Sunday, June 22, 2014

Open air bus (Sicily log 3)

Today is Sunday and almost all the shops are closed in Catania, especially the tobacconists which is near the hotel. This means that we couldn't buy bus or metro tickets today, thus reducing our possibilities of getting around the town.

We walked to what we thought was the Piazza Duomo (in fact, it's the Bellini theatre) where we had lunch. We then walked to the real Piazza Duomo and were impressed by its size. Just as we arrived, we were approached by someone selling tickets for the open air bus (which we had glimpsed from afar in the previous days); his brochure said the cost was 15 euro per person but sold us two tickets for 10 euro each.

Unfortunately, the open air bus was, obviously, open air which meant that the sun was beating down mercilessly on my body. The ride itself was quite interesting, taking us first to the beach area (displaying many volcanic rocks) and then into the cleaner and more historical parts of the old city. After an hour, we were back in the piazza.

First we refreshed ourselves (I had an excellent banana milkshake), then we hired the only taxi in the square to take us to the Bellini Gardens, which we had seen on the trip. As someone wrote, [a] very large and rather pretty garden in the heart of Catania, with the main/front entrance just across the street from a fabulous gelato shop. The date is always written in flowers on the front hill, and there are plenty of small whimsical niches in the garden where busts and statues hide. My wife thoroughly enjoyed this lovely green oasis in the middle of chaos and street litter in the city outside (as another reviewer put it).

We were in a quandary about how to return to the hotel. It was too far for my wife to walk and we didn't have any tickets for a bus, so we were hoping to find a taxi. Unfortunately there were none, so after about fifteen minutes of waiting, we became petty criminals and rode on a bus without paying. This bus didn't take us to the central train station as we expected but instead turned to the main road near where our hotel is situated.

So at least today's activities balanced our jaundiced view of Catania. Tomorrow we will catch a coach from nearby the train station which will take us to Palermo. I had thought that we would travel by train but it turns out that there is no direct service and would take at least five hours. The coach takes two and a half hours only.

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