Greece or Sicily? Dazzled by Greecily

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Oct 23, 2012
Greece or Sicily? Dazzled by Greecily

Where can the most spectacular remains of the ancient Greek civilization be seen? Not in contemporary Greece, that is for sure. The island of Sicily is part of the correct answer. Therefore, after a 10 day long journey chasing Greek archeological remains in Sicily, a new portmanteau is born. Welcome to my newest trip report. Welcome to Greecily.

End of November 2012, Frankfurt. I am spending a few days in Germany, both for pleasure and work. Every evening, in my hotel located in the outskirts of Frankfurt, I am roaming the Internet in search of a sunny destination for the coming winter break. Until now, Sicily has not been an urgent destination on my radar screen. As my hectic search unfolds it becomes clear that the only option for an interesting short winter break at a decent price is to book a flight between Bucharest and Catania on WizzAir. I am thinking that, say 5 years ago, I would have craved for flying this rather exotic route for less than 150 euros return. This argument helps me to make up my mind. Therefore, Sicily it is.

Next day I buy a German guidebook for Sicily and browse it while on an ICE heading for Cologne. That was the moment when the word Greecily crossed through my mind for the first time, after realizing that I was about to see more ancient Greek sites in Sicily than on a classical visit to Greece.

25 of December 2012, early evening. It is high time to start my journey by riding the train between Constanta and Bucharest:

I love to travel on unusual days. The Christian world is celebrating the first Christmas day and I assume this is the reason why I am the only passenger aboard this train:

Quick review of my travel plans in Sicily. I plan to start in Catania, then head south and sleep in Syracuse for the following two nights. Modica, Noto and Piazza Armerina are next, followed by Agrigento with its valley of the Greek temples. Selinunte and Segesta are also a must, right before heading for Palermo and Cefalu. Back to Catania for one last night before the flight back to Bucharest, 10 days after the beginning of this sunny roundtrip.

Google-generated map of the planned route:

With that being said, my third flight on WizzAir is about to start. I remember my first flight with them, from Bucharest to Larnaca back in May 2011, which was a very pleasant experience. Hope they will stick to the same standards of service.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012, Bucharest Otopeni (OTP/LROP) - Catania Fontanarossa (CTA/LICC)
Distance: 656 nautical miles
Flight: W6 3151
Block time: 11:25 - 12:40
Flying time: approx. 2h15m
Equipment: A320, registered Lima-Papa-Xray, delivered on 10 July 2009
Load factor: 80%

Second Christmas day and Otopeni is a huge, empty hangar. Not too much action going on here, with only a few flights scheduled in and out of Bucharest. I drop my bag and head through passport control and security in the sterile area of the airport. To be honest, I am not in the mood of flying today. Strange feeling, I reckon.

For the first time I am making use of priority boarding. It is worth every penny, as boarding a low-cost aircraft becomes hassle-free. Lima-Papa-Xray is parked on a remote stand towards the North-Eastern end of runway 08 Right. After a long bus ride I climb the front stairs and have the freedom to move through the aisle towards the rear end of the ship. As usual, I pick the last row of seats, starboard side, window seat. I am now seated and slowly entering a sort of an aviation mood.

First picture of our ship and her mighty powerplant. Water is dripping from her pink belly. I assume there is a drainmast down there:

Outside view right before pushback and engine start; Tarom’s fleet of ATR aircraft visible:

As the engines are ignited one by one, I am immersing in a stronger aviation mood. Doors closed, slides armed, pushback. My traveler’s nose feels the strong smell of burned jet fuel brought inside the cabin through the air-conditioning packs. It is a heady scent and my aviation mood peaks.

Today’s routing:

Classical departure today making use of runway 08 Left:

I find the noise levels surprisingly low for this take-off. I assume that we are riding a newer generation of A320 aircraft. Right after lift-off, through my fingertips resting on the seat’s armrests, I am feeling the engines’ vibrations. We are steady climbing:

Beautiful winter colors right after slicing through a thin layer of clouds:

We’re heading south and cross into Bulgarian airspace over the Danube River:

Cabin view after reaching our cruise level:

Outside view over the Balkans:

My Sicily guidebook and legroom:

Window view and pink winglet:

Ionian Sea down there:

We descended through a thick layer of clouds; the island of Sicily is now in sight:

This is the mighty Etna:

Closer view of the volcano. The city of Catania is also visible down there near the seashore:


I am spotting Catania’s airport. It’s for sure now that we will be landing on Runway 08, which means that we have to overfly the airport and make a 180 degree right turn:

Descending and leaving the airport behind. The scenery with Etna and the sea is surreal:

We’re slowing down. Sharp right turn and a fantastic Etna view:

Almost there:

Touch down in Greecily:

View of Fontanarossa airport:

CTA tower and our bridge connecting to the extra-Schengen arrivals:

continued below…
Days 1 & 2: Catania and Syracuse The moment I exited the airport has been, as always, special. I love the first few minutes after setting foot in a place never visited before. A brand new world unfolds in front of my eyes, ready for being discovered in the coming days. Therefore, I travel - it is not my slogan, but it so perfectly describes why.

Of course, not everything fits into what has been scheduled. My pre-paid diesel Renault Clio becomes a Fiat Panda, petrol engine. Whatever... this insignificant detail is not going to ruin the beautiful beginning of a new journey. I load Italy’s map into my GPS and head to Catania for a short visit right before sundown.

Local inhabitans are fully making use of the evaporation:

Catania’s Cathedral, built in 1070:

Roman amphitheatre or what is left of it:

After dark we settle in for the night in Syracuse. A short evening stroll in Ortigia is on the menu, the fascinating old city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site:

The narrow streets create a huge maze surrounded from all sides by the Ionian Sea:

Night view of the sea promenade:

Archimede’s square:

Same old quarter during day time:

The Greek theatre of Syracuse:

A better view of its 70 rows of seats carved in white stone

White, shiny cathedral square:

Corinthian columns on the cathedral’s façade:

Archeological museum of Syracuse. Beautifully decorated ancient cup:

Dolphin-shaped oil lamp:

Sea-view from the old quarter:

Inner yard of Pallazo Bellomo, now the seat of Syracuse’s art collection. Note the incredible blue color of the sky:

Cathedral square by night:

Days 3 & 4: Rural and baroque Sicily; Piazza Armerina We give credit to the German guidebook and dive deeper in Sicily’s backyard south of Syracuse. Noto, another World Heritage city praised for its baroque architecture, is on our to do list for the third day of this journey.

Noto’s Cathedral, completed in 1776:

Sipping a tasty cappuccino:

Impressive baroque architecture everywhere in the city. Astuto Palace is a fine example:

Rural architecture near Noto:

Just a short drive from Noto we make a stopover at the Vendicari Natural Reserve, with a nice beach and pink flamingos:


Scicli is another another city displaying spectacular baroque architecture. It is an interesting small city squeezed in a narrow valley:

We bring our short rural detour to an end in the city of Modica, where we spend the night:

Day 4 is dedicated to the first highlight of this trip: an extensive visit to the Villa Romana del Casale near the city of Piazza Armerina. The Roman Villa displays one of the biggest, if not the biggest, and for sure the most spectacular and best preserved Roman mosaics in the world.

My photos can not adequately describe the real dimension of what is in fact on display here for an enthusiastic visitor. Imagine a huge retail store with Roman mosaics all over the floor. Overview of the Villa:

Inside view of a long strip of mosaic displaying scences inspired from daily business between Sicily and Africa:

Trade in animals is one of the motifs extensively displayed:


The bikini girls, a mosaic only discovered in the 1960s:

continued below…
Days 5 & 6: Agrigento and the Valley of the Greek Temples We leave Piazza Armerina behind in the morning of day 5. It is a pleasant drive through Sicily’s backyard heading to Agrigento, the contemporary version of the ancient Greek city of Akragas. We stop for a few minutes to snap some shots of mighty Etna:

Seven Greek temples, or the remains thereof, all built in Doric style, can be seen during an extensive visit to the Valley of the Temples. I leave you to search for the reasons of why ancient Greeks decided to leave Crete and Rhodos and established settlements in Sicily, to be later transformed into a thriving civilization. Akragas became the richest Greek colony in Sicily and the splendour and magnitude of the archeological remains are stunning even for a visitor well acquainted to the architecture of ancient Greece.

General view of the Valley of the Temples and the Mediterranean Sea from our hotel window:

Distant view of one of the best preserved temples, the Temple of Concordia:

Closer look; it’s like being in Athens:

Temple of Hera, Greek godess of marriage:

Only 8 columns of the Temple of Heracles still stand today, after almost 2500 years from its construction:

Day 7: Remains of the ancient cities Selinunte and Segesta On the 1st of January 2013 we left Agrigento early in the morning and drove into what has been the best day of this journey. Two beautiful ancient and well-hidden Greek cities are on today’s agenda: Selinunte, beautifully located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, and Segesta, a spectacular site surrounded by mountains in the northern part of the island.

Ancient road leading from Selinunte’s Acropolis to the seashore:

Impressive display of the remains of a destroyed city:

Closer look to the stones that once proudly shaped the walls and columns of Selinunte:

Distant view of the Acropolis:

Let’s have a closer look:

Temple of Hera:

Entry into the temple:

As a New Year celebration, visitors were allowed to walk inside. It was indeed a special moment, providing for a different perspective:

This is by far the best view, seeing the Mediterranean through the temple’s columns:

50 kilometers further north it’s a different story and a different setting. It is unusual to see a Doric temple against a rocky background:

Detail of the Doric temple:

The biggest surprise of Segesta is the Greek theatre located on top of Monte Barbaro, around 350 meters in height:

Closer look to the 17 rows of seats carved in stone:

Not quite the usual location for a Greek theatre, but a hell of a view to the Tyrrhenian Sea:

Day 8: Palermo Late after dark on day 7 of our journey through Sicily we descended from the mountains heading for what was meant to be a short visit to Palermo.

Palermo rooftops and Tyrrhenian Sea in the background:

Palermo’s Cathedral built in 1200:

La Meridiana, a bronze line running from North to South on the cathedral’s floor. It was used to keep track of time with the help of a small hole on one of the cathedral’s domes to let the sunrays inside. Alas, Palermo has never been the prime meridian of the World:

Piazza Pretoria and the famous fountain of Francesco Camilliani, a sculptor from Tuscany:

Politeama Theatre, the seat of Palermo’s philharmonic orchestra:

Day 9: Monreale, Cefalu and Catania Our last day in Sicily. We plan to head back to Catania in the evening, after two short visits to Monreale and Cefalu.

Monreale Cathedral, built in around 1200, is the finest example of Norman architecture in Sicily:

Inside view with fine tuned mosaics all over the walls:

Overview of Palermo’s burbs as seen from Monreale:

Cefalu’s promotional photograps look very spectacular and appealing. However, I have not been able to find the best spots for taking pictures and I can’t offer you a view that puts things into perspective. Cefalu is indeed a spectacular location, provided that you find the right place to see it all.

Cathedral of Cefalu, built in 1100, same Norman architecture:

Narrow street heading to a tiny beach:

Sea view:

Sundown right before our departure for Catania:

Back to Catania two hours after leaving Cefalu behind. Can’t stay in our hotel room for the last night in Sicily, right? Two night pics of the Cathedral, with its Baroque architecture:


continued below…
Day 10: Return flight to Bucharest The grim perspective of another holiday coming to an end gave us the necessary will and strength to wake up at 7 o’clock in the morning local time for another quick stroll through Catania. We spent half an hour visiting the local fish market:

With this being said and done, our Sicily winter break became a thing of the past. It was high time to return to the Eastern territories.

Friday, 4 January 2013, Catania Fontanarossa (CTA/LICC) - Bucharest Otopeni (OTP/LROP)
Distance: 656 nautical miles
Flight: W6 3152
Block time: 13:15 - 16:15
Flying time: approx. 2h00m
Equipment: A320, registered Lima-Papa-Juliet, delivered on 15 May 2007
Load factor: 95%

Our home-printed boarding passes were useless at the airport. We had to exchange them for a classic boarding pass issued on the spot, with all the details related to ancillary services written down manually with a pen. Unfortunately, I had zero chances of taking some shots of incoming or departing aircrafts due to all kinds of items hindering the runway view. I would have liked to take pictures of Juliet arriving.

First shot, right after boarding Juliet:

Pushback and taxi right on time. Runway 08 was the active runway for take-offs today at Fontanarossa airport, meaning a departure right over the Ionian Sea. Great view after lift-off:

The metamorphosis is completed: from a fast moving earthy object, we have now become a sleek flying machine. Juliet climbs:

Way to shiny outside:

Somewhere over the Western Balkans:

Clearer views near Sofia:

Although almost a full house, cosy inside atmosphere aboard:

Last views of the clear, blue sky before starting our descent on Bucharest:

Descending into winterly clouds. Let the bumpy ride begin:

After going through the clouds we dove into an incredibly beautiful and intense blue color:

Winterly sunset:

The newest terminal building at Otopeni:

Final parking position:

A FlyPegasus wingleted 737 (tagged TC-AAV, first flight in 2010) just arrived after a short hop of only 262 nautical miles from Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen (SAW):

We didn’t even made it into the terminal building and the refueling truck was already parked near our ship. Juliet was prepped for the next flight, being scheduled to fly over to Madrid for the last rotation of the day:

Last view of our ship and the end of our journey through Greecily:

Please feel free to also browse the following trip reports:

Chasing the Summer Sun: From Brussels to Dalboka
A Story about Portugal
De Ramadan si Eid-ul Fitr in Anatolia Orientala (9 episoade)
Doua tari, o singura insula: Cu W6 in Cipru si Cipru de Nord
Final de octombrie la Bruxelles şi Knokke-Heist
Patru zboruri matinale spre varful El Teide
Andaluzia si Tanger cu RyanAir
Bruxelles cu Tarom, Paris cu trenul
Spre nord cu EasyJet: Bucuresti - Milano - Stockholm - Umea
RyanAir: Constanta-Pisa-Constanta
Bruxelles cu Tarom
Gratar in HydePark: de 1 mai cu EasyJet la Londra
Madrid cu EasyJet
Super faina Sicilia! Sper sa ajung si eu pe acolo candva! Interesant de citit numele italienesti pe engleza! ;)mersi de TR! Foarte reusit!
Superb! Mersi pentru tr.