castle, in Sicilian dialect Castrugiuvann’)

We tour the castle which underwent a certain amount of reconstruction from 1994 to 1999, so it’s still a work in progress. We are engaged by a local official tour guide who explains in English the history of the place to us. It’s very complicated. We climb the Torre Pisano and survey the countryside. It must have been incredibly stressful to live one’s life wondering from where and when the next invader would arrive.

Picture taken by local tour guide. We are obviously not his main focal point. Pisan tower in the background.

Mary at the top of the tower

After the castle we try to find the archaeological museum, but instead find the Duomo. It’s around noon and the bells are ringing away. Mass is letting out. We spend a little time inside the church appreciating the mix of Gothic, Romanesque and Baroque styles that came about due to various fires and earthquakes.

Being nigh on to 1pm, when everything that we might want to see would be closed anyway, we walk back to our car, stopping at a local (and open!!!) Supermercato to pick up some wine and snacks, and head back to Taormina.

Traveling eastbound, we get a fine view of Mount Etna. It’s really big. Steam is emanating from the summit. Should we worry? Nah.

Steam escaping from Mt. Etna

We get off at Taormina and snake back up the hill. We arrive at the hotel to find good weather. Soon the wind dies down. Yay! We write blog posts and look forward to another enjoyable evening at the Villa Ducale. When the sun moves a bit further west we will try to get some good shots of the volcano doing its (hopefully benign) thing.

Mountain man

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