During the Easter break thirteen boys went on a non-stop classical tour to every corner of Sicily.
Ironically our first day of the trip – a guided tour round Palermo and Monreale – was our least classics focused. Yet, Palermo had some wonderful Norman and Moorish architecture to exhibit, giving us, if nothing else, a very good flavour of just how many different conquests Sicily had suffered. With its classical past in mind as well it was interesting to consider why this was the case for such a small island, just why it had become such a crucial location for neighbouring powers over the years. Highlights of the day included visiting the Palatine Chapel which displayed the fantastic Byzantine mosaics of the life of Christ, and also the Cathedral in Monreale and its stunning statues.
The trips to Segesta and Selinunte on day two were our first taste of any ancient sites. The views from the Theatre at Segesta were a high point of the trip and we all enjoyed Ivor Chipman’s dramatic performance, who boldly proclaimed a few lines of Shakespeare’s “Much ado about nothing.” It was a privilege to see such well-preserved temples at Selinunte later in the day with one even still possessing a visible “Cella,” on the inside,
The most impressive visit was undeniably our trip to the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento which included temples dedicated to none other than Hera, Hercules, and Zeus among others. There was also the famous Temple of Concord in addition to the temple of Zeus which stood out in particular – it is indeed the largest Doric temple ever constructed. You can only really imagine how large it was standing right in front of its steps!
Having travelled right across Sicily to its East coast we enjoyed a day with fantastic weather in Syracuse. The theme of Roman and Greek colonization was further displayed in Syracuse and it was fascinating to compare the ancient Greek theatre of Syracuse which only stood about 100m away from the Roman amphitheatre built a few centuries afterwards. Another highlight of the day was entering the famous “ear” of Dionysus, a spectacular cutting into the cliffs from the city’s mining days.
The most eventful day was certainly Friday, the penultimate day of the holiday. Having departed our hotel in sunny Giardini Naxos we set out to Etna very underprepared for the conditions we were about to encounter. It was hard to take anything in from Etna apart from how cold and windy it was but it was an exciting experience as we ran along a ridge on top of Etna. After the morning’s drama we enjoyed a very pleasant afternoon in Taormina in contrasting conditions; the famous Theatre of Taormina with a backdrop to Etna was certainly my favourite sight of the trip.
We all gained a huge amount of insight into the classical world around Sicily and we are very grateful to CDNP and KMA for a fantastic trip and their guidance.
Trajan Halvorsen OS (TEWH)