|After leaving the Port of Civitavecchia(Roma), we sailed overnight to Sicily and the city of Messina.
We decided to take a wine tasting tour to the St. Michelle winery which lies at the base of Mt. Etna, one of the 3 most active volcanos in the world. Our tour guide Mauritzio, said you can ski the mountain and swim in the sea all within the same 12 hour time period.
The range of temperatures and variety of soil types results in a large variety of plant life. Within the same garden we saw lemon and lime trees, prickley pears and walnut and olive trees, to name a few.
St. Michelle wines are bottled under the label "Murgo". They are known for their sparkling wines. Our tour was reminiscent of the Mumm winery in Napa, CA as they have recently invested in the technology that allows them to change the position of the bottles a palette (rather then a bottle) at a time.
After the tour we went to a separate building for the wine tasting. The pictures show an outdoor room with grapes hanging from the ceiling. We were supposed to have our tasting in that room but there was some confusion over when our group was arriving so they put us in a new tasting room in a separate building. Not as quaint but very nice as well.
We tried several wines (3 sparkling, 2 white and 2 red). The Cabernet was very good as was the olive oil (which is made from olives grown on the St. Michelle estate).
I have been surprised at the poor quality of both the olive oil and the balsamic vinegar we were served in Rome, neither of which was very good. By comparison, the olive oil at the winery had a very fruity, mellow taste. Similarly, the balsamic vinegar in Rome was thin and tart rather than syrupy and sweet indicating it was cheap as it had not aged very long. I will need to keep searching for a good quality vinegar - maybe in Venice.
We ended our tour by visiting a lava field created by the most recent eruption of Mt. Etna which occurred over 20 years ago. On the picture of just the lava rocks, you can see a very small amount of lichen. This is representative of the type of growth in this area over the last 20 years. On our way back to the bus we were given samples of a pistachio spread (reminiscent of the hazelnut spread, Nutella). I also saw a local man picking something from a tree. It was walnuts. He threw one to me and we exchanged a "grazzi" and a "prego" over the fence. Back to the port to board the ship and head to Malta.
PS We also saw (from the bus) where the Sicilian scenes from The God Father Two were filmed.