Sunday, May 1, 2016

Catania, Some Free Time and a Wine Tasting with Dinner

Again today we were up at 6:30am and down for breakfast at around 7:00am. We had to be in the lobby at 9:00am to meet our local tour guide for a walking tour of Catania. Seventeen of us met down in the lobby (one decided to stay at the hotel and relax) with our local tour guide – Katarina. We left the hotel and turned left out the door and walked along Via Etnea. Shortly we arrived at Piazza Stesicoro. Here the guide talked about Anfiteatro Romano – part of the old city that was abandoned. The ruins here are part of an large theater that was second in size to the Colesium in Rome. Leaving here we continued along Via Etnea to Piazza Universita. Here is the Universitia DegliStudi Di Catania.
Cattedrale di Sant'Agata
After a short talk we continued along the same road to Piazza Duomo where there is Fontana Dell’Elefante (a fountain with a statue of an elephant with an obelisk on its back), Habitat Duomo, Fontana Dell’Amenano and Cattedrale de Sant'Agata.
Fontana Dell'Elefante
We were going to go and tour the Cathedral but there was a mass going on and so we went into the Palazzo degli Elefante. This elephant thing is a mystery to the people of Catania – no one really knows how or why it started and why it is so popular. After a short talk we had a 15 minute bathroom break before continuing with the tour. At this point two people decided to return to the hotel and two others disappeared. From this Piazza we walked along Via Guiseppe Garibaldi to Piazza Guiseppe Mazzino and then turned right onto Via Santa Maria della Lettera to Via Vittorio Emanuele II and stopped at Piazza San Francesco d’Assisi. Here there is a statue of a Cardinal Dumet that looks like it wants to jump off the pedestal and there is a running joke in Catania about when he will jump. From the Piazza we continued along Via Vittorio Emanuele II to Teatro Romano.
Teatro Romano
Here there are beautiful ruins of an ancient Roman Theater. We walked around while the tour guide gave us the history of the place. We got some great pictures of this place. After completing the tour of the theater we returned to the Piazza San Francesco d’Assisi and went into the Chiesa di San Francesco. In this church are two elaborate candlesticks (very large – bigger than a person) that are used in a procession that happens annually for Saint Agatha. Leaving the church we walked along Via Crociferi and through an arch connecting the church and a convent to Chiesa di San Benedetto and Chiesa di San Francesco Borgia. We stopped here for a good while and learned about both these churches and the area. We left this area via some steps that led to Via Alessi and Via S. Guiseppe Al Duomo.
Artwork at Palazzo Della Cultura
We made a right here and then a left onto Via Roccaforte. Reaching Via Etnea we turned right which brought us back to Fontana Dell’Elefante and the Cattedrale di Sant'Agata. The two people who disappeared from the group earlier were waiting there for us (this was a meet up spot if anyone got lost). We then continued along Via Vittorio Emmanuelle II to the Palazzo Della Cultura and after a short talk the tour ended here. Then we walked a little further down the road to Via Bonajuto and the Capella Bonajuto Trichora Bizantina – a byzantine chapel that was uncovered and restored. At this place we had a food tasting and some prosecco. When the tasting was done we were free to do whatever we wanted for the afternoon and then we would meet up at the hotel later to go out to dinner.

Thomas and I left the Chapel and went to some of the same places we had just visited because I was looking for a spot to plant a letterbox. You can read about that at Planting a Letterbox in Sicily. We had a little trouble finding a good spot but in the end it worked out. Once we had finally got the box hidden it had started to rain so we decided to return to the hotel and rest before dinner. We hadn’t really had any lunch so we stopped for a snack at a place near the hotel. We ended up at Caffetteria Etnea and got a few pastries – tiaramasu, a cannoli and a Sicilian ricotta cheese cake. We took these back to the room to eat and then we decided to rest. Thomas read and I did a little blogging until it was time to leave for dinner.

The group met in the lobby at 4:55pm to head out for dinner. We were heading up to Mt. Etna to a winery. It was about an hour drive to Barone de Villagrande located in the small village of Milo. As soon as we left the hotel the rain started again and it rained throughout the entire drive and for the whole time we were at the winery.
Our hosts - Alfonso & Angela
So when we arrived at the vineyard we weren’t able to see the landscape but they told us it was beautiful. So met our hosts – Angela & Alfonso. They each gave us part of the tour with Alfonso giving us the part that explained all the processes of producing the wine. When the tour was complete we headed to the dining room for dinner.  The meal started with appetizers – cheese with peppercorns, green olives, eggplant parmesan, focaccia with ham & cheese, salami & cheese, and bread. With the starters we had a white wine – Etna Bianco. I really enjoyed the wine and I especially loved it when paired with the olives. Next they brought out another wine, this time a rose – Etna Rosato.
There was lots of wine!!!
This one was also good but I liked the white wine better. With this wine they started the first course – we had pasta with tomato sauce, ricotta cheese and basil – incredibly delicious. Then they started with the red wines – Etna Rosso & Sciara. These two were good but I really enjoyed the white more. With these we had Veal, spinach and cheese rolled into medallions served with potatoes and a salad. Then for dessert we had vanilla flan with shaved almonds and pistachio and almond cookies. With the dessert we had Malvasia wine. Sometime during the meal the skies cleared and we were able to go out and see the vineyard – what an increcdible  view. It was an excellent evening – Buon cibo, buon vino and buoni amici (Good food, good wine and good friends).

View of the vineyards from the winery.
Finally it was time to head back to the hotel and one hour later we arrived in our room sometime around 10:00pm. I spent some time blogging, took a shower and did some reading. And now it is midnight and time to go to bed. Tomorrow  we leave Catania and Sicily for the mainland in Calabria.

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