Geography Trip to Sicily

Report from Mrs Buckley

This trip was an amazing experience for the girls who were ranged in age from 15 to 18. Two of our most enthusiastic geographers from Upper Sixth came along even though they had just left WGS and they set the tone for the whole trip.

It was such a beautiful setting with the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna reaching down to a translucent turquoise blue sea and the weather enhancing the experience with temperatures over 30ºC, cloudless blue skies and cooling, welcome sea breezes. Our accommodation was on a quiet sea front just outside Taormina with a private beach with a life guard, so after each day the girls could relax in the cool water and rest on the loungers in the early evening sun. A perfect end to each exciting day; whilst each breakfast and dinner were enjoyed on a well-sheltered terrace overlooking the ocean. All rooms had their own balcony and en suite so we could not have been more comfortable.

Have a look at our picture gallery

The day we journeyed up to the top of Mount Etna brought this textbook case study to life. Our excellent coach driver negotiated the hairpin bends with enormous skill and the cable car ride to the crater gave us all amazing views as the verdant green forests gave way to monochrome fields of ash and lava flows. We saw at first hand the little village of Zafferana that we had studied in School. This community had been faced with approaching lava flows in 1996 and the village itself was saved after concrete blocks were lowered into the lava flow. We could see exactly where the lava flows were diverted and appreciate at first hand the way this beautiful village had faced the eruption.

Near the very top of the volcano, we all climbed into small coaches with huge wheels, enabling us to ascend over the most recently created lava fields. We saw the gas clouds escaping from the main crater and walked around the smaller craters that erupted in 2002 damaging the cable car system. We left temperatures of 34ºC behind encountering cool winds which enabled us to cover up in our cerise ‘team' hoodies purchased for the trip. Being on top of Europe's most active volcano was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

Another day trip introduced the girls to the beautiful tourist resort of Gardini Naxos, once a fishing village, but now lined with small hotels and a marina. Girls set out armed with questionnaires in English, Italian, French, German, Spanish and Dutch and approached the numerous visitors enjoying the resort, to try to ascertain why it had developed into such a successful tourist centre.

That afternoon was spent was spent exploring the Alcantara Basalt Gorge where a huge lava flow had sunk the shale of a river valley and then cooled into prism-like columns. Both spectacular and cooling on a hot afternoon!

Our visit to Taormina gave the girls the chance to see a Greek theatre, reminding them of the history associated with this area and again affording beautiful views over the ocean. The quaint Sicilian squares, narrow streets, markets and shops offered an enjoyable shopping experience and a chance to purchase yet more Italian ice cream.

The final expedition was on a hydrofoil out to the Aeolian island of Vulcano. Although a demanding climb in the mid-day sun, the wonderful views over all these volcanic islands and the chance to see the sulphur-emitting crater was both exciting and inspiring. To be told the highly active volcano was due another eruption and to vulcanologists at work demonstrated just how unstable our planet is. The warm sea water that surrounds this island was a treat after the arduous climb; in parts the water bubbled heated by the hot rocks beneath! How many girls will repeat that experience?

We returned exhilarated and exhausted all at the same time! The expedition had presented us with a perfect combination of exciting Geography and a beautiful sun-drenched landscape to relax in. We never thought that the Geography Department could better our trip to Iceland, but Sicily certainly matched it regarding exciting Geography and surpassed it with the wonderful weather and warm temperatures!