Babilonia in Taormina, Sicily
A language school excursion is a delightful way to practice your language skills, see the sights and meet people from other countries. The group left the school in Taormina at 8AM. – which is finally feeling not so early. We were a group of seven students with our Italian guide, Pepe. Two of the students were from my class, Tatsu from Japan and Nicole from Quebec, along with her husband and Helena, my Czech housemate. The remaining students included a 50-something gentleman from Germany, a young Russian woman and a quite young Swiss woman. Everyone could understand Italian well enough that the tour could be conducted all in Italian. Yeah!
Mt. Etna is only about an hour or so from Taormina so we reached our first destination around 9:30AM and climbed up to a view point overlooking a lava valley with the mountain peak beyond.
Pepe explain a few things about the volcanic activity in the area. There was an eruption in 1992 in which the lava flow came dangerously close to a nearby town and another eruption in 2001 in which the lava continued to flow for a year and half. They currently monitor the temperature, seismic activity, and even the color of the steam coming out of the volcano to help predict future eruptions. For example, a color change from white to yellow to red can indicate an increase in pressure.
Our second stop was more of a tourist area near the top with restaurants, a funicular that goes near the top, and several trail heads. In the winter people ski from the top.
As you can see in the photos the landscape resembles your typical volcanic moonscape. Very few plant species grow in the most recent lava covered areas but over time, a lot of time, volcanic soil becomes very fertile. In the lower regions around Mt. Etna they grow a number of crops including: citrus, peaches, apples, pistachios, and of course wine grapes.
From the mountain you can see the coastal cities from Catania to Taormina, but on this day the air wasn’t so clear for good pictures. Etna is part of chain of volcanoes that started off the coast of Catania and have made their way inland with the Etna being the most recent at about 30 kilometers inland from Catania.