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5:04pm on Saturday, 2nd August, 2008:



Today we went to the beautiful Scicillian hilltop town of Taormina, or as the events organiser put on his slides last night, Toramina. Its most famous sight is its Greek amphitheatre, which, we were thrilled to discover, was decked out in plastic chairs, fake statues and lighting rigs following a Paul Simon concert apparently held there yesterday.

The tour was called "Taormina on your own", for some reason abreviated to MY15. As I was picking up our stickers to show what group we were in (number 7) there was a woman in front of me in the queue showing great displeasure that the tour wasn't available in Spanish. The rep was trying to explain that it was Taormina ON YOUR OWN and therefore there wasn't a tour guide; consequently, there was no Spanish tour. This cut no ice whatsoever with the Spanish-speaking woman.

As it happened, there was a guide person on the bus who showed us where to meet up, and Spanish is sufficiently close to Italian that she could make herself understood. Her English was fine, except that she told us all to turn left at the other city gate to see the amphitheatre, when we should have turned right. She might also have mentioned that the other gate looked nothing like the gate we were standing at, and that the other structure we would encounter that did look just like it was, in fact, not a gate, and we should walk through it and continue another 300 metres or so to find the actual gate.

From the amphitheatre, there was a fine view of Mount Etna — yesterday. Today, it was shrouded in cloud. The way everyone kept saying it looked great "yesterday" was just a little too frequent for my liking, as if you could hardly ever see it but they had some conspiracy to give the impression that you just happened to come on an unfortunate day. I bet if we showed up tomorrow, they'd tell us we could have seen it today...

The ice cream was, as is usual in Italy, fantastic.

Referenced by Messina.

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Copyright © 2008 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).