Another beautiful wedding gave me the opportunity to visit Sicily, exploring Catania, hiking Mount Etna, and wandering through Acireale. Unfortunately three days are definitely not enough for the largest island in the Mediterranean, nevertheless you get a taste for the life across the Strait of Messina.
Sicily from Above
The island is characterised by a tendency of overfarming, and by the clouds hanging over the Etna, often accompanied by a thin layer of dark smoke from the volcano.
A salesman with his goods near the main Piazza in Catania.
Piazza San Francesco d'Assisi
A man sitting in front of the Monumento al Cardinale Dusmet in Catania.
Roman Theatre of Catania
The theatre and Odeon were built on a pre-existing Greek structure. The lower part has sunk due to various eruptions and earthquakes, resulting in the city's underground Amenano river running through part of the center area.
This photo shows how modern houses had been built on top of the structure of the Roman Theatre in the last few hundred years.
This aerial capture illustrates how the site looked before excavations began and the houses built on top of the amphiteatre were removed. Even today, archeologists still discover additional sections and artifacts below and around the site.
The Cathedral of Saint Agatha at the end of Via Giuseppe Garibaldi.
18th Century Violine
On display at the Castello Ursino.
The 13th-century castle features objects from monastery & painted crafts.
A street corner in Catania.
The market street after the activities of the day have ceased.
Church of the Abbey of Saint Agatha
The interior of the church with its baroque style, common in Sicily's churches.
The gate from 1695 built in typical Catanian baroque style acts as the entrance to the main Piazza.
The fountain with a Roman statue of an elephant carved from basalt, now the symbol of the city. The origins of the symbolism aren't clearly defined, with several tales competing for the truth...
The domed roof of the Cathedral of Saint Agatha seen from Church of the Abbey of Saint Agatha's roof.
A behind the scene view of the decorative elements of the church shows how intricate some of the work is.
The church allows visitors to climb the roof level, providing a view over Catania with the Etna in the background.
A woman looking at front of the Basilica della Collegiata from 1768.
The 2nd century AD arena was one of the largest in the Roman empire, but only a tenth or so is visible and excavated today.
One of Catania's central roads.
A narrow angled street in Catania lined with blossoming trees.
The front of the Church of St. Francis of Assisi.
A group of Indian sales men and their starry balloons in front of the Cathedral of St Agatha.
People walking below the umbrellas hanging above the market street in Catania.
A singer in Catania's main square.
On the Crater's Edge
A group of people walking at the edge of the 2003 craters.
The base of the Etna features a hilly and relatively barren terrain.
It was about 20 degrees less than on the ground up at 2800m.
The drive up the Etna transitions to an increasingly brown, reddish and black landscape as you come closer to the end of the main road.
The Southern flank of Mount Etna showing lateral cones and flow from the eruption of 2001.
Craters Silvestri of Mount Etna
The two smaller craters near the end of the main road, seen from the third and larger one, are from 1892.
The only greenery you can find on the lava covered mountainscape as the cable car ascends.
On the lower craters, there are still occassional bushes of colourful flowers, which slowly disappear as you go higher.
Etna is one of the most active volcano's in the world, with plenty of recent evidence.
The cable car station isn't your last mode of transport - these vehicles take you up another few hundred metres.
In the Clouds
It's rare to have a clear sky around the summit of the Etna.
To the Top
A group on the path to the top summit, which is another 2-3h hike from the end of the 4x4 road. While this is where the active craters are, luck is needed catch a clear day for this hike.
The top of mount Etna, engulfed by clouds at 3300 metres. Usually, the early morning (this was around 10:30am) is the best time to catch a clearer glimpse. Note the yellow tone of the sulfur filled sediments.
Patches of clouds also touch the lower summits of the 4x4 landing area, at around 2900m.
While from afar things appear of a more uniform blackish colour, looking closer at the ground reveals traces of sulfur, iron and more.
Even the craters below the summit still have warm soil, once you dig a few centimetres.
A Bumpy Road
The way up is not exactly a highway, and the fine lava sand means the road needs to be flattened regularly.
An old cinema and comedy club in Acireale.
The Real Secrets...
...often lie below the floor of the churches of today, hidden from view unless you spot them through a drain hole, like in the case of this grave.
The illustrations on the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Announcement.
The roofline of the Cathedral and the Basilica of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul on the right just behind.
You can climb up a few stairs to the Cathedral of Acireale's bell towers. While they both look identical, the one on the south is from 1655, while the one to the north, is from 1890.
The view from the bell tower is unfortunately obstructed by a fence to keep birds out, but you can still see the majestic Etna in the background.
The third major church in the centre of Acireale is the Basilica Collegiata San Sebastiano.
A wedding took place in the afternoon at Acireale's main square.
The obligatory cat photo for this album.
Problems with the Mafia or the wife, who knows what the topic may be?
The clear waters of the Mediterranean sea engulfe the island.
The town of Santa Maria La Scala lies at the foot of the cliffs on which Acireale sits.
In the Cathedral of Maria Santissima Annunziata is a meridian noon mark designed and built in 1843 by the Danish astronomer Frederik Christian Peters, which I was lucky enough to observe at the exact time it was meant to illustrate.
The Unfinished Church of San Nicol
Just attached to the Monastero dei Benedettini di San Nicolò l'Arena.
The church feels as raw on the inside as it does from the outside.
The staircases for the monastery may as well be host to a Harry Potter movie.
Some doors are closed more permanently than others.
The monastery is one of the largest monasteries in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but today houses the Department of Humanities of the University of Catania
The bridge acting as entrance into the monastery from the back is one of the oldest parts of the building, with lava remains from the 1669 eruption that destroyed a big part of the complex still visible on the left side.