Imagine, if you will, a week-long dinner party in a magical villa in Sicily, surrounded by fabulous people. When our dear friends, Craig and Albert, asked us to join them on holiday, it took us about 0.025 seconds to say “Count us in!” In all, there were 20 of us gathered there; we flew in from Washington DC, Houston, Boston, Vancouver, San Diego, London, Tunisia, Brasilia, and Hong Kong to spend a week relaxing, sight-seeing, and merry-making. It was a blast!
I have far too many lovely photos from the trip to ever do them justice on this blog. So, I will be satisfied here with a few selected highlights of the sight-seeing, and some gorgeous shots of the villa. Plus, since this is my knitting blog, a few gratuitous knitting shots. The absolute highlight of the trip was spending time with dear friends, old and new. We had some adventures, however, chief of which would be our hike to the top of Mt. Etna.
To get to the top, one first drives a long twisty road up the side of the volcano. Then you park the car and take a very long cable car ride up into the clouds. (I am afraid of heights so this is quite a big deal for me). Then you get in a big all-terrain vehicle and they drive you up another long twisty trail through what looks like the barren landscape of an alien planet. The theme song from James Bond may or may not be going through your head at this time.
The vehicle lets you off into the freezing cold and wind, at a height of about 10,000 feet. The views of Sicily below, and the ocean, are breath-taking, but it is the eerie solitary landscape of the volcano, with its giant craters and wind-swept rims that powers the imagination.
We walked around the entire rim of a crater. It takes about an hour to walk around with the wind and cold buffeting you at every step. The ground was covered with ash from a recent eruption. If you dug a few centimeters below the ash, there was ice. If you dug further, you could feel the heat from the magma beneath the surface.
Here we are, near the top:
The very next day, as we were driving up the coast, one of the craters erupted and we watched as smoke and ash spewed into the sky. (I cannot emphasize how cool this experience was in every way.)
We also spent a marvelous day at Taormina, a beautiful town perched on top of a cliff above the sea. Taormina is the home of an ancient Greco-Roman Theatre, which is still in use today. (They were setting up for a Duran Duran concert while we were there!)
These ruins are truly amazing. It is impossible to stand in this spot and not imagine ancient productions.
Not only is the Theatre itself breath-taking and beautifully preserved, but the views from this spot are majestic.
One must stop and appreciate the view:
As spectacular as the Ancient Theatre is, it had to compete with the marvellous lunch we had on the terrace of the Hotel Timeo. I don’t eat cannoli (gluten allergy), but I am told these are the best Doug has ever eaten.
The food and the wine were spectacular. (If you are lucky enough to dine there, do not miss the lobster risotto!) And here is the view from our table:
We also spent an afternoon at Noto during the Flower Festival. To say the festival is popular is an understatement:
We were lucky to find an oasis of peace amidst the crowds:
Here is a favorite photo of Emma and Wally, a new and already dear friend:
Here is a peaceful view across the building tops of Noto:
This holiday was set against the gorgeous backdrops of the villa, the Commenda di San Calogero, which is truly a magical place.
We gathered every evening for cocktails, followed by dinner around a huge table in the lovely dining area:
Leah commented that it was like suddenly finding yourself in an Agatha Christie novel, except that we weren’t being killed off one by one.
There was time to knit:
And lovely local towns to explore (and eat in):
There were even four-legged friends to accompany your walks:
It is hard to believe that such magical places exist in the world. Most of the magic, however, comes from beautiful friendships.
Tomorrow, the girls leave to fly back across the ocean, but this trip will stay with us forever.