SICILY TRIP – SUNDAY 1ST – WEDNESDAY 4TH APRIL 2018
On Sunday 1st April, at 4:45am, thirty four students and three members of staff set off to Sicily to see the most active volcano in Europe and to visit some of the most important geographical and historical places in Sicily.
From the moment we arrived until the moment we left, our view of Sicily was dominated by Mount Etna which you could see from nearly everywhere we visited. When we arrived, we headed straight to the Alcantara Gorges where we took a guided walk along the gorge. The gorge has basalt columns which are clearly visible, formed when the lava cooled from an historic eruption. The water that runs through it comes from the slopes of Mount Etna. The gorge has a depth of around 65 metres and at the end of the guided tour, we took the lift down to the bottom of the gorge and soon we were paddling in the cool (but stony) waters. We then headed to our hotel, where some of us swam in the ocean before getting ready for the next day.
On Monday, we went up Mount Etna. Our coach took us to 2000 metres, where we then took the ski lift to 2800 metres and then boarded an off - road bus to get to 3100 metres. Once we reached 400 metres from the top, we had a guided tour of the dormant caldera and got to view some of the previously active vents on the side of the volcano. You could clearly see the side vents and the pattern of eruption from the top. We were very lucky to have a clear and bright day so we had fantastic views all around. Lots of lava was collected to take home. There are dogs who live all year on the mountain and who may have benefited from some of our sandwiches. The experience was breath taking, quite literally as the wind was very strong in places. There was still some snow at the very top so it was also very cold especially as it was such a contrast to the temperatures at the bottom. The temperature had been 20oC when we boarded the ski lift. That afternoon, we visited Taormina, which is a beautiful hilltop town near Mount Etna. The town is popular with tourists and locals and is most well known for the Teatro Antico Di Taormina, an ancient Geco-Roman theatre still used today. Following our tour of the theatre, we had some time to explore and indulge in some ice cream. As it got towards evening, we headed back to our hotel where more than half of the students went into the sea for a swim and the rest relaxed on the beach.
On Tuesday, we were up early and this time heading for Siracusa, where we started in the north. Our guide met us and took us to see the Greek Theatre. It is one of the biggest in the world, which is entirely carved into the rock and is still in use today for performances of Greek tragedies. We were able to see how some of the restoration was being done and also how they were trying to protect the theatre. We then saw the remains of the caves where slaves and prisoners were kept and learnt about the conditions they lived in. We then went to see the legendary Ear of Dionysius which is the most famous cave in Siracusa. The cave gets its name because it resembles the shape of an ear and also has the most remarkable acoustics which amplifies the sounds inside it. According to legend, Dionysus (who was a tyrant) used this cave as a jail and he used to listen to the prisoners conversations to see if there was any threat to him or plots against him. The cave is located in the ancient stone quarry of Latomia del Paradiso, which is located under the Great Theatre of Siracusa. This cave is manmade and originally designed to be used to store water. We also saw a Roman amphitheatre used for gladiator fights! We then went to the south of Siracusa and walked through the squares and streets where we were able to see the influence of the history of invasions of Siracusa through the beautiful architecture. We visited the Piazza Duomo which was just beautiful! It is surrounded by spectacular baroque palaces and is a UNESCO. We went into the Cathedral itself, which is a mixture of a pagan temple and a Christian church. It stands on the ruins of a temple, which was dedicated to Athena and built in 480BC. As well as its baroque front, it has Doric columns which were still clearly visible both outside and inside. We stopped and had a break here to enjoy the surroundings and to take in the atmosphere of Siracusa. We had such a beautiful day that when we arrived back at the hotel, we headed straight down to the beach where some of the pupils played football, others relaxed and a few of the brave went swimming.
For our final evening, we headed to a local restaurant where we were given a brief history of pizza and shown how to make it, before a number of students had the chance to be the chef themselves. The owner of the restaurant and his family were extremely helpful, interesting and keen to share their hospitality and customs with us. We had a great night!
The final day everyone was up, packed and organised. Many of us would have happily stayed for an extra couple of days as it was such a beautiful and interesting place! However, once we were back on the plane, everyone was looking forward to heading home and seeing their families. The trip was made so special by the students and all the staff were so proud of them. Everyone who dealt with our group - the flight attendants, the hotel staff, the guides and the bus driver commented that our group was one of the best behaved groups that they had worked with and that made it such a pleasure for us.
Mrs Jones, Teacher of Geography.