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Ruins, Volcanoes, and Beachs. OH MY!

ITALY | Wednesday, 24 October 2012 | Views [433]

Alright first off, sorry for the limited posts (that being my only post before I left), but I did warn that I might not be great at this whole blogging thing. Anyway, I can't believe that it's only been two weeks, it feels like so much more. After getting to Pompei I met another American, Jason, who suggested we rent a car and drive to Sicily. So off we went the next afternoon, after exploring the ruins of Pompei in the morning. How spectacular they were, particularly Villa di Misteri (thanks to my mom and dad for emphasizing it). Anyway we drove all the way to Catania, taking the midnight ferry over to the island. What a feeling of adventure. We arrived in Catania at 3:30am, not exactly the plan when we set out but we found a hostel. Along the way down the Autostrada 3, we stopped in a small town called Polla and wandered about. It clearly didn't see many tourists, but we found an amazing cafe/pastry shop, where the owner gave us extra pastries to try for free. It was great to see a small Italian town that is relatively untouched by the forces of tourism. The next day we continued on to Noto, exploring the upland plane from Avola and discovering the Cavagrande di Carribile. It's like a mini Grand Canyon, with a river flowing deep down at the bottom. Unfortunately, you couldn't hike down while we were there, but boy did I want to. Eventually made it to Noto, which is a beautiful little town full of baroque buildings carved from the local limestone. We spent the afternoon and evening wandering all over the area, finding plenty of spectacular buildings to appreciate. The next morning we woke up early with our eyes set on Mt Etna. After a bit of a drive, we made it to Rifugio Sapienza, which is the highest you can drive up the volcano.  We took the cable car and 4WD bus to a set of craters sitting around 3000m up the slope, with the Central Craters looming large over us. Unfortunately it wasn't possible to hike to the top here to see the active vents, just another place I will have to return some day to do some hiking. However the view and landscape were still spectacular, as we were above a low cloud cover and looked similar to the view from an airplane. We hiked around the craters and got some great pics of this barren landscape. The drive back up the coast that evening was great. I swam at the beach in Scilla, as the sun set over ancient fortifications sitting high on an outcropping of rock, standing sentinal over the little port town. We found a great little spot for dinner in Cosenza, which was just a man and two women cooking small dishes and serving it all as it was ready. After we finished this 2-3 hour dinner, we returned to where we parked the car and discovered that IT WAS GONE! My mind immediately jumped to the conclusions that it was stolen, but some folks on a balcony explained in Italian that it had just been towed. A bummer, but a huge relief considering the alternative. The next day continued up the southwest coast stopping in Praia a Mare for a swim and bit of relaxation on a beautiful sunny day. Praia a Mare has an expansive stone beach, that comes to a point on one end, as it approach a large rock island sitting just off shore and the water was a beautiful crystalling blue that I could see through to the bottom for many meters. We made it up to Amalfi as the sun was setting and briefly explored, but did not get to stay too long. Amalfi remains a heavy tourist destination deep into October, as it was packed. It must be an absolute mad house in the summer. Had some trouble with where we were suppose to stay and had to find a B&B on short notice but it all worked out. Return the car to Napoli the next day, having completed the coastal drive along the Amalfi Coast and caught the train on to Rome. I've had two very full days in Rome with Alessandro, but I'll save those adventures for another post.

Tags: amalfi, beaches, mt. etna, pompei, sicily, volcano

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