As in Homer’s Odyssey, our day begins with rose-fingered dawn spreading on the wine-dark sea. We cautiously approached the Strait of Messina, the small and turbulent stretch of water between the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas separating Sicily from the boot of Italy. In antiquity, the passage was mythologized as the home of two horrific beasts, Scylla and Charybdis. Scylla was thought to reside near the eastern shore to pluck six sailors from the decks of each passing ship, one with each her shark-toothed mouths sitting at the ends of serpent-like necks. The western shore was no less perilous as the giant whirlpool, Charybdis, sat poised to suck entire ships to their watery demise. Early risers were treated to the sight of numerous swirling eddies as Sea Cloud made her way through the strait to come to port in Messina.
From Messina we boarded our motor coaches and plied our way down the Sicilian coast to Taormina to visit the picturesque hilltop town overlooking the snow-covered peak of Etna, Europe’s tallest volcano, belching steam and ash into the clear Mediterranean skies. Our visit was focused on the ancient Greek theater carved into the hillside and whose stunning backdrop and precise acoustics inspired Roman era renovations and modern fine arts performances.
After some time on our own to admire narrow art-filled staircases branching off the main shop and cafe-lined thoroughfare, our group set off for Castello degli Schiavi to a remarkable estate made famous as the Sicilian retreat of Michael Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s film adaptation of The Godfather by Mario Puzo. Greeted with champagne accompanied by delectable appetizers and a trio of traditional musicians, we explored the grounds before descending into its ancient cellar for a fabulous Sicilian feast.
It was mostly nap time as we returned to Sea Cloud and set sail once again, first for an evening reprise of the passage through the strait and then southward towards our next destination: stunning Syracusa!