The Malta Experience: Exploring Sicily and Going up Mount Etna!

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Exploring Malta was pretty fun but, when booking excursions I realized that I had a shot to touchdown in historic Sicily, Italy! Was I an expert on Sicily absolutely not, Italian clients of mine would rave about Sicily, the food, landscape, the visuals and so on. The first time I remember ever hearing about Sicily was watching Golden Girls back in the day with my mother because the character Sophia was originally from there and during episodes Sophia would reminisce about Sicilian this and that (Yup, I’m kinda aging myself).

The good part is Sicily can be done in a day but, unless you plan on flying there it truly is a daylong commitment. How much of a commitment you may ask? Well, I woke up at 415am left my hotel at 450am and returned back to my hotel sometime around 1130pm. So literally, a whole day was required! The tour operator is a company called Virtu Ferries and to be honest when I heard ferry boat I was thinking Centre Island, creeky old boat for 2 hours how will I survive that? But, it actually was a luxury catamaran boat that carries passengers, cars and transportation trucks all at once. They show movies onboard, they got a snack bar, there are like 3 levels depending on how VIP you are, really comfortable seating options from tables to recliner chairs and there are even casino machines! I was pleasantly surprised.

Malta to Sicily Italy Ferry

The water was pretty rough so that kinda delayed us, people were feeling seasick from the rocking but, we made it! Once we landed in Pozzallo, Sicily we hopped on coaches and we were on our way. We entered the province of Catania and drove, for about 90 minutes, along to the municipality of Nicolosi. Our group stopped off at a café for people to have a coffee/snack. I will admit I probably had one of the best pastries I may ever eat in my life at this Dolce Vita Café. It was like a croissant filled with fresh pistachio crème and it legit changed my life! Soooo good, I was sad when I finished it because it was done and had to go back on the bus and couldn’t get another one.

La Dolce Vita Cafe Pistachio Croissant Nicolosi Sicily Italy

Next stop, Mount Etna!

Mount Etna is tallest active volcano in Europe at a total height of about 3329m or 10922ft. On the way up, our guide told us the history of Mount Etna and we also got to see some of the destruction its eruptions have done including submerging houses in molten lava. That was pretty cool and frightening at the same time.

House Submerged in Lava Mount Etna Sicily

So the coach took us up to about 1900m up. There is a lodge there for tourists and such. Every few 100 metres I would see the temperature drop and think to myself that I should’ve brought more than my Jays hoodie to keep me warm but the funny thing is when people asked if I had a coat or anything, when I mentioned that I was from Canada everyone was like…’Oh, then you’re used to the cold you will be fine then!’ Gotta love those Canadian stereotypes but, I owned it. So at 1900m you can hang out there for an hour or so check out the view but for those who need more elevation in their life you can take a creeky cable car up to 2500m at a cost of 30 Euro. Surprisingly, not that many people wanted to do the cable car, maybe it was the price or the height or the untrustworthiness of the cable car or the weather (because it seemed foggy). My thought process was I came here from Canada so this is HAPPENING! Went up the cable car with a random person from my tour group and as Fat Joe says…I’M ALL THE WAY UP!

Cable Car View Mount Etna

This is the view from the sketchy cable car. The view from up there was breathtaking and breathe shortening since we are 2500M up at the highest point. Once you reach that level you can climb up more and there is a shuttle that takes you up a bit higher. I missed the shuttle so I power walked up maybe 100-200M more. The experience was amazing to think that I was over 8200ft in the air without being inside of a plane was soooo cool! We were so high up we actually are looking DOWN AT THE CLOUDS and the sky is really clear.

Top of Mount Etna Sicily Italy

I think that is the shuttle I missed

Top of Mount Etna Sicily Italy Above the Clouds

Up in rare air!

Top of Mount Etna Sicily Italy Above the Clouds 1

Possibly the purest oxygen I’ve ever breathed in my life!

Top of Mount Etna Sicily Italy Above the Clouds (2)

Started from the bottom…Now we here! (8200+ FEET!)

After that we hopped back on the coach and went to explore the local area and the views and architecture were immaculate in Sicily. I felt like I was transported to another planet. Just straight up beautiful.

Hilltop houses in Sicily Italy

The houses stacked up on the hills looked awesome.

Wine and chocolate tasting in sicily italy

I’m sorry…Did you say complimentary Sicilian chocolate and wine tasting? YES PLEASE!

Views from Sicily Italy

Each corridor with stairs felt like another getaway to somewhere brand new.

Cathedral in Sicily Italy

This cathedral looked incredible and is over 500 years old!

The only downside was that from 4 to 630pm pretty much the whole town is shut down. It is like their daily break time so I was unable to get Sicilian pizza but, still that was interesting imagine most restaurants over in North America closing for 2-3 hours people would lose their minds!! But, I’ll admit I am pretty down with that way of life!

Authentic Italian Panini Sicily

Well at least I got an authentic Italian Panini… So it wasn’t a total loss! The journey back, was a bit longer due to rougher waters but it was alright. Finally, got home around 1130pm and I got to admit it was an epic day. It’s not often you get to jump on a boat to hang out in Italy for a day, go up a volcano, eat chocolate and wine and wander around the beauty of Sicily!

More to come,

Walk it out people,

Waynie!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Malta Experience: Get Lost in Magic of Mdina!

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Have you ever wished you could jump into a time machine and relive a different point of time? Good news Malta has got it for you. While there are various places to get this feeling one of the best places is the city of Mdina (no typo that’s how it is spelled). Once you walk across the bridge and enter the gates you legitimately feel like you’ve been whisked away into another world.

Walled City of Mdina Malta Kings Landing Date

You thought I was joking didn’t you? There really is a bridge and gates to enter when going into Mdina. In case you were wondering if this gate looks familiar, if you watch Game of Thrones, you may know this as Kings Landing Gate from the show. As I previously mentioned in my last post I do not watch Game of Thrones so I have no idea what that means but I believe it is a cool thing. One of the most impressive things is that most of the architecture is from the medieval times of the 1400s to 1500s and is still standing. The walled city (a.k.a fortified) of Mdina, was once the capital of Malta before Valletta, which later became the capital city.

Mdina Malta Kings Landing Gate

As you might be able to guess, the reason for the high bridges and walls is because Mdina and Malta as a whole was considered to be a military type of country that defended itself and Europe from outside enemies.

Mdina Malta Street Corridor

 

The streets of Mdina are cobblestone I believe, and you can only walk, cycle or horse carriage through the streets of Mdina if you are a non-resident. Only residents of Mdina are able to drive its streets. Their driver’s licenses and plates are slightly different to identify them as Mdina residents.

Mdina Malta Horse and Carriage

When you spend some time in Mdina you can literally get lost in its streets. The long stretching corridors just beg you to wander around them and explore a different world.

Walled City of Mdina Malta City Streets Corridors

The lamps are gas lit; the restaurants and cafes are cozy and friendly, the homes all have stories to them whether it’s the colours of their doors or the creative looking mailboxes and door-knockers (I don’t know if there is an actual name for them).

Mdina Malta 1

Just the sheer beauty of its simplicity is stellar. Can’t forget it wouldn’t be Malta without an amazing looking church in the city square.

St. Paul's Cathedral Mdina Malta European Churches

I present to you St. Paul’s Cathedral, a Roman Catholic cathedral which is an awesome site to witness. It has a patriarchal cross atop it. The clock on the right is for the time and the clock on the left is for the date. This was built sometime in the late 1600’s and it is just immaculate. People’s selfie games were strong with this site, selfie sticks popped out almost on command.

Mdina Malta Statue Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus

This is a statue of the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus along a main road of Mdina which is believed to have been sculpted back in the 1600’s that is a great piece for the art buffs out there.

Mdina Malta Elevated Countryside View 1

This is the vantage point from the highest area in Mdina giving you a marvelous view of the countryside. From a strategic military point of view I could see why this viewpoint would be advantageous when defending Malta in those times.

My View of the Malta Countryside atop of Mdina..AMAZING!! (Video)

All in all, this place was amazing especially if you enjoy history and different ways of life. Personally, being from a busy city like Toronto the laid back easy pace of Mdina was a welcomed escape to what felt like a whole different world.

And yes, there is still more to come!

Waynie!