Around Mt Etna to Castello di San Marco

Caprice Cafe, at the top of the hill in Bronte, serves up a delicious and typical Sicilian breakfast, a coronet (croissant) and a coffee. Everyone from the local police and firefighters to new mothers and school children have their breakfast here. We joined the breakfast tradition and ordered one almond and one chocolate coronet with our coffees.After breakfast we were driven by our new friend Valeria to Castello San Marco. This beautiful 18th century castle is now a deluxe resort. It is on the beach below Taormina and has a remarkable view of Mt. Etna (although today the volcano was covered with threatening clouds). Along our ride we passed fields of volcanic stone filled with grazing sheep and cows. We saw chestnut trees filled with ripe nuts that looked very much like fuzzy tennis balls, plenty of vineyards and other produce, too. As we rounded the huge volcano, the sea came into view and we descended to the Castello.

The brochure translation of this historic castle is hard to follow, but it appears these buildings were built of volcanic stones in the late 1600s for Ignazio Signazio Sebastiano Gravina Cruyllas, Prince of Palagonia. The main building survived the 1693 earthquake with little damage. More buildings were added over the next hundred years. Eventually the family that had commissioned the compound and spent time here returned to Palagonia. There was no mention of when or why the castle was abandoned. A few centuries later, in 1971, the Murabito family purchased the location and restored a great deal of the compound and created a spectacular resort. Lucky us, we are planning to spend some time relaxing and enjoying ourselves here.

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