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sicily - wed sept 27

we hump down the hill in stromboli for what we hope is the last time, and head to our favourite bar on the beach. we are almost regulars here and the wondrously attractive barmaid almost notes our existence.

we survive the hydrofoil ride back to milazzo. a couple of times the hydrofoil looses lift in the rough seas....there is a very unpleasant feeling of stomachs going up while the boat is going down and then the hydrofoil drives its nose into the next wave. there is a wall of spray that covers that all the windows and there is a collective oomph from the passengers trapped in the cabin. l am standing the whole way and ride these ups and downs like a rodeo rider l am. l also shriek like the little girl l am each time the boat looses lift but l don't think my zeal is going over well with he rest of the passengers.

we get to milazzo and the car is still there. ...l guess the fact that italy doesn't having any parking meters, and therefore no meter maids has nothing to do with the car still there and all the drinking l did in stromboli agonizing over the car's impending doom was all too naught.

we pick up the autostrada and drive pass messina to catania and syracuse enroute to the invasion beach. Catania is the second largest city of Sicily and is the capital of the province which bears its name.  Catania is located on the east coast of the island, half way between Messina and Syracuse and is at the foot of the active volcano Mount Etna. Founded in the 8th century BC by Greek colonizers, it was extensively destroyed by earthquakes in 1169 and 1693 and by lava flows which ran over and around it into the sea. The city has been buried by lava a total of seven times in recorded history, and in layers under the present day city are the Roman city that preceded it, and the Greek city before that. Much of the ancient monuments of the Roman city have been destroyed by the numerous earthquakes.  Sounds like a bad monty python sketch...

Syracuse is the capital of the province of Syracuse. Once described by Cicero as "the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all", the ancient core of Syracuse is part of the UNESCO World Heritage List. Heavy destruction was caused by the Allied and the German bombings in 1943. Syracuse today has about 125,000 inhabitants and numerous attractions for the visitor interested in historical sites (such as the Ear of Dionysius). and l thought that had been van gogh we saw on the beach the other day...

Mount Etna is an active volcano and is the largest active volcano in Europe, currently standing about 3,350 m (10,991 ft) high, though it should be noted that this varies with summit eruptions; the mountain is 21.6 m (71 ft) lower now than it was in 1865. It is the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps and covers an area of 1190 kmē (460 square miles) with a basal circumference of 140 km. This makes it by far the largest of the three active volcanoes in Italy, being nearly three times the height of the next largest, Mount Vesuvius. it is also why we decide not to climb it. and the fact that is it covered by clouds that we literally drive right past it.....stupid mountain.

The mountain's regular and often dramatic eruptions made it a major subject of interest for Classical mythologists and their later successors, who sought to explain its behaviour in terms of the various gods and giants of Roman and Greek legend. Vulcan, the god of fire and the forge, was said to have had his forge under Etna and drove the fire-demon Adranus out from the mountain, while the Cyclops maintained a smithy there where they fashioned lightning bolts for Zeus to use as a weapon. In 2002-2003, the biggest series of eruptions for many years threw up a huge column of ash that could easily be seen from space and fell as far away as Libya, on the far side of the Mediterranean Sea.  Footage from the eruptions was recorded by Lucasfilm and integrated into the landscape of the planet Mustafar in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, which, like the mountain, l never saw.

The Allied invasion of Sicily began on the night of the July 9-10, 1943, and ended August 17 in an Allied victory. The invasion of the island was codenamed Operation Husky and it launched the Italian Campaign.

Husky was the largest amphibious operation of World War II in terms of men landed on the beaches and of frontage. Axis air and naval forces were driven from the island; the Mediterranean sea lanes were opened and Mussolini had been toppled from power. It opened the way to the Allied invasion of Italy, which had not necessarily been seen as a follow-up to Husky.

The casualties on the Axis side totalled 29,000, with 140,000 (mostly Italians) captured....what a surprise! The US lost 2,237 killed and 6,544 wounded and captured; the British suffered 2,721 dead, and 10,122 wounded and captured; the Canadians suffered 2,310 Casualties including 562 killed in action. For many of the American forces, and the entire Canadian contingent, this was their first time in combat. However the Axis successfully evacuated over 100,000 men and 10,000 vehicles from Sicily, which the Allies were unable to prevent. Rescuing such a large number of troops from the threat of capture represented a major success for the Axis. In the face of overwhelming Allied naval and air superiority, this evacuation was a major Allied failure.

It was also a bad place to be if you were an american paratrooper/dakota pilot. 144 C-47 transport planes passed over Allied lines shortly after a German air raid, and were mistakenly fired upon by ground and naval forces. 33 planes were shot down and 37 damaged, resulting in 318 casualties.

we finally reach pachino at the type of sicily and then dead reckon west to find the loyal eddie invasion beach as described in the regimental history. we follow the roads off the beach and find the first target of the eddies in sicily....fittingly, a winery.

we then drive inland to ragusa and crammichele. they are all pretty much sicily hill-top town and as it is getting dark, we start looking for a hotel. finally we find a very expensive hotel in caltagirone......and settle in for the nite.

click on a picture to see a larger image. hit arrows at either end of the slideshow for more pictures.


the big head invades sicily...eddie invasion beach west of pachino



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