May 15, 2015: On the Italian Island of Sicily, also an underrated and visited destination, your travel experience can take the range from visiting a producing winery once owned by the Mafia to hiking the only active volcano in Europe –by the way, more wine is produced in Sicily than Tuscany – and its, for the most part, inexpensive and outstanding.
When asked about the history of Sicily, a tour guide responded that “you would need more than two hands to count all the conquers of Sicily over the years”. The volcano, Mt. Etna, is “sleeping now” with the last major eruptions in 2001-2002 when its inner rumbles and eruptions could be felt every 30 seconds. One of the most significant eruptions was over 300 years ago, lasting over 122 days, destroying more than 40 villages and resulting in 840 deaths. The main crater atop Etna is still active with smoke visible almost every day – and by last count over 200 inactive craters. The amazing thing about trekking around the volcanoes lower levels is you can still feel the heat coming off the ground.
May 14, 2015: If you haven’t been you should go – a travel gem and still very reasonably priced. Charm, hospitality, and ease of getting around are great qualities of this tiny but significant island. It is best known in historic times as a “hub for pirate operations” and more recently known for a visit from Hilary Clinton—not sure of any pirate significance there?
The War Museum in Malta was hard to find but well worth the effort. The Museum itself has been almost kept in tact from hits from its use as a major control center for thousands of troops, planes and ships, as the allies used it as their base for retaking Sicily. Malta can get crowded during the day as its a major day trip stop for small and large cruise ships that ply the waters in the area. Hotel service and hospitality some of the best your Curmudgeon has experienced anywhere!
May 12, 2015: Did you know that Venice has 426 Gondola’s that operate the canal water tours that make this “one in a world” setting so famous—and they are all operated by one company! Each Gondolier his own character, from tour guide to singer to musician – and the job is usually handed down within the family.
Venice has over 40 miles of canals, the best being the tiny canals that run through and along the back streets, many being one way – well it is Italy so that doesn’t really matter or hold water! Canals can be as deep as 25 feet and as shallow as 2 feet. Venice, they say, is over 800 years old and consists of over 400 islands – the most popular outside of Venice being Murano, world famous for its hand made blown glass. Some of the more spectacular pieces can cost hundreds of thousands’ of dollars and are considered artwork.
Venice can be exhilarating and confusing at the same time. Locals, most of whom can’t afford to live there, pretend not to speak much English, or any other language for that matter. It has some great places to dine and snack but not in or around St. Marks. And the farther away you find accommodations from St. Marks the more reasonable your room rate will be – albeit very small but who cares, you shouldn’t be in your room anyway!!!
May 7, 2015: It’s helpful to know a few useful Italian phrases when traveling in Italy, but sites like this don’t include the most useful phrases—”Dov’è all’inferno siamo?!” (Where the hell are we?!) and “Ho bisogno di più vino!” (I need more wine!)