We wake up to a magnificent view of Mount Etna sporadically smoking. We can see the colorful Sicilian fields from the shore of Giardini Naxos, all the way up to its very summit at 3,350 meters of elevation. I cannot yet believe that I have in front of me a volcano that has been active for several thousands of years, the largest in Europe and a protagonist in so many legends. The cyclops are said to forge the lightning bolts thrown by Zeus here, and this is where Odysseus blinded Polyphemus.
We land on the shores formed by Etna’s ancient lava to take buses for our excursion. Our first stop is Taormina, a romantic and colorful city perched on a ridge of Monte Tauro, 250 meters above sea level. The city’s coat of arms decorates the fountain at Piazza del duomo: a half cow / half woman with a crown (a Taormina?). Everything about this town is charming: its narrow streets, colorful ceramics, ice cream and cannoli shops, the gardens hanging from any possible corner, and elements of Arabian and Norman art merging in a splendid and uniquely Sicilian blend.
We visit the famous theater of Taormina at the end of our walk. It is built of brick for the most part, so it is probably of Roman date, rebuilt upon Greek foundations. However, the best part is the view you get of the omnipresent volcano, the most spectacular backdrop a theater could have.
The next stop is Castello degli Schiavi, where scenes of The Godfather were filmed. Baron Platania, the owner of the Castello, welcomes us and proudly shows us his 18th century property. We are treated to an Italian meal with antipasto, pasta, and a main course. We enjoy Sicilian music and wine in the wine cellars built with lava from Mount Etna, always Etna.
We come back to the ship to enjoy sunset while the half moon sets behind this volcano of my heart, while denser fumaroles rise up. They seem to come from its craters on the “other” side because Etna has four craters today.
The volcano seems to be stating, “I am the Godfather,” “the Godfather sono Io.”