Messina, Etna e vino.

We arrived in Messina and after a half hour delay, our driver arrived. It is still not clear what the issue was exactly other than Messina has two ports, I think he may have been waiting for us at the wrong one.

For this trip, the four of us were joined by an ex-pat couple from London and an opthomologist from Baltimore. We boarded up and headed off towards Mt. Etna which was billowing a little bit of white, though I must admit it was difficult to tell where the smoke ended and the clouds began. Like Amalfi, we seemed to be taking roller coaster roads and hairpin curves everywhere we went. Sicily has been controlled by just about everyone over the years so there are remnants of forts on the hill tops, but unlike a lot of Italy, there are not a lot of ancient buildings due to the earthquakes over the years particularly a really bad one followed by a tsunami in the 18th century. However in Taormina, there is a Greek amphitheater. We were headed there eventually but first we went to a vineyard in the shadow of Mt. Etna and tasked 5 wines for 5 euros. The vineyard had a tasting room with a beautiful view and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, even though we though their least expensive bottle of wine was the tastiest. As we were leaving, Daniel and Bruce, the Brits, discovered they also have a boxed wine that was pretty tasty. They bought it because it would be easier to carry in their suitcase compared to the bottles Mike and I bought.

After leaving the wine yard, we headed down and then back up to Taormina. The town sits on the top of a hill overlooking the sea. Like so much of Italy, it looks like Disney created it….you just need some accordion music and two dogs eating spaghetti! We heads up to wards the Greek theater, but the line for tickets was very long and right next door was a beautiful hotel, with a beautiful terrace over looking their beautiful gardens, pool and the ocean way, way, way below. We all agreed that having lunch there would be better than seeing another ruin…..so we headed in. They have an “American bar” meaning cocktails in one section of the terrace that served sandwiches and a full service restaurant in another section. After looking at both menus, we decided we would just have drinks…the appetizers in the full service started at 22€ as did the sandwiches in the bar part. So we had a wonderful enjoying their view, olives, nuts, and potato chips without cocktails, wine and beer. We then headed back down the street and stopped at an Italian bar (think fast food but Italian style) where we all tried the local specialties – arrancinni- rice balls stuffed with something and then breaded and fried. Mike and I split one with ricotta and pistastio and another of meat and peas…very tasty. We also split the other Sicilian specialty, cannoli. One of custard-eh, one of ricotta and pistastio, except sweet this time. We then wandered around town for a bit, some had the last Italian gelato until we get back to Venice. I stuck my head into a pastry shop, they had wonderful looking sweets. I had fun speaking broken Italian and learning what was in each and which we’re the local ones. I ended up buying one large sweet which is basically a sweet, moist biscuit with lots of candied orange peel. I also bought four small ones, I haven’t tastes them yet….one is fig, one hazelnut mad one something else. They grow lots of hazelnuts, lemons and oranges here.

We returned to the ship to find that a Royal Caribbean ship was docked behind us. It was pretty fun to watch their folks look in amazement as six or eight of the Jade crew and officers welcomed us aboard with a soul train type line for us to dance down to reach the gangway. They had music blasting, cool, moist washcloths and water and lemonade waiting for us at the pier.

Last night we enjoyed dinner on the uppermost rear deck of Jade, The Great Outdoors, as we sailed away from Napoli. We have decided to do the same tonight, we should be passing close to Mt. Etna just before sunset so it could be a beautiful site.

Tomorrow is a sea day, we have the cruise critic meet and greet I arranged, the Lattitudes (NCL’s loyalty program) cocktail party at 12:30, and a VIP meet and greet with cocktails and the Captain at 7 (we didn’t get the full VIP treatment this trip, just this invite and an invite to a disembarkation procedures meeting tomorrow morning, but I will take what I can get!). After the Captains thing we are officially celebrating Yost and Mike’ s birthdays with dinner at Moderno, NCL’s specialty Brazilan Churriscarra restaurant. So looks like it will be a busy day….oh yea, just looked at our “daily” and there is a martini tasting at 3….hmmm, might try to work that in too!

Pictures from today:

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Not sure why, but just discovered this post didn't publish. This is from our second day aboard, Monday, April 29….the day after Napoli

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