For nearly three thousand years, Sicily has been at the center of cultural exchange in the Mediterranean. Sicily was occupied in turn by ancient Carthage, Greece and Rome, and medieval Muslims, Normans, and Byzantines, Sicily’s geography and architecture reveal layers of cultural wealth as well as the scars of battle from ancient times through World War II. Since 1800, it has also been a magnet for English-speaking painters and poets, drawn to the beauties of Mt. Etna, hillside villages and vineyards, sunny beaches, and busy cities like Syracuse and Palermo. For spring break 2016, seventeen Notre Dame College travelers learned about Sicily’s culture by exploring it firsthand. After a week in Sicily, they spent two days exploring the sights, sounds, food, and culture of Rome and the Vatican.
The NDC travelers’ journey began with their coach (bus) climbing the narrow, winding road to the town of Taormina. In Taormina, they spent their first day strolling down the stepped streets of this hillside town, and ending the day with a four-course Sicilian dinner.
Their travels next took them to an active volcano – Mt. Etna – nearly 2000 km above sea level, and TWO ancient theatres. One of the theatres was from ancient Greeks and the other from ancient Romans. In Syracuse, a guide led them on a walking tour of the Archeological Park. Syracuse was a town where St. Paul and St. Peter preached on their way to Rome in the first years of Christianity.
Midway through the trip was a visit to Villa Casale, which has one of the world’s largest collections of Roman mosaics, and to Agrigento’s Valley of Temples. Agrigento was once a town of Greeks that had temples dedicated to gods and goddesses, such as Hera and Zeus.
When the NDC travelers visited Cefalu’, a city on the harbor of the Mediterranean, they noted how the water was so blue it almost looked unreal.
Leaving Sicily, they took a one-hour flight to Rome, Italy. In Rome, many of the NDC travelers went on to tour the Vatican museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. They noted that the Vatican museum is literally so big that it would take four or five days to see the entire collection. In the afternoon, they toured the city using the impressive public transit system.
For more details about the Notre Dame College Sicily and Rome Spring 2016 trip, read the blogs posted daily by Sr. Eileen Quinlan S.N.D., and Alumna Nicole Vencl ’15 and enjoy a slideshow of our photos!