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Messina and Sicily


Crossing the Straits of Messina to a port south of the City of Messina.  My first stop on the Island of Sicily.

A Monument near the Sicilian shore in the Straits of Messina.  The Straits of Messina are the source of the Phrase "Caught between a rock and a hard place."  

In the 9th century B.C., the Greek poet Homer wrote two stories, the Iliad and the Odyssey.  The hero of the stories, Odysseus (known to Romans and to us as Ulysses), was a great hero of the Trojan War in the 13th century B.C.  

Among the heroic stories was Odysseus' escape by boat from the twin perils, Scylla and Charybdis, the "rock and the hard place" of the Straits of Messina.

Our ferry boat about to dock on the Sicilian shore.  The nose of the ferry boat is lifting, and the railroad track that our rail car will be discharged onto is visible just ahead.

Taormina is a resort town on the north slope of Mt. Etna.  I thought the grill work in the railway station was pretty interesting.  The beach beyond, and the beautiful day, gives some idea of why Taormina is a very popular resort.

Catania is a fairly large city on the south slope of Mt. Etna.  Mt. Etna was active, and steaming, while I was passing by.  I tried to capture a photo of the steam rising, but the sky was too gray to provide contrast.  On the train I met a woman (more than a woman... a beautiful Sicilian woman) who lived in Catania, and who told me that she had to shovel the ashes from Mt. Etna out of her backyard each morning.  This struck me as absolutely amazing.

Siracusa.  Looking toward the Basilica of San Giovanni Evangelista.  This basilica has been built over the crypt of San Marciano, and the Catacombs of San Giovanni.  This place is like several others scattered around the Mediterranean basin.  

In the first place they were places of refuge for persecuted Christians during the three hundred years between the death of Christ and the recognition of Christianity by the Roman Emperor Constantine.  During this same period these places were incubators for the thinking which made possible the formation of the Christian church.

There are 25,000 square yards of catacombs under this basilica, and over 10,000 early Christians are buried there.

This is a Greek amphitheater about a 20 minute walk from my hotel in downtown Syracuse.  This general area is called the Neapolis.  I was told by a theatre person here in Juneau that the Greeks always oriented their amphitheaters toward a great view.  Here, the trees block the view, but, if they weren't, the audience could look out over the Mediterranean.

Another view of the Greek Amphitheater.  On this day, workers are setting up for a Greek play.  I missed a rehearsal for the play by about 10 minutes.

Allegedly, this is the tomb of Archimedes.  Maybe its in that door on the left.  A friend noted that Blockbuster Video is in the building opposite.

This could be any one of several public buildings in the southern end of the Oritigia.  The Oritigia is a peninsula extending from downtown Siracusa into the Mediterranean Sea.  It was very hot in this plaza.  Maybe 100 degrees F.  

I was in a rush to catch the train to Palermo, so I told my cab driver to take me into the Oritigia so I could take a few pictures.  Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to find any good information for these buildings.  These kinds of plazas, with their medieval architectures, are typical of almost every town in Italy it seems to me.

Is there any place or community in Italy which is not beautiful and fascinating?  By this time in my trip I was beginning to think not.


This could be any one of several churches in the southern tip of the Oritigia.

For those who have an unquenchable interest in the history of this area, the "History of the Peloponnesian War" by the Greek, Thucydides, is a classic.  The Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta continued almost unbroken for 26 years between 431 and 404 BC.  Much of the action took place in and around Messina and Syracusa.

This is a view looking north out of my train window enroute west to Palermo from Siracusa.  It is dusk, and had been rainy for most of the trip.  Here, however, the sun suddenly came out and cast this beautiful light on these rolling hills in the middle of the Island of Sicily near Enna.

Palermo.  This is a shot out my taxi window enroute to the Palermo airport.  Some of my geologist friends think this ridge tells an important story about the volcanic formation of the island.