Category Archives: History

Etna Excursion

I would not leave Sicily without stepping on Etna Volcano ground… Its like taking yourself into some other planet!!! :))
Located on the Italian island of Sicily, Mount Etna is one of the most famous volcanoes in the world due to the fact that it frequently erupts and has a large number of eruption styles.
The bleak lava wilderness around the summit of Etna is one of the most memorable landscapes Italy has to offer. The volcano’s height is constantly shifting, depending on whether eruptions are constructive or destructive, and over the last century it has ranged from 3263m to the present estimate of 3340m. Whatever its exact height, Etna is a substantial mountain, one of the world’s biggest active volcanoes, and on a clear day it can be seen from well over half of Sicily. Some of its eruptions have been disastrous: in 1169, 1329 and 1381 the lava reached the sea and in 1669 Catania was wrecked and its castle surrounded by molten rock.
The Circumetnea railway line has been repeatedly ruptured by lava flows: nine people were killed on the edge of the main crater in 1979 and in 2001 military helicopters were called in to water-bomb blazing fires. This unpredictability means that it is no longer possible to get close to the main crater. An eruption in 1971 destroyed the observatory supposed to give warning of just such an event, and the volcano has been in an almost continual state of eruption since 1998, the most recent being in late 2002 when the resort of Piano Provenzana on the northern side was engulfed with lava.
There are several approaches to the volcano. If you have a car, you can enjoy some of the best scenery on the north side of the volcano. On public transport, you’ll just see Etna from the southern side, though this does at least get you pretty near the summit. There are also many Etna tours :))
However you go, at whatever time of year, take warm clothes, good shoes or boots and glasses to keep the flying grit out of your eyes








Taormina!

Taormina, charming hillside town on the east coast of Sicily, most popular tourist destination. Besides the ancient Greek theatre, it has many old churches, lively bars, fine restaurants, and antique shops. There are many exhibitions and events organized during the summer in Taormina. Just south of Taormina is the Isola Bella, a nature reserve; and further south, situated beside a bay, is the popular seaside resort of Giardini Naxos, where Gianni House is based. :-))
More about beautiful Giardini Naxos in one of my next posts ! That’s a promise :))














ENNA – the heart of Sicily !

Enna is a wonderful town to just wander around, soak up the atmosphere and take in the breath taking views. Here you will find Sicily untouched by time and mass tourism.
What’s worth to see?
-attractive streets of the old town, especially Via Roma,
-Duomo [The Cathedral],
-‘Castello di Lombardia’ [entrance & guide free]. Reach the top of Pisana Tower inside the Castel for over the town panoramic view over most of central Sicily,
-Rocca di Cerere located not far from the Castel is a great view point too,
-some museums to visit, like Alessi Museum and archaeological museum,
-Torre di Federico – an interesting 24 meters octagonal tower.
It’s easy to reach Enna by car, bus or train. Ask staff at Gianni House for more info. We are always here happy to help you :-)









Savoca and Forza D’Agrò Tour

Have you seen The Godfather movies yet? Many scenes throughout the epic trilogy were filmed in the Sicilian villages of Savoca and Forzà d’Agrò, that you can visit by booking an organised tour at reception or using public transport for the more intrepid.
I [staff member of Gianni House :))] travelled to Savoca recently, to taste delicious Granita Limone at Bar Vitelli, where some of the most memorable scenes from “The Godfather” were shot [*Michael Corleone asked Apollonia’s father to meet his daughter*]. It’s a must for Godfather fans!
Savoca village with it’s tiny streets is a pleasant place to hang out for the day and we highly recommend a visit to The Cappuccini Monastery which has an impressive collection of 32 ancient mummified monks, priests and advocates – some intact some not – in their catacombs, which date back to the 18th century.





Randazzo Tour from Gianni House Hostel

Situated at the foot of the magificent Mt Etna are a collection of small villages and towns which each have a unique feel – you can explore these either by car or on the cute little train that slowly makes it was around the base of the mountain – the Circumetnea train stops at two of the most impressive towns, which are Bronte (where Sicily’s famous pistachios are cultivated) and our favourite, Randazzo. The town is famed for the construction of most of its monuments from the dark volcanic lava-rock which is a feature of the landscape due to the eruptions of Etna. It is the town nearest the actual crater. If you are travelling by car you can easily combine Randazzo with a visit to the beautiful Alcantara Gorge. Ask us at reception for more information.

The link to this summer’s train timetable is
http://www.circumetnea.it/linee_orari_ferrovia/ORARIO%20FERROVIA%20ESTATE%202015.pdf





Sicilian Royalty Remembered

Here in Palermo I encounter local women of all ages who seem to consider themselves somewhat “worldly” because they’ve spent money on what look like overpriced clothes and have taken a group tour to someplace like Egypt or Thailand. Let’s not dwell on the fact that few can manage a complete sentence, let alone a conversation, in English. Right now, the number of women wearing fur coats in a city where it hardly ever snows is astounding.

Back in December 1994, when I first met Princess Urraca de Bourbon of the Two Sicilies, who in childhood had actually known Queen Maria Sophia (the queen, a sister of Empress Elizabeth ‘Sissi’ of Austria, died when Urraca was 12), I was struck by her simplicity. During the day, instead of fur she wore a simple goose down coat. There was no need to “impress” anybody with false attempts at sophistication. She was the real thing.

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