The Messina Sail-In

There She Blows!!!

Mt. Etna, the tallest mountain & active volcano in Europe, blew her stack back on April 1st of this year. As we were touring just 20 miles from her base this afternoon, the tour guide nearly swallowed her microphone as the volcano suddenly awakened and blew black ash several thousand feet into the air! We couldn't have ordered a better tour - it was absolutely awesome!

This is another of our “must see” destinations! Messina, located in the northeast corner of Sicily, at the Strait of Messina, is the capital of the province of Messina. Sicily and Italy are only separated by the Strait just mentioned – though a rather wide waterway, the governments are considering building a bridge between the two at a cost of $6 billion. According to our tour guide, Messina was founded in the 8th century BC by Greek colonists, was sacked in 397 BC by the Cathaginians and then re-taken by the Greeks. By the time the Roman troops arrived in 264 BC, the area had been conquered and re-conquered several times. It remained in Roman hands until the fall of the Roman Empire. The Goths, the Byzantine Empire, the Arabs and the Normans all exerted control until about 1100 AD. Messina has been identified as the harbor where the Black Death, or plague, most likely entered Europe. Despite its contested past, our guide says it was one of the greatest cities in Europe in the early 17th century and under Spanish rule. In the mid and late 1700’s another plague and devastating earthquake marked the total decline of Messina. Messina was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami back in 1908 that killed about 60,000 folks and destroyed much of the ancient architecture. The city sustained further damage from the Allied air bombardments back in 1943 – the place seems to be cursed, although it’s actually very beautiful! Not far from Messina is Taormina, a small city that has been documented by writers for centuries – they say it’s one of Sicily’s most impressive resorts, and we can easily understand why! It has incredible views, ancient ruins, and a ton of shops & boutiques. Many of the very narrow cobblestone streets are closed to traffic. The main street of Corso Umberto is lined with former mansions and incredible architecture – all have balconies overflowing with beautiful flowers. Our photos don’t begin to capture the elegance of this place – it’s just stunning! We had a group lunch at a beautiful 5-star resort on the coast, and then did a lengthy walking tour through the city. I would compare the environment to that of the French Quarter in New Orleans combined with Quebec City – old, elegant, classy, packed with people & FUN! Without question, one of the most beautiful, scenic places we’ve visited on this long journey, and friendly as well. As mentioned earlier, we spent late afternoon watching Mt. Etna blow her stack – Cheryl and I sat on the side of a narrow road just 20 miles away – we could hear the rumble (much like distant thunder) and feel the vibrations on the ground as this massive volcano blew steam & ash thousands of feet into the air. The dogs in the neighborhood were barking, & the sunny sky was quickly turning black! News helicopters were flying overhead, & police cars were patrolling the streets – just incredible! We returned to the ship at 6:30 just in time to catch a comedian from Ireland perform at 7pm in the main theater – pretty good. We had dinner at 8pm as the ship was leaving port – next stop, Naples, Italy – arriving tomorrow morning at 8am.