Finally, I get to witness the crater of Mount Etna, one of Europe most active volcanoes

For the very first time, I was about to step into one of Europe most active volcanos, Mount Etna, located in Catania, Sicily. I was standing at the entrance of the crater known as “Crateri Silvestri”.

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According to Wikipedia, Mount Etna is the tallest active volcano on the European Continent, currently, 3,329m (10,922 ft) high, though this varies with summit eruptions. The ground was fertile with small rocks and black ashes. The weather was chilling. I put on my jacket and good walking shoes to explore further. I was lucky that the dark clouds did not appear.

The first sight to greet me was the steep slope.

The contours around it make me curious to discover the unknown. I suspected the round hole beneath was caused by the last eruption in mid Aug 2014, as reported by Daily Mail, a news publication in United Kingdom.

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I decided to venture ahead. Despite the low visibility, I managed to capture a shot, using my point-and-shoot camera. It might not be clear as the air was misty. From the front and far end, there was a blanket of white foam.

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So, I picked up the pieces, realizing that that was snow, covered in black ashes.

The texture was soft and smooth, running through my fingers like fine salt. The snow was not thick. Looked like the volcanic activity had been recent and temperature was cooling.

I think it could be due to the solidification process after hot lava flowed through the surrounding terrain. At least, the eruption was not as bad as Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull where the ash clouds halted the air traffic in Europe. Leisure and corporate travellers were grounded at airports. I could not imagine if Catania was hit by such magnitude.

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I paused for a minute and started to examine the volcanic rocks. My geography teacher used to tell me about the formation of the rocks. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not recall the process!

For my readers who would like to know more, you could find short descriptions and images here.

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I made my way around the crater. The wind and mist was blowing in my direction. At some point, I had to turn my head away. Everything was in a blur. Nonetheless, I trotted up and looked around. On my far left, there was a group of people walking. On my far right, it was emptiness.

I had to continue. It’s a new experience for me at Mount Etna.

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The vegetation added some colour.

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Just by witnessing the amazing spectacle around the crater left me speechless. If you had the chance to visit Catania, insert Mount Etna into your travel plans. For you never get an opportunity to stand in Mother’s Nature creation. Your day could start in the morning with lunch at a nearby restaurant. It’s within walking distance. Usually, you could buy pizzas, sandwiches, tea, coffee or beer. Souvenirs are sold in the restaurant too.

I did not went back empty-handed. I bought “Fichero”, the only hot-blooded liquor that’s available right in Sicily. It’s said to mimic the lava in Mount Etna. Being ambitious, I bought two small bottles, thinking what any alpha male did. After all, what’s this as compared to Absolut Vodka.

Oh my! I was wrong because the red liquid was really burning in my throat and I had to down one big bottle of cold mineral water to soothe myself.

Fichero Mt Etna

That was the final challenge for myself.

Don’t forget bottles of “Fichero”. Your friends might just love you. Completely unaware.

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This is Erice. A medieval town with cobblestone streets and little shops that you can’t resist

Erice is located is a historic town, located in Trapani, Sicily, Italy. Its foundation was associated with the eponymous Greek hero Eryx.  Thus, the ancient Greek name of Erice was Eryx.  Erice was not a Greek colony but was largely Hellenized.

Let’s take a stroll into Erice.

I am at the Entrance.  There is a name and it’s called “Porta Trapani”, rebuilt in the Middle Ages. My journey starts here.

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I notice a Handicraft Shop

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with a hidden treasure trove.

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Soon, I turn into a corner. There is an awesome souvenir store.

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The winding pavement surprises me. For there are unknown stores waiting.  The paving, with its pattern of squares and “chains”, lends atmosphere to the street and enhances its sense of perspective.

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The mystery awaits me.

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Descending down…

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What will be inside the shop?

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I end up staring at the sweet treats.  Very tempting, don’t you think?

There are Sicilian bakeries and sweet pastries.

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But I prefer to sit by the café to have a hot English Breakfast tea.

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Finally when hunger strikes, I decide to try the popular fish couscous. It’s highly recommended. Fish Couscous is a “must-have” meal for first-timers like myself.  What you need to do is to put the sliced pieces of fish into the sauce and that’s it. Bon Appetite!

Fish Cous Cous @ Erica

I am revitalised. So, I continue my walk up to the summit. To the medieval towers where I can truly appreciate the picturesque scenery from afar.

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The view is simply astonishing. The top of the mountain commands a view over the vast plain, ringed round by the Cofano which overlooks the Tyrrhenian sea and, further off, by Mounts Monaco and Sparagio.

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My next focus is the “Torretta“, built by Count Agostino Pepoli between 1872 and 1880. It has mediaeval architecture, as well as features of local building traditions.  I heard the “Torretta” has become one of the symbols of Erice.

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A closer look of the “Torretta“.

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The Norman Castle stands on the same cliff, famous in antiquity as having been the seat of the sanctuary-fortress of the Erucina Goddess, as I learn about the legend that unfolds.

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I take a deep breath.  What I see right in front of me is truly amazing.

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Erice has certainly preserved their old mediaeval appearance. You can find several historic cathedrals. The buildings which line the paved streets show traces of 15th to 17th century architecture.  I do feel a certain character in the quiet town and the odd feeling of searching for something valuable in the quirky shops.

And so you think Sicily is a mafia unsafe country. Well, you just miss out something real important

Few months ago, I flew to Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, located in Italy.

The friendly nature of the locals, the beautiful, scenic view of the Mediterranean sea, the cobblestone streets, the little shops that dotted the winding pavements and the Greek temples mesmerize me. There are many things for me to write about Sicily. Before going further, let me put out a map of Sicily:

map of sicily

I took up Insight Vacations land tour. It’s reputable and wholly owned subsidiary of The Travel Corporation. My itinerary includes Catania, Taormina, Syracuse, Ragusa, Agrigento, Marsala, Trapani, Palermo and Messina.

Sicily is not the crowded fashion capital of Milan or the Vatican City in Rome. In fact, some sites require transport and it’s not easy to hail a cab. So, I need someone who does the logistics and the nitty-gritties, who know how to speak fluent Italian, manage and coordinate things with people they know, including the “unspoken rules” – tips, places I should go and should not, you know these sort of things that you want to worry the least. The fact that, mafia activities are known to be in Sicily but don’t worry, it’s safe for tourist like me because I figure that Insight Vacations will take charge of all.

Well, they did and provide much more than I expect! The experience I have is completely mind-blowing. Excellent service with ample time to view the attractions. What makes it special is the professionalism of the Tour Manager, premium offerings and the opportunity to meet and interact with people across Europe. Life and travel stories are shared amongst people.

Insight Vacations is the only land tour company in Singapore that offers Sicily. You can book a tour with them directly. I still have a few SGD$50.00 vouchers left, as of today that I write this article.  If you want the vouchers, please email me directly and I’ll pass to you personally.

Only available for people residing in Singapore. Specially for my readers of gowheretravel.com

In Sicily one of my favourites is Taormina. This picture is taken from my hotel room. The backdrop reveals Mt. Etna (Europe tallest active volcano)

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The ferocious carter of Mt. Etna

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The calm, blue sea:

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Shoreline that dotted the landscape:

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The old Greek Theatre at the streets of Taormina:

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Moving on to other part of Sicily, announcing Erice!

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And UNESCO World Heritage – Ragusa Ibla:

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See the Temple of Juno at Agrigento:

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There is more than you think. Let me know if you are a first-timer to Sicily. Email me (ktservices@mail2world.com) and maybe, I can help you.

More commentaries on Sicily. Stay tuned folks!