Exploring the Marvels of Sicily: Catania’s Charm and Etna’s Majesty

Versão em Português
PADLET – Group Mobility in Catania

Sicily: Italy’s biggest island, a geologic wonder, and an absolute European paradise! Under the Erasmus program in articulation with the subjects of Geology and Biology, by the end of march, we’ve had the great opportunity to explore and discover this beautiful island, turning out to be an exciting and amazing journey, leaving us with memories to last a lifetime. In this article, we will talk about our incredible week in Sicily, from our visits to the cities of Catania, Taormina and Siracusa to our hike up the great mount Etna, showcasing its breathtaking sights painted by geology.

Catania: a City Rebuilt from Flames

Neighboring the titan that is Mount Etna, our surprise at how impressive, resilient, and beautiful Catania is as a city should have come unexpectedly. In our week spent in Sicily, most of the time we found ourselves in Catania, with the exception of the time we spent to visit the beautiful seaside cities of Taormina and Siracusa, and the time dedicated to our geologic adventure on Mount Etna and San Giovanni Li Cuti Beach. Returning to the topic at hand: Catania. Where even to start? We have so many exciting things to talk about! Perhaps we should go about it somewhat chronologically, starting with Monday: our first day in Sicily, our first impressions of Catania, and of course, our first encounter with our Italian friends and colleagues at their school.

After the first introductions, in a big group composed of our class and the class of our Erasmus partners we finally headed toward one of the many hidden treasures of Catania: the beautiful botanical garden, an amazing place, full of life and diversity. Even better than that, we even had our own guides since our Italian colleagues made sure they wouldn’t leave any of our questions unanswered. The next day we were fortunate enough to be accompanied by university teachers on a geologic walk through the city, which taught us more than we would ever expect to know about the volcanic history of Catania, picturing the city as a true fenix, reborn from the ashes left by the mercilessness of the volcano. In that same day, we learnt so much about Catania, visiting the museum, learning about the eruptions and earthquakes authored by Etna, the 1669 eruption, the volcanic nature of the composition in the infrastructure, the impressive tale of castle Ursino, the roman remains, the impressive San Nicolò l’Arena church, the monastery and the beautiful monuments. What an amazing city, no words could describe our experience!

Pastas, Pizzas and Gelatos!

By spending a week in Sicily we had plenty of time to taste the delicious Sicilian food. However, we would certainly agree that we regret not having time to taste even more. Eating out in restaurants gave us the opportunity to taste a variety of different Sicilian foods: all the different pizzas, from the famous Margherita to pizzas like the Norma or the Parmegiana, different pastas, notably, the carbonara, and of course, the refreshing gelatos with all their variety of different flavors, absolutely delicious! Food to die for.

Etna, the king of Sicily

Saving the best for last, Etna was by far the highlight of our week. Knowing that the next day would be a rough one, Tuesday we made sure to get some extra sleep, so that we could wake up early enough to venture ourselves up into the great Mount Etna. After a few hours by bus, we had a quick pit-stop at the Chalet, where we first met our guide for the day, and where we would later have lunch at. After that, we continued going up by bus, until we were close enough to start going up by foot. We could feel the temperature drastically decreasing the higher up we were. Our guide made sure to secure our safety, giving us some hiking sticks, and then our adventure started. We first learnt about the fierce history of the location, observing some old ruins from what were once hotels now resembling anything but one, destroyed by the unforsaken wrath of the volcano. Then we learnt about some radon-detecting safety devices, keeping track of volcanic activity by measuring the amount of radon in presence. But our journey had barely even started, we kept going up, learning about the history of the location as our guide kept showing us miracles of nature: life so quickly restored and fixated after the lava take over by the volcano, and the trees, dead by asphyxiation rather than by the hot lava temperatures, showing the beautiful resilience of life.

After a while, we had the opportunity to drink tea made in Mount Etna itself, together with some biscuits, partly derived from Etna as well. While eating, we couldn’t help but look around in fascination with the beautiful local scenery: the basaltic roads down the mountain, allowing us to picture the image in our heads of the descending lava, which later consolidated forming such a characteristically volcanic landscape, the incredible red mountains from quick iron oxidation and the golden fossilized lichens, everything while the giant white steaming mountain stared at us from above. Truly indescribably unforgettable, almost like a painting from the gods, the only difference being that this god wasn’t a Greek, Roman or Catholic one, that god was none other than Etna itself. On the same day, our guide also showed us a cave, providing us with the necessary equipment to ensure safety. Once we were down inside the cave, we learnt about how the cave was formed, what it was used for in the past and the type of formations we could find inside. It was an amazing experience!

Ending Remarks

Finally, on the last day, we spent some extra time with our Italian colleagues. We danced together and showed each other commonly heard songs in each of our cultures, having fun together to celebrate our amazing week together.  Still on the same day, we presented our padlet, composing a small retrospective of our week in Sicily. Then, two of our students had special things to say before the end of our trip, one of them presenting a poem about Etna and the other leaving a message in italian.

Ação Chave I – n.º 2020-1-PT01-KA120-SCH-094854
CONTRATO FINANCEIRO N.º: 2023-1-PT01-KA121-SCH-000120467

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