Mercoledi and Thursday (I could never remember Thursday in Italian):
After yet another delicious breakfast of almond milk and with orange blossom honey, we drove with our younger host brother to Taormina, where we would spend the day exploring. Our first destination: chasing nostalgia by looking for Heather’s old favorite hot chocolate place. Next stop: a mid-morning snack. I found a delicious slice of ricotta cake in a small bakery, just perfect alimentation for the walk down to the beach.
Situated at the bottom of the steep drop to the coast from the city, beach is actually a bit of a misnomer for the coastline: it is a collection of pebbles, gorgeous to look at by horrible for the feet as we discovered when we walked barefoot to the picture-postcard island at the other end.
However, the view of the ocean and the feel of the water and stones was definitely worth the temporary pain!
We took a cable car ride back up (the hill was way too daunting, especially with our tender soles) and walked over to the Greek theatre. At least 2000 years old (mindboggling numbers!), the theatre has a terrific view of the ocean and Mount Etna, and we sat for a while taking in the sun and the sites.
We lunched at a patioed restaurant, where I enjoyed ricotta ravioli with pistachio sauce and delicious tiramisu for dessert. After searching for Heather’s father’s favorite type of liquor, I also bought some almond wine as a gift for my host mother before meeting our host mother of the week in the main plaza.
The day was gorgeous and the plaza looks out over the sea, and with some street musicians in the background we couldn’t help but sit, people-watch, contemplate, and converse for a lazy afternoon. Before leaving we stopped for gelato; my flavor was turron, an almond Christmas sweet in Spain but made with other nuts too and eaten year-round in Sicily.
Before going home we picked up our host sister and went to Acitrezza, a town with a pretty coast and the Farglioni, the rocks that Polythemus threw in Greek mythology. After walking out on the pier and exploring the city a bit, we headed back home for dinner. It was another relaxing day with a lovely artichoke pasta ending.
Thursday we woke up ready to conquer the world…or Mount Etna, as it were to be.
Lichen and small grasses are the first plants to grow back on the black rocky soil of Mount Etna.
Heading back to the car, we passed a huge truck full of blood oranges stopping to drop off a load at the restaurant there to feed the hungry Etna-expeditioners. I said in Italian that I was really going to miss blood oranges to our host father, and one of the blood-orange-truck men overheard. “Here,” he said, handing me an armsful of oranges. A delicious and refreshing break after scaling the dusty rock! And just another example of the kindness and openness of all the Italian people I met.
We pushed out of our mind the sad fact of our departure the next day, and instead enjoyed lunch: pasta with a scrumptious sweet cherry tomato sauce. I had made a cake the day before, a chocolate-almond cake with Sicilian almond milk, and so we had the honors of trying it. It wasn’t the best cake I’ve ever made (the lack of measuring cups always causes slight texture variations!) but the flavour was good and delicious with a glass of almond milk.
That night, our host sister’s friends came over for a pizza party dinner…yet again, I spent most of the time in a language-barrier vortex but managed to communicate rather well when the conversation slowed down to accommodate me. All the girls there were incredibly nice, and I was even sadder to leave knowing that I would have been able to make good friends had I been able to stay. I now understand more completely when Heather says, “I miss my Italians.”