Nick and I awoke at 5 AM and decided to eat the second half of yesterday’s lunch sandwich. We weren’t surprised that we weren’t hungry at breakfast time. We packed and began our journey to Catania, the last city of our tour.
Our first stop on the way was a visit to the Museo Storica della Sbarco in Sicilia 1943, a World War II museum that has an extensive collection of actual memorabilia, photos, and newsreel footage of the events of Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily from Africa by Allied forces. This operation was critical to the Allies because it forced the Axis troops north and cleared the Mediterranean. I found it strange that I had never heard about it before. More than 14,000 soldiers from Italy, Germany, the USA and Britain lost their lives during the attack. It was heart wrenching to see that so many young men had to give their lives because of some older men’s quest to dominate the world. And in Sicily, many families had members who supported opposite sides.
We entered a bunker and heard the simulated sounds of bombings above and around us. This brought to mind stories that were told to me by my dear friend and colleague, Moira, who lived in England during the WW II bombings there. When they heard the sirens, the school children would be dismissed to run home. Their mothers would meet them and they would run to their shelter together. They heard the terrifying sounds of bombs throughout the night. The next morning, they would find out whose houses had been destroyed and whose were still standing.
Once in Catania, Susanna took us for an orientation walk. The city was full of sailors who were in town in celebration of Saint Barbara’s feast day, Saint Barbara being the patron saint of the Navy.We split up into smaller groups, some to shop, some to explore, and some in search of food. Not having eaten since 5 AM, we were in the hungry group. No sharing today! My lunch was cannelloni in tomato sauce, while Nick ordered chicken with potatoes. We enjoyed conversing with our lunch companions Carol, Wendall, and Sallie.
The bus took us to our hotel. Our room, called Fantasia, was a suite of two rooms, each with a TV. We also had a private terrace and a garden.
Our evening activity was wine tasting and dinner at the Benanti Winery on Mount Etna. Their wines were ranked third in a 2016 evaluation. First we were taken for a walk through the vineyard. Then we were refreshed indoors by sparkling wine, with which we enjoyed cheese fondue served in a hollowed loaf of bread and a sun dried tomato mold dressed with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano and mint. Both were exquisite.
Then came dinner. Two different Benati reds were served with the meal, one lighter and one heartier. The pasta course was tagliatelle (homemade, of course) with mushroom sauce. The main course was roast beef with chestnut puree, breaded sautéed fennel, and salad. The dessert was coffee mouse, not my thing, but the coffee lovers among us raved.
We met the vineyard’s owner, Signore Benati, and one of his twin sons, who sells Benati wines around the world. Because they said they had met several people named Benanti in their travels and thought they were all related, I asked if they knew Laura Benanti, the Broadway star. They said they would love to meet her if an introduction can be arranged!
We walked 10,021 steps and climbed 50 flights of stairs.