Posted by: travelrat | November 26, 2007



 Sicily, October 2006

I came to the end of my ‘trip diary’ with a week to go before I leave for Sydney. So, to avoid a hiatus, I just opened my diary at random, and came up with this, and it’s purely coincidental that I mentioned Sicily recently, and Taormina featured last week on ‘Pic of the Week’

One of the first things we noticed about Messina were the posters saying ‘No to the Bridge’ … in Italian of course! It seems that plans were well advanced to link Sicily with the mainland, and it would seem most Sicilians want none of it.

We didn’t stay in Messina very long. We were told that, because of a succession of earthquakes, most of what is to be seen is fairly modern. A hike to the summit of Mount Etna was on offer, but those who took it pronounced themselves disappointed, as the top was covered in cloud.

We went to Taormina, a hillside town overlooking the sea, founded in the way-back-when by the Greeks. Our bus dropped us in a multi-storey car park, the supporting pillars of which bore distinct scars of battle, and we made our way to the roof … from where we would climb uphill to the town itself. I did say it was a hillside town! And, I’ve got to say … that’s the best view from the roof of a multi-storey car park I’ve ever seen!

Most of what’s to be seen lies in the main street, between the Messina Gate and the Syracuse Gate. In this largely pedestrianised street souvenir shops rub shoulders with boutiques and more traditional shops … there are even ‘if you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it’ clothes shops. But, they didn’t see any need to rip the heart out of it in the search for ‘modernity’.

Glancing landwards, narrow alleys and steep steps lead dramatically uphill, while, mainly outside the churches, the street opens out into a piazza, with views of the sea. There’s usually a café or two here, too.

Just outside the town, there’s the ‘Greek Theatre’ … although the Romans adapted it later to suit their style of theatre. It’s not quite right to call it ‘ruined’, though, for it’s still used for the occasional performance. And, if you get bored with the production, there’s a stunning view of Mount Etna … or there would be, if it wasn’t for the haze!

A few days later, on the way back to the ship’s home port of Savona, we sailed through the Straits of Messina, within hailing distance of the Aeolian Islands, and the most active volcano in Europe, Stromboli. Trouble was, this was happened around 5.30 am.

There’s a lot of truth in the saying ‘It’s always darkest before dawn’, and I really don’t know what made me get up early to see it.

I went out on the deck with a cup of coffee. Would I see Stromboli? It was as black as the inside of a cow out there, and certainly no good for photography; the vibration of the ship put a tripod and a time exposure out of consideration. I didn’t have a tripod with me, anyway.

Soon, the volcano’s classic cone shape loomed out of the darkness, and the crew considerately doused the lights on deck. And, as we watched, the volcano coughed!

All right, it wasn’t a great eruption, but the momentary red glare of upflung lava against the night sky, the shower of sparks and the smoke drew ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ from the few watching passengers, like a firework display.

I began to curse myself for not bringing my camcorder with me. ‘Bet it doesn’t do that for another hundred years!’ I said to a couple standing next to me. And, scarcely were the words out of my mouth when it happened again!

This time, it was slightly more powerful than the first … but Stromboli didn’t perform again after that. Dawn was breaking, and I did manage to get some movie footage on my digital camera, although the ‘stills’ turned out to be a failure.

As it became lighter, and Stromboli disappeared into the haze on the horizon, more passengers began to appear, and video and photograph the scene. An hour too late, I thought; you’d need to get up early to see the best of Stromboli.

(Subsequently, I managed to rip some stills from my movie footage, but they’re not very good, and don’t show the volcano ‘coughing’)


  1. What an amazing experience. Stromboli coughing would have been something to see, indeed. My son was so excited when I told him, he is studying volcanoes at school!

  2. You could send him to take a look at which is a pair of webcams on the hotel roof at Santorini. One of them points at the volcanic islet of Nea Kamini; I’m putting up a photo of the summit crater in my latest post.

  3. I think that this is an interesting article.
    Very nice.

    • Thank you!

      A visit to the Aeolian Islands to see Stromboli close up has long been on my ‘bucket list’

  4. Stromboli is magic, i have been 2 days ago!! Wonderful excursion!!

    • We sailed past it again in April. This time, I was prepared! I was out on deck with my cameras … but unfortunately, Stromboli didn’t perform, Maybe another time?

  5. I think that this is an interesting and wonderful article.
    Very nice.


    If you want watching live volcan Etna, it’s possible at this link

    And also the information about Etna at this link:

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