Entering the port of Messina at sunrise, with mainland Italy in the distance
Today would be our last port on this long 12-day cruise – Messina, Sicily. We met our group of six others at the coffee bar at 7:45 am and found our driver, Guiseppe (Joseph). We had pre-arranged for a tour of Castelmola, Taormina and Messina. We all got in the van, expecting an actual tour, but Joseph didn’t say a word the whole way to Castelmola, which was a one-hour drive. We all started asking questions, which he answered only with yes/no, and then eventually just started making up our own tour and giggling.
Castelmola is a beautiful town on the very top of the hill, overlooking the sea and Mount Etna, the largest volcano in Europe. It was tiny, but lovely. We climbed a ton of steps up to the castle ruins.
Main square, Castelmola
When we came back down, Joseph had put out cannolis for us. While we ate pastries, I told him that my family was originally from Calabria. He asked where and I told him Longobucco, a village above Cosenza. He said “you are an oh-reeg-een-AHHHL-ay” (an original, from Italy). I explained that I was 5 generations removed from Italy, but that I had visited the village from which my great, great grandfather had come. From that point on, Joseph and I were best friends. He decided to give the tour – but only to me.
“Jennifer, try these fresh cherries.”
“Jennifer, do you want to see an amazing overlook of the sea below?”
“Jennifer, this church houses the bodies of WW2 soldiers and every Sunday they ring that bell to honor them.”
“Jennifer, go inside this church and look at the ceiling.”
The rest of the group was not amused.
That is Castelmola, way up in the top right corner, up on that peak.
Taromina in the foreground.
Ancient Greek Theatre with Mt. Etna in the background
We went to Taormina and walked around independently for a few hours. We hiked to the top of the Greek Theatre, which was built in 300 BC. Adam said it was “constructed for ancient comedians Laurel and Harticus.”
View from our lunch table
We stopped for lunch in one of the narrow alleyways that wind up staircases above the village and had a pizza. Then we stopped for gelato in the main square. The banana gelato was fantastic. We ate it on our way back to Joseph’s van, while also window shopping.
Joseph took us to an overlook just outside Taromina, to see the beach resorts below. It was stunning!
Back in Messina, we stopped at the WW2 memorial church with it’s giant bell (Campana in Italian!) and had a great overview of our ship below. Then we went to the Cathedral of Messina, built in the 1100s. Joseph was right – the ceiling was fantastic. He also told me that recently, a 14-year-old boy on a bike had been hit by a city garbage truck and died. There were still funeral flowers and candles lit inside from when the entire city came together to mourn the boy at the cathedral. So sad. I had to relay this information to the rest of the group, since Joseph only spoke to me.
We had an early back on board time, so we played both music trivia and general trivia on the ship. We came in second place both times. Second place is great though – because you still win yellow raffle tickets. We had no idea what would become of all our yellow tickets we had been stockpiling, but we were excited to redeem them on the final day of the cruise, which would be tomorrow.
We watched sail away on the lawn club, then went to dinner. That evening, we watched the Elysium show in the main theater. I usually avoid cruise ship theater productions like the plague. But this ship’s talent was actually very good. Especially the aerial acrobats! Adam even liked it, so that means it was REALLY good.
Later that night we went to the ‘70s disco party. The cruise director joked that it was for people 70 and older (because that was most of the ship). It was fun nonetheless. Even 70 year olds know the Y.M.C.A.!
Tomorrow: Last sea day as we head towards Spain