TREASURES OF SICILY

What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

It was Monreale which left me overwhelmed. Also, coming in a close second the theatre at Taomina, not so much for its looks so much as the alignment with Etna as a backdrop. Having studied 5th century Athens/States I knew how much that would have influenced the plays. Monreale was something else. I only wish I had got to see the outside cloisters, but the gold mosaics, the marble floors and designs were outstanding. The whole trip managed to encompass so much I had read only about or learned about in one country. My imagination just soared. As a child I adored the Greek myths and legends, as an adult I studied Greece and Rome, here were examples of everything, what a place!

What did you think of your group leader?

I thought he was great. A man passionate about his country, food, its problems and his Etna. Now, I was not keen about Etna, but he coaxed me up in foul weather and actually made it very interesting.  He was also very kind about my lagging behind with a filthy cold and swollen ankles which lasted a few days. The driver was great too. Both were keen to promote Sicily and I was keen to absorb the information.

Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

If you dont like fish your diet is more restricted. There are some small cars to take you up to some sites if the heat or swollen ankles get you, which costs a few euros, same goes for Monreale steps. I took a taxi up and walked down. Its not easy getting tea. The beds were great for me, on the firm side. The hotels were fine, some were basic but clean. The only down side of Sicily are the stray dogs all over the place. They look well fed but thirsty and found on roads, sites etc. I did get bitten a few times by insects (late Sept) and our guide told us that Zingaro was bad in August. Wear a hat, take water, the tap water was fine. The heat was terrific. The mini bus just about coped with the heat. Bit of a hard ride but I didnt get backache as with my local buses. Be prepared for early starts 8 or 8.30am and they are an hour ahead too. This makes sense to help avoid some of the crowds (Monreale was packed by 10am) and the mid day heat. Take many paracetamols as they are 3 euros a small box!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

It was said that Sicily's weather pattern is changing and it was becoming more temperate, hence the monsoon that met us on arrival. Also, the wildflowers we were infomed, should not have been around but because of the rain they had not died off. Do not go up Etna in sandles or slippery trainers, the terrain is like coal dust in some parts, you can slip easily and it gets in your shoes. Its cold, wet and well.... I dont like that sort of terrain much anyway. A good place to film a horror movie! However, oddly interesting for me. Things I wish I had done? Seen a famous puppet show in Palermo, or the opera, seen more Roman sites and tried Montalbanos croquettes, somehow I missed that. Also, I wish I had managed more of Monreale. Nevermind, I am definately going back.