Catania is the second largest city in Sicily and is our home until the end of the OAT trip.This was the view from the street in front of our hotel this morning. The mountain you see faintly in the background is Mount Etna, and what looks like a cloud over the building on the left is steam from the summit of the mountain. On Monday we are taking four wheel drive vehicles part way up the mountain.
Catania is home to the third largest Roman amphitheater in Italy after the Coliseum in Rome and Verona. The only part of the amphitheater remaining is the basement of a small section. The rest of the basement is buried under adjoining buildings. The complete amphitheater was three stories above this basement and could seat 15,000 people.
There seemed to be a church on every corner.
Many window balconies have some sort of decoration. This window is unusual in its use of tee shirts and kitchen utensils.
This corner had a building of similar color and design on each corner. One of the four buildings had the following unusual statue on the wall:It is unclear if the statue is of Greek or Roman origin.
The umbrellas make a colorful street covering.
This is the Catania Cathedral dedicated to the patron saint of Catania, Saint Agatha. According to legend, Agatha made a vow of virginity at the age of 15 and pledged her devotion to the church. When in accordance with her beliefs she rejected the advances of a “low born” suitor and reaffirmed her commitment to the church, she was thrown in jail, tortured, and her breasts were cut off. While her wounds were healed, she ultimately died in prison. I tell you all this because of the surprise Laura had for us at the end of our walking tour.These breast shaped pastries made from sweet cheese and marzipan are a popular treat in Catania and are named after Saint Agatha. Susan thought they were too sweet. I had no such problem.
A popular activity on Sunday morning is playing cards in the shade of the bridge.
Grand Circle, the owner of OAT has a charitable foundation that helps people in the countries they visit. Ten dollars from every traveler goes to support the foundation and on most trips you visit something sponsored by the foundation. Today we visited a family that operates a foster home for children. It is run by six family members and they presently have ten children in their care. Most of the children are Italian but several are Nigerian girls who were victims of human trafficking. They keep their address secret for fear that the Nigerian girls could be in danger. The children above are practicing their grape stomping.Simone, in the red shirt and her husband, are the leaders of the foster home. She said their life is chaotic every morning when they try to get the children off to school, but they clearly love all the children in their care. The government is supposed to provide financial support, but is 1.5 years behind in payments. In order to provide needed funds, they raise grapes and make their own wine, have a restaurant for friends and family they trust on Sundays, and serve lunch to OAT groups. One of the Nigerian girls told us her story of arriving in Sicily eight months pregnant at the age of 15.This young lady is from New York State and is in Sicily on a Fulbright Scholarship to stay at the foster home and to document the work they are doing there. She had been out picking grapes before we met her.
Our second surprise of the day was a discussion and demonstration of traditional Sicilian music in a nearby park. The instruments were a Sicilian bagpipe, a mouth harp, and several types of flutes.
Of course, the worlds problems still have to be solved, so Hugh, Dallas, and Bruce were doing their part before we left for the walking tour this morning.