June 13 Taormina (Day 260)

After breakfast at the apartment we caught an earlyish train for the 5 minute ride to the next town south of us, Taormina. A tourist hotspot we’ve heard, due to the ancient Greek/Roman Theater at the center of the town situated up on the top of a hill. Arriving at the train station which is at the bottom of the hill, we opted to take the local bus up, rather than hike up in the already steamy heat! We walked into the picturesque town and purposely turned right rather than the left turn toward the theater. We found our way to a park overlooking the small bay of the Ionian Sea.

We got a great view down to the bay and out in the distance towards Mt. Etna.

The park is shaded by huge trees and filled with beautiful flowers.

And I got a closeup view of a sicilian wall lizard, maybe as common as our fence lizards back in Oregon.

Mt. Etna, the most active volcano on earth, overshadows Sicily and has been instrumental in the human history of the island! It and the Mediterranean climate are the reasons that agricultural products rule the economy and the food is stellar! It may be the reason the Greeks settled in the area and built the first theater on the top of the hill around the third century B.C.! Earthquakes and invasions damaged it and it was rebuilt by the Romans in the third century A.D.! It was rediscovered and excavated in the 1800’s and became a focus of “The Grand Tour” wherein young, wealthy, Englishmen mostly, traveled ‘the Continent’ to be educated on Greek & Roman history, culture and architecture.

Layer upon layer of culture, history and architecture!

The stage from the ‘nosebleed section’. The theater is still used for concerts, operas and plays!

As the day went on into the afternoon the crowds increased and we decided to head home to laid-back Letojanni! We caught the bus back down to the train station and had some time to admire the restored station. It must have been a marvel when the elite travelers on the Grand Tour arrived back in the day!

The painted ceiling and ornate grillwork reflect more recent artistic culture in the very colorful town!

June 12 Letojanni (Day 259)

We had a leisurely morning, having for breakfast the leftover spaghetti from last night. We contemplated how to spend our time today and did research on what activities and attractions are nearby. By then it was afternoon and hot so we decided to just wander around Letojanni!

We found the main plaza of town, facing the waterfront which is lined with pebbly beaches, restaurants and small amusement parks with trampolines, carousels and games for kids of all ages! 

The ubiquitous main church anchors the far end of the plaza. We heard music from within and I peeked in, the view plus the many cars including a hearse outside told us a funeral was taking place. 

Also along the waterfront we saw this statue of a rearing horse. The plaque on the base must explain the symbolism. Does it perhaps have something to do with the origin of the name of the town?

Later I did some research and found 2 different explanations of the name ‘Letojanni’. One says it is of Latin and Arabic source, ‘leto’ from ‘laetum’ meaning rich and Arabic ‘ayn’ meaning spring. The other says “Letojanni” is said to derive from the Sicilian pronunciation of “lieti anni” meaning ‘happy years’. Maybe a good place to retire!

Regardless, the translated text seems to be a fantastical story of Leto-a river and Janni-a horse, drowned in the river?

We stopped for refreshment and had a cafe crema, sort of a coffee flavored soft ice cream!

We eventually returned to the restaurant close to the apartment and were greeted like old friends. We enjoyed another great seafood pasta dinner with complimentary limoncello for dessert!

June 11 Messina to Letojanni (Day 258)

We had leftover pizza for breakfast then headed to the ferry. Again, don’t trust Google maps! After wandering around for 10 minutes trying to figure out the directions on Google maps I finally asked the ticket agent at the train station where to catch the ferry. He said “go through the station and it’s right there”! Easy peasy! Google maps was sending us to the automobile lane for the car ferry! We walked on with all the other foot passengers for the quick ride across the Messina Strait to the bustling town of Messina.

The first thing you see when leaving the ferry port in Messina!

Around the corner!

We continued our walk to the train station and caught our train after a short wait in the park nearby, watching the fountain water dance. Our stop was Letojanni (pronounced let-o-hanni). A two block walk took us to our Airbnb.

The decorative door to ‘The Artist Bear Apartment’.

Everything is painted with the bright colors and motifs of Sicily, and everything is for sale too!

What isn’t painted is tiled! It took me awhile to find the cutting board!

We cleaned up, stowed our gear and went out to explore town. We found a nearby restaurant and had a late lunch/early dinner.

Sicily is known for seafood! A shrimp and mussels spaghetti!

And really good wine pours!

June 10 Villa San Giovanni (Day 257)

Our day began with a cloudy but beautiful sunrise over the Adriatic Sea.

We docked in Bari, Italy just 20 minutes later than scheduled and were among the first foot traffic passengers to disembark. We were surprised that there were so few of us, most ferry passengers were truck drivers with their big rigs, tour bus passengers or people with cars We waited about 15 minutes to catch a shuttlebus that took us to the train station.

A glimpse of Bari, Italy through the bus window.

Our first of many trains today! Also the first official use of our Eurail Pass!

The four legs of our trip across the boot of Italy! Bari is at the top of the heel, the purple line took us to Taranto at the back of the arch. The blue line took us along the coast of the arch to Sibari. The green line took us part way across the bridge of the foot to Castiglione Cosentin. The final leg, the red, took us to Villa San Giovanni at the tip of the toe!

We opted to stay one night in Villa San Giovanni in order to catch the 20 minute ferry across the Messina Strait to Sicily tomorrow morning!

The cute little balcony at our Airbnb. We ate dinner there later.

We cleaned up and enjoyed watching the sunset from the balcony before we headed out to hunt up some authentic Italian pizza take-away for dinner!

June 9 Greece to Italy (Day 256)

We had a relaxed morning, getting ready to leave Corinth by cab, train and bus to Patras to catch an overnight ferry that will take us through the Ionian Sea and up the Adriatic Sea to the boot heel of Italy! The ferry was not due to leave until 5:30pm so we had plenty of time…or so we thought! We got to the train station by cab to catch the train to Kiato where due to ongoing (years of ongoing) maintenance it is required to take a bus the one and a half hours to Patras. Unfortunately it is required to get a seat reservation on that bus! We had tried by several methods online to get said bus seat reservations, to no avail, and thought we could get them at the train station the morning of our travel. They were sold out! The next bus would not get us to Patras in time to catch our ferry! But, the ticket agent suggested we take a cab to the bus station in town and take a bus direct to Patras. So we quickly got a cab and zoomed to the bus station, got our bus tickets, found some fast food for lunch and quickly settled into our bus seats on the crowded bus!

The highway follows the north coast of the Peloponnese and as we approached Patras the Gulf of Corinth narrows and we could see the mainland across the water.

We reached the bus station in Patras and went into the ferry office nearby to get our paper tickets for the ferry and discovered that the ferry terminal is 4 km away! Too far to walk, and the hassle of getting city bus service, plus the fact that it was about 95 degrees out already, eased our decision to catch a cab! We actually got to the ferry port with 2 hours to spare! We relaxed, went through the duty free store, got some beers and found a place to sit in the cool air conditioned waiting room!

So many duty-free choices! We decided to get wine instead, probably for the best!

The announcement was made to board our ferry and go through the security check, scanning our passports and baggage, and a line formed outside in the hot sun. We chose to wait until the line dwindled down and we still had about 45 minutes to spare, to avoid the sun! We were almost the last in line and as we ran our baggage through the woman checking our tickets said “WAIT, you have to go check-in at the ticket office”. Apparently we did not get “TICKETS” at the previous ferry office by the bus station! So we had to go back in the building and stand in a short line to get our “tickets”, and also the key cards to our sleeper cabin. The ticket agent casually said “no problem, your ferry has been delayed for 2 hours, at 7pm you can go back through security”. Well, we had time for another beer, but the delay would affect our trains in Italy scheduled for tomorrow when we dock. Robert went back to the ticket window, this time in a much longer line, to ask when the ferry would dock so we could rearrange our trains then. He finally got to the window and the agent said “you will get into Ancona 2 hours later than scheduled”. Robert said “we’re not going to Ancona, we’re going to Bari”. The agent said, “GO, QUICK, NOW! Your ferry is leaving”! We RAN to the security line and they rushed us through, we were literally the very last people getting on the ferry! It’s a good thing Robert stood in line or we would have watched the ferry leave the dock! Don’t believe everything “people who should know” tell you!

As we left Patras we looked back and saw this beautiful bridge.

The Rio-Antirio Bridge, officially the Charilaos Trikoupis Bridge is a marvel of engineering. It links the towns of Rio on the Peloponnese side to Antirio on mainland Greece.

Further out in the Ionian Sea we passed this lighthouse.

Named Doukáto or Lefkatas Lighthouse, looking much better in a video in the link, located on the island of Lefkada, is about the last piece of Greece you see as you head out to the open sea!

As the sky darkened we headed for dinner before going to our cabin for a good nights sleep!