Breathtaking crazy cliffs rising from the Ionia Sea. Mount Etna’s
flanks visible in the background.
were still buzzing with excitement after our visit in Syracuse
and Ortygia with its breathtaking grottos but — Taormina!
ancient ruins, bars, shops, a joie de vivre fills
has a sweet gentle charm that endeared us. We could easily spend a
few months or years here.
And we very well could have. We got off to an empty train station one of the oldest rail lines in the country – and discovered a street bus would take us to our destination, a small hotel we had booked the night before at a reduced rate of 55E.
we rode the bus, grateful once again for packing only carry-on
luggage we tried to follow the phone GPS. That didn’t work very well
because we soon found out that Taormina is on top of the cliffs where
the bus was heading –while our hotel was on the bottom by the
coastline. This would not be the first or last time we were
disappointed with our smartphone’s GPS. It was definitely having
problems dealing with vertical distances and in hilly country –
that means a lot. Especially when you are walking with all your
luggage in tow.
main bus station is located at the top so finding our way down was
not a problem, we, however, being hot and tired and discovering that
sidewalks don’t exist on the narrow coastal road and any walking
along Italian traffic is close to suicide, splurged for a taxi. Well
off season, the room was not only a steal but lovely with a balcony
facing the ocean. We quickly celebrated our good fortune with a toast
or two of good Sicilian wine. If there is a bad Sicilian wine, I have
not met it. (please let us know).
The small island of Isola Bella beckoned and we couldn’t wait to climb down the steps to the pebbly beach and explore.
Isola Bella is a nature reserve established in 1990 after the owner went bankrupt. In order to get to the island, we had to cross a submerged pebbly path. Sharp rocks bit into our bare feet. (bring waterproof sandals!) and after much whimpering and moaning (mainly from Adriane) we crossed over to the island to explore its paths, sea grottos and take in the beauty of this “Pearl of the Ionian Sea.”
The island, surrounded by sea grottos and rare plants that its earlier owner had established is managed by the Centre for Environmental Protection by the University of Catania.
lesson over, we plunged into the cool crystal clear water. The water
is shallow enough and the rocks form interesting ledges for all sorts
of fish. I strapped on my swim goggles and swam between the rocks
until the light started to fade and our stomachs rumbled.
had a great time today exploring the graceful old town perched over
800 feet in the clifftops. Thankfully just a short walk from our
hotel was a funicular. And for a small fee, we caught the cable car
that connects the town to the beaches where we have been staying.
to leave we extended our stay another day which meant switching to
another hotel as the small one we were in was booked. We sadly said
good-bye to our little balcony overlooking Isola Bella and walked to
our new lodgings.
didn’t look good as we were told for the special rate we were paying
(around 50E we were staying in the basement. We thumped our bags down
a steep flight of steps and opened the door.
furnishing was a bit tired but the room was huge meant to sleep, 5
people. There was no balcony but the large window with a view of
Isola Bella swung open and dragging two chairs we inhaled the sea air
and a few more glasses of Sicilian wine.
had found a small grocery store and had stocked up.
bonus of our new lodging in the basement was that it included full
breakfast and let me tell you, the Italians know good food and how to
has a long history and it was already known as a resort area in the
19th century, when aristocrats from Europe would include it in their
“Grand Tour” travels to enlighten themselves. Think of it as a
“coming of age” road trip. Though chaperoned, many a heart was
broken along with sexual taboos. Taormina, even back then, was known
as a “gentlemen’s destination” tolerant of gay men and artists
with a liberal view to sexual appetites. In the early 20th century it
was a favourite of artists, writers and intellectuals. Pretty cool to
think of Nietzsche and DH Lawrence, Tennessee Williams and Truman
Capote walking these streets, being inspired by the same Sicilian sun
and no doubt wine! Taormina finds itself in many books, music and art
including Goethe, Richard Wagner and famous photographer Wilhelm von
Gloeden known for his male nudes shot in Taormina.
strolled through pretty streets lined with lively shops and cafes and
grabbed a granite. A favourite Sicilian drink. Fortified, it was time
to play amateur archeologist.
visit to the ancient theatre of Taormina did not disappoint. This is
the second largest Roman amphitheatre in Sicily beat out by the one
we had visited a few days ago in Syracuse. The Teatro Antico di
Taormina, an ancient Greco-Roman theatre is in excellent
condition with many parts intact. It had housed performances and even
gladiators in its past. Today it is still used for opera and other
performances. Sadly we would miss out on that this time but I knew in
my heart we’d be back. We were not done with Sicily.
lingered at the Duomo di San Nicola, built in the 13th century
and thought about the wonders that were here already in Marco Polo’s
time. He would have sailed by this part of the Sicilian coast on his
way to Acre on the start of his journey to the kingdom of Kublai
Khan. What great adventures has this coast seen?
thoughts as we lounged by the 16th-century baroque fountain
studying our pistachio gelato. Perhaps too deeply. We headed back to
our last few hours in Sicily drew to a close, we are drinking local
wine and enjoying our million dollar view from our budget basement
Here’s proof that you don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy the lifestyle of Taormina.