An ancient island - July 2016
Steve on smoking Etna
Peter, Nick and Steve on Etna
Following the acoustic tour, Jo and I joined pals Nick and Peter in Sicily for a short break. We were based at Aci Castello, a picturesque seaside town. The very old castle by the sea was originally on an island but connected to the mainland by an eruption from Mount Etna nearly a thousand years ago.
Keen to visit that famous steaming volcano, the four of us took a trip up there on our first full day. We drove as far as we could, then continued to climb via cable car, bus, and finally on foot. The landscape became more barren and forbidding, the higher we climbed. We reached the two craters at almost 3000 metres (10,000 ft) near the summit. These had caused the most recent big eruptions in 2002. The lava is warm beneath your feet as you walk, smoke appears from the bottom of one crater plunging deep on one side, whilst the steep drop of the volcano side falls away on the other...
That night we were joined by our special Italian friend Vania, who has just been our tour manager in Italy. The following day the five of us headed off for the Valley of the Temples just outside Agrigento. An amazing array of Ancient Greek temples, one after the other, perched on a high ridge... It is a breathtaking sight. The Concordia temple with its double row of pillars and inner wall with huge doorway is particularly impressive. I was fascinated with the gigantic Icarus sculpture fallen to earth. I've been thinking about Icarus recently, especially since reviving the song for live gigs. Sometimes you think you've attained your heart's desire but your wings might still be burned down the line.
Further strolling through the ancient zone, the following day we experienced more of the Greek world at Syracuse... The most bizarre part was the massive "Ear of Dionysos", an ear shaped entrance to a gigantic man-made grotto, with an echo that seemed to go on forever. This was part of a man made cave complex, fragments of which fell in during an earthquake leaving a huge erie pillar of rock standing alone outside the caverns. Behind catacombs and a grotto waterfall was a stunning ancient theatre. Nearby Ortygia, an island close by, has a bustling nightlife amidst a dazzling array of floodlit old buildings with a beautiful square and tiny streets that beckoned us in... Vania introduced us here to some good friends of hers who treated us to a wonderful meal at their own restaurant.
It was a very special visit which we'll all remember with fascination. My musical notebook has been out for much of the time with many ideas inspired by the place. Jo and I are already looking forward to returning as soon as we can...
Valley of the Temples, Agrigento
Steve with Icarus descended beside Temple of Cocordia, Valley of the Temples
Steve and Vania at the Hera/Juno temple, Valley of the Temples
The burnt earth - crater on Etna
Steve on the castle ramparts at Aci Castello
Steve outside the Ear of Dionysos, Syracuse
Steve and Jo with ancient grotto waterfall, Syracuse