We both felt that the Sicily tour exceeded our expectations. All the stops had attractive architecture spanning several cultures. Most of the island was very scenic with plenty of mountain and sea views. We liked the fact that there were no really long bus rides. The two big cities of Palermo and Catania had a lot of people strolling the streets, but they were mostly residents and not tourists. They both had interesting old buildings and numerous sites to visit. We highly recommend Sicily as a good European vacation destination.Catania has a botanical garden featuring plants from around the globe.
I haven’t mentioned the food of Sicily. The food is similar to the rest of Italy with pasta and pizza at virtually every restaurant. The typical meal consisted of a variety of appetizers served family style. There were typically six to ten appetizers which usually included olives and some sort of eggplant. The second course would be some sort of pasta. The portion of pasta was relatively small. The third course was the main course was either meat or fish. And of course every meal included a dessert, a glass of wine, and water. Needless to say we were never hungry. Donkey and horse were common on restaurant menus. While I had some donkey as one of the appetizers, I never knowingly had horse.For our farewell dinner, Laura had a tiramisu made featuring the group picture from our Fiat 500 ride including us and the drivers. The picture part was edible and it was a little unsettling eating a picture of your new found friends for desert.
On a totally unrelated topic, Susan’s San Miguel sandals were quite a hit with the women on the trip. As a result, I think at least two of them are going to order shoes on line.
On Wednesday, we flew Ryan Air from Catania to Malta. Ryan is a discount carrier similar to Spirit Airlines. I will have to say that I was pretty impressed with them. Boarding was chaotic, but once the last passenger was on the plane, they immediately closed the door; and once the last passenger was seated, they immediately pushed away from the gate for an exactly on time departure. What was more impressive to me was that the luggage was on the carousel by the time we got there. I also had more knee room than on Spirit.
We first visited Valletta, Malta on the Viking World Cruise and decided we had to come back and see it in more detail. After one day walking around Valletta, we decided that the four days we have on this trip is not enough. I am thinking an Airbnb for a week or two and Susan is talking about moving here.Maybe it’s because this is the view from the rooftop of our guesthouse and the temperature is in the mid 70’s with a comfortable breeze. The blue sky helps also.This is a typical Valletta street scene. The streets are narrow, there are hills involved, and all the buildings have wooden windows that extend out from the exterior wall instead of balconies.
We visited the Knights hospital from the 16th century.This is the ward for the wealthy, it is over 500 feet long, but we can only see half because of the curtain at the mid point. Note all the doors in the walls.There was a bed for one patient between the doors and the doors lead to a private bathroom for each patient. The toilets were Asian style or basically a hole in the floor. There was a ventilation system in the bathroom that led to an adjacent courtyard filled with orange trees. Thus the ward smelled like orange blossoms. Salt and honey were used to treat wounds and turpentine was part of the treatment for bullet wounds. The bathroom doors were covered with tapestries and the beds were color coded by disease of the patient. And by the way, this hospital only accepted male patients.This is the ward for the poor people located right below the other ward and showing its full length.In this case, there is still one bed between the two doors, but the bed holds four people who must each share the adjacent bathroom behind the door. There were two nurses per bed both upstairs and downstairs. Both wards are used for parties today. The lower floor recently was used for a 900 person wedding for an Indian couple.
We also visited the Church of Saint Paul’s Shipwreck. In 60 CE, Saint Paul’s ship wrecked in Malta and he brought Christianity to the island. The church was very plain on the outside, but the interior dating from the 16th century was spectacular.The church had a number of these double domes in the ceiling and each one was different. The smaller interior dome has windows in it, so it washes out in the picture.Part of the entry to the harbor. It was a wonderful first day followed by a delicious seafood dinner.