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Our first stop after embarking the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas was in Messina, Sicily. Here we had a 7.5 hour Mt. Etna tour planned where we traveled at first to the Crateri Silvestestri (or Silvestri Crater) and walked the perimiter of this quiet volcano crater. Mt. Etna is the largest active volcano in the world and the tour guide said usually at least twice a month they can see eruptions from the mountain into the sky. There were 3 primary mouths to the volcano but two sealed off leaving just Etna for hundreds of years. Until several years ago where new craters erupted randomly and in 2003/2004 they had flowing lava and an eruption cause mass damage to the surrounding region.
The volcanic rock and ash left behind is just incredible to witness, my wife and I had visited the lava tubes in Kona, Hawaii but there is something different here. The volcanic rock is brittle and some of it glitters, we brought back several samples which they allow you to freely take. In Hawaii you cannot take volcanic rock back with you as it is considered bad luck.
We didn’t have the time to walk the largest crater in the area, but we walked one of the mid range ones and the scope of the volcanic craters makes you see why the Romans and Greeks really thought that Mars had his weapons made here in the forge of the gods. Man seems so small next to such powerful elemental forces.
Probably the coolest thing is that from the towns and landscapes you an always see Mt. Etna in the distance and it is always steaming from it’s highest point about 11,000 feet above sea level. The townsfolk are proud and thrive in the fact they live near an active volcano and are never worried that another earthquake or explosive eruption can cause them harm. The fact that an earthquake completely wiped out some of Messina in the early 1900s causing the entire city to be rebuild from scratch doesn’t concern them anymore.
Tourina meanwhile is a tourist paradise, littered with rows of stores and fashion shops that wind around hills there is hours of shopping here. Cafe after cafe with infinite restaurants it seems line decorate the streets.
On one of our stops near the craters we had authentic Sicilian Pizza with strange mushrooms, peas and exotic ingredients mixed into the pizza sauce. We also feasted on authentic cannoli with fresh ground pistachio nuts on top. The sweet riccota cream filling was incredible and it was among the best cannoli’s I had ever eaten in my life.
One other note is about the juices, they have at least two different kinds of orange juice and one is light orange while the other is a dark pink that borders red. Neither tastes like orange juice in the US and both are so much more flavorful. The light orange is sweet almost like tangerine nector or an orange/guava combination and is among the best fruit drinks I have ever tasted.
No doubt, Sicily was amazing and among the most magical places I have ever visited. I would consider doing an extensive stay here in a beach side condo someday.
Here is a photo gallery of the Messina, Sicily tour.