The next stop on our opening tour was Acireale, our last stop before we headed to Florence. Our first stop was Piazza Armerina for a guided tour of Villa Romana del Casale. The Villa Romana del Casale is an ancient villa that was built probably by a local Roman ruler at the time. It is famous for the beautiful mosaics that cover the floors of the entire villa.
After that it was time for a quick stop for lunch in a small town on the way to the hotel, but we were there on a Sunday so we could couldn't find anything to eat. We had to hike to find to restaurants that would be open on a Sunday, we finally found a place that had pizza and then we got gelato.
After lunch it was straight to the hotel, it was quite a drive but it was worth it because this hotel was amazing. It was one of the nicest hotels that I have ever stayed in. It was on the beach It has an Infinity pool and every Sunday it had a dance party by the bar, and since we all wanted to watch football they had another dance party on Wednesday night. The best part of the hotel was that some of our rooms came with SKY cable, on a Sunday night it was great to watch football. After a week of being away from home it was a great respite from all of the different things that I enjoyed about visiting Italy.
On Monday we went to Mount Etna the largest active volcano in Europe. It is currently building up towards another eruption. While we were there we hiked around the mountain and learned about volcanoes. Our guide was a vulcanologist, he explained that there are two kinds of lava, smooth and rough. He explained that Etna had rough lava, which is called ʻAʻā by the Hawaiians and scientists who followed their lead. As we left Etna we stopped at a small town called Randazzo, all the buildings were constructed with stones that were created by lava. We spent the afternoon in the town of Taormina, which is known as the Pearl of Sicily, it was a beautiful city, but it seems like it has become a little to commercialized to be the true Pearl of Sicily. While I was there I had one of the the most amazing thing ever, cannoli, one of the most famous desserts of Sicily. It was so delicious I cannot even describe it to you. Cannoli consist of a pastry shell filled with ricotta cheese with bits of chocolate, pistachios, and candied fruit peel... mmm, I might just have to go buy one right now. We had dinner at a restaurant near the hotel, it was fine. It is hard to feed 160 people a gourmet meal all at once, and this small restaurant did there best.
The last day before we left for the Florence we went to the city of Siracusa. We were taken on a tour of the archaeological sites around the city. We started by a sight where the Greeks had a quarry that is now known for its acoustic characteristics. From there we walked to the Greek amphitheater, it is the third largest amphitheater in the world, although it no longer looks quite as grand because the Romans took any stone that was movable when they were constructing their own structures. After that we went to the Roman arena that was constructed after the Greeks left. We went down to the waterfront for a brief tour and some lunch, we found out that the city was built where it is for two reasons. First, there is an easily protected harbor. Second, there is a fresh water spring right near the harbor. Both of these reasons made Siracusa into one of the most powerful Greek city states. We had a buffet dinner at the hotel followed by a dance but I called it an early night because we had to get up so early the next morning to catch the plane to Florence.