The best way to get to Catania...
The best way to get to Catania by car is to go via the airport Fontanarossa road and leave the car outside the city!
You will be arriving from Via Cristoforo Colombo and should find the parking lot (behind bus parking) at Porta Uzeda just underneath the railway bridge. Take a parking ticket like on the picture at the booth.
There are just too many one-way streets and the circulation is really chaotic to drive safely in Catania.
While we were in Catania Mount Etna's lava was flowing as we saw numerous news reports on the subject so we were really pumped about seeing it. We set out for Mount Etna really without a definite route there heading in the general direction thinking that surely there would be many signs pointing us in the right direction.
Well this worked for a while until we started driving through the many small villages on the way. The signs became confusing, so we turned to the satellite navigation system thinking it would lead us to the mountain, but there was not really a destination to enter in coordinates for it to guide us. So we entered something close.
Anyway we eventually made our way toward the volcano but ended up on the Etna Nord side which wasn't the right side to be on to get an upclose view. So we headed back to find Etna Sud.
Etna Sud is the route to take and we eventually weaved are way up the mountain on some serious winding roads with dropoffs. When we reached the area with the cable cars to the volcano everything was closed already and it was getting late probably almost 7pm.
So unfortunately we missed out on seeing the lava. But I have heard that you can get a sample of the lava and they will stamp it with Mt. Etna Catania".
"9 MAR 2007, FRI"
My flight from Catania to Rome got delayed by an hour and a half. I reached Rome @ 6:15 PM. When I was walking out of the arrival gate, Shankar called me and said that Subha is waiting at the Train Station. Within a minute, I got a message in my cell phone from a stranger telling me that Subha is with him and asking me to call his number. I called that number and asked Subha to come to Terminal C, Arrivals area. Around 7:00 PM, Subha came to Terminal C. After 10 minutes of wait, Latha anni came out from Terminal C. We all walked to the Left Luggage just few feet away, and dropped off 2 suitcases. Then we walked to the Train station which was close to Terminal C. I bought 3 tickets to Rome Termini. It costed us Euro 33 in total (Euro 11/person). The train departed @ 8:07 PM. We arrived at the Termini @ 8:45 PM. There are 3 exits from the Termini – Via Giovanni, Via Vicenza and Via Marsala. We exited from the Termini through the Via Vicenza exit, then walked through the Piazza (Square) Indipendenza and kept asking people where our hotel was. We arrived at the Hotel around 9:15 PM. The hotel was only 400 meters away. We checked into the Hotel. Our room was spacious and had 4 single beds. The bedsheets were quite drab. Mine had holes in it. The shower enclosure was really tiny and had bad doors. The bath towel was OK, but the hand towels they provided were disgusting. We refreshed, got changed and sat down to have dinner. I had packed Lemon rice and Potato for dinner. We chit-chatted and had our dinner. Around 10:30 PM, we all went to bed.
"10 MAR 2007, SAT"
We all got up at 6:30 AM, took shower and were out of the room by 7:30 AM. The free breakfast at the hotel was just a croissant(marmalata or ciocollata) and coffee. We reached the Termini Bus Station @ 8:30 AM. I bought 3 tickets on the hop on-hop off 110 Rome open Trambus. The ticket costed Euro 13/person for unlimited bus trips. Since it was little early, there wasn’t much crowd. We got the perfect spot on the bus – top deck, front row. We decided to sit in the bus and get a glimpse of Rome instead of hopping on and off. Iam glad we made that choice because, later in the day, it was literally impossible to get seats on the top deck. The whole tour lasted for about an hour and a half. Once the bus came back to the Termini Station, we got down and alighted the 1st bus in the 110 series that was ready to depart. The bus was almost full.
We got down at Stop # 3, Colosseo. All of our handbags had to go through the scanner at the entrance to Colosseo. The entrance ticket to Colosseo was Euro 11/person. And there was long line to get inside. Latha anni was not much impressed by Colosseo. So, we decided to just go around the Colosseo.
Few facts about the Colosseo: This is the first permanent amphitheatre in Rome. Its construction was started by Emperor Vespasian in AD72 in the grounds of Nero's private Domus Aurea and it was inaugurated by his son Titus in AD80. Thereafter, inaugural games lasted for 100 days and nights, during which some 5000 animals were slaughtered.
We also took a glimpse of Roman Forum. The Forum was the business center of ancient Rome. Its currently in ruins.
We walked to Stop # 5, Piazza Venezia where lies the magnificient Victor Emanuele II monument. This monument was built between 1885 and 1911 to honor the memory of the first king of united Italy. The monument is built of pure white marble and features majestic stairways, a huge equestrian statue of Victor Emmanuel and two statues of goddess Victoria riding on quadrigas. We were not allowed to sit on the steps of the monument. We took lot of pictures. We spent almost an hour admiring the monument. It was almost lunch time. We then walked to the bus stop to go the next attraction.
We didn’t get down at Stop # 6 Piazza Navona. We just got a glimpse of the Piazza with its fountain, Fontana dei Fiumi, built by Bernini.
Stop # 7 was San Pietro. Time was around 1 PM now. Since we were hungry, we got down at this stop. Right in front was a Cafeteria. Since the Ladies wanted Pasta, we went to this Cafeteria. But turned out to be a bad idea. I ordered Fettucine with proscutto and white cream sauce. Lathi anni had Spaghetti with tomato sauce. Subha had gnocchi with tomato sauce. Me and Latha anni had sumptuous quantity. Subha on the other hand, was given only 4 to 5 pieces of gnocchi. The price we paid was attrocious – Euro 24 for lunch. We learnt our lesson to not to eat in main streets. After lunch, we took the 110 series bus to go to our next location.
We got down at Stop # 9, Ara Pacis, and walked for 10 minutes to get to Piazza di Spagna. The walk was through one of the famous crowded shopping streets of Rome. We arrived at Spanish steps around 2:30 PM. The steps were literally invisible because of the number of people sitting on it.
We got down at Stop # 10, Fontana di Trevi, and walked 500 meters for Trevi Fountain.This is the most famous among the fountains in Rome. It was designed by Nicola Salvi in 1672. The central statue in the fountain represents Neptune, surrounded by two tritons riding sea horses – one wild, one docile – representing the moods of the sea.
The final Stop was # 11, Via Veneto. This route takes us through one of the most famous and elegant streets in Rome, full of luxury cafes, restaurants and shops. The U. S Embassy is located on this street in the prestigious Palazzo(Palace) Margherita. The streets were lined with Citrus trees in full fruition.
"11 MAR 2007, SAT"
Same morning routine as the previous day. We reached the Termini Bus Station @ 8:30 AM. I bought 3 tickets on the local bus to go to St Pietro’s (Vatican). The ticket costed Euro 1/person for a round trip. It took us about 15 minute bus ride to the Vatican. We had to stand in a line to go through Security checks before entering the St.Peter’s Basilica. The Sunday Mass was in progress at 09:00 AM. We attended the Mass. At the end, we had to form a line to get the holy offering (of nuts/dry fruits) from the Priest. I blurted out “Thank you” instead of “Amen” or “Pace”(meaning Peace) and the Priest corrected me. After the Mass, we climbed the 300 steps to go to the Cupola. As we got closer and closer to the top, we had to crouch so as not to hit against the roof. We had a stunning view of the Vatican Square from the Cupola. We all took some pictures. We came down right on time for the Pope’s speech. Sharp @ noon, the Pope was present behind a window on the upper level of the Right wing of the Vatican Square. The whole of Vatican Square was crammed with people. The speech lasted for about 10-15 minutes. We had spent all the morning in Vatican and now we were hungry. We walked around the side streets in Vatican and had fresh pizza in a small eatery. It was one of the best fast foods we ever had. After lunch, we shopped for some memorabilia. We returned back to our hotel, took rest and had a nice long chat with Subha until 17:30. Around 18:00, we left the hotel, came to the Termini, took 2 tickets to the Airport, boarded the train and left for the Airport. Subha saw us off. She will be taking the morning train next day to Venice.