Sunday, October 28, 2012

Taormina and Messina, Sicily – October 20, 2012

Taormina and Messina, Sicily – October 20, 2012

In the third century, A.D., the Greeks built a very large amphitheater high on a hill in Taormina, Sicily, and tourists have been coming to visit that amphitheater ever since.  In recent years, cruise ships anchor in the bay and hundreds of thousands of cruise passengers visit Taormina each year.  The town of Taormina is a single long street leading up to the amphitheater.  The town and the amphitheater are located high on the hill, and an elevator is used to take passengers from a parking garage up the long distance to street level of the town and amphitheater. 

The one street in the town is very pretty, with pretty buildings, several squares and several churches.  The street it lined with shops for tourists, and one of the most common items for sale is beautifully decorated pottery, which many tourists buy.  I took a half-day ship tour to Taormina, leaving  time to tour around in Messina in the afternoon.  The tour guide, Kate, was very pleasant, and guided the tour group along the street to the amphitheater, where she left the group to make its way back to the meeting point by 11:45 to return to the ship.  The day was very pleasant, and I spent the morning taking photos all along the way up to the amphitheater and back.  At the largest church, a funeral was underway, with a hearse parked outside the front door and many people standing outside to pay their respects to the family. 

At the end of the tour of Taormina, the bus returned to the ship with no problems, and after a brief break, I took off to catch the Hop-on/Hop-off bus to tour Messina, where I had never been.  However, as I made my way to the bus stop, I passed several people from the ship who told me that the bus had stopped running for the day.  I was disappointed, but decided to walk around in Messina and see what I could.  Soon, I saw other passengers from the ship who also had been to Taormina in the morning and were also wanting to take the Hop-on/Hop-off bus in the afternoon.  As we arrived at the great cathedral, we noticed a taxi van, and we asked him how much he would charge to take us on a tour of Messina.  We agreed on a price of 15 Euro each, and we were off.  He took us to all the places covered by the route of the Hop-on/Hop-off bus, and then took us back to the ship.  Since I still had two hours before the time required to return to the ship, I decided to go out again for a walk in the area near the ship.  The day was very nice, and the walk was very pleasant.  I stopped for a gelato, and took photos of interesting buildings before walking back to the ship.

As the time grew near for the ship to leave, I went out onto the balcony of my cabin to watch the ship let go of its lines and leave port.  I noticed that the gangway was still out, and security officer was watching as if waiting for a late tour to arrive.  However, after waiting 15 minutes past the time to leave, the gangway was withdrawn, the lines were let go, and the ship began to push off from the pier.  Then suddenly the ships engines stopped, and I noticed a young Asian couple running down the pier toward the ship.  A man on a motorcycle pulled up and a boat that appeared to be a harbor boat pulled up.  The couple ran and got on the boat, helped by the man on the motorcycle, and the small boat came out to the ship where the two passengers were helped aboard through the small door used by the pilot.  What a close call, and how nice it was of the captain to stop the ship and wait for them, although they probably were required to pay a fee for the late arrival back to the ship.

No comments: