It’s 10:30 p.m. and we have to be up early to catch our flight back to Rome. The program that I usually use for photos has stopped working this evening, we’ve been plied with delicious liqueurs by the restaurant and our hosts at the hotel, and I still have to pack. Regina suggests that I should view today’s email as a haiku, and write something short.
That’s both difficult and not. We had some entertaining experiences that would be worth describing in more detail (for example, our very Italian time trying to get the bus to Taormina this morning), but mostly the day was sunshine and beach, and a marvelous dinner, and brief time with our hosts at the hotel.
Taormina sits at about 700 feet elevation. To get there, the bus climbed up from the beach level along one of those switchbacked little mountain roads that has barely room for the bus, but then you are always meeting up with a delivery truck or a couple of cars that want to share the same space. The cliffs are precipitous and just get steeper with every turn up the hill. From the bus, one has a much better view of the scenery than you would from a car, but also a much better sense of how much further down you could roll than on the lower stages.
Once in Taormina, we wanted, of course, to go to the beaches, which were back down at the bottom of the cliff. We took the funicular to get down (it was possible to walk, but already in the 80s, and with all of the bus adventures, it was noon, so not really enough time). Once t,here we ate lunch on the patio of a restaurant just above the sand and suntanning crowds — not too many, because it was Thursday mid-day mid-September.
It was the Mediterranean picture on all of the travel calendars — a little blue bay, rocky cliffs rising up to shelter it, a mysterious tower, small white boats on the calm sea, a few puffy clouds, the cooling breeze whispering along your back and toes. . . not much more to ask for in a day.
View of the Mazzaro beach at Taormina
Soon enough, however, we wanted more, and set out for Isola Bella, “the beautiful island,” a small nature preserve a few blocks away. We walked there, uphill, then down a long set of steps, with a brief stop for the world’s best strawberry granita, and then onto the pebbled beach. How to get to the island? Walk through a short stretch of water that came to the middles of our calves. I was wearing my Chaco (waterproof) sandals; Jim and Regina took off their shoes and braved the stones..
Once there, we discovered that we couldn’t go further than the crowded little pebble beach without paying more. Fair enough, but we couldn’t spend long, and it didn’t seem worth it. We waded back across, got another of the world’s most wonderful strawberry granitas, and climbed back up the steps.
We wandered through the main shopping street and into the Taormina square. Goethe, D. H. Lawrence and many others described Taormina as one of the most beautiful towns in Europe, and the view from the town square emphasizes some of the reasons why it deserves the praise.
The bus ride to Taormina had been comfortable and pleasant, but we figured out that we could take the train back from the southernmost beach town and see the ocean all of the way. It was an excellent choice — shorter trip, spacious seats, not many people, and marvelous views.
Regina and Jim on the train. Regina is wearing her white hat, “100% paper,” purchased from a vendor halfway down on the step to Isola Bella. He wanted 10 euros; she walked away several times until he got down to five.
That left us with the decision of where to eat dinner for our last evening in Sicily. Regina has been our guide, using TripAdvisor to scout out the most highly recommended spots. They’ve been consistently good, and tonight’s meal at Eat Pizzaria topped them all.
Dinner for most of us was “pizzolo” (think thin crust pizza with a filling between two layers of crispy tasty crust; fillings of veggies, and ricotta or buffalo mozzarella, plus pesto or tomato sauce). Peg and Tom had salads, each one served on a dinner plate (servings in every restaurant we’ve eaten at have been more than generous). Desserts were a chocolate souffle with vanilla gelato, and a plate of crisp fried pizza dough rolled in sugar with Nutella for dipping (their own creation, which they titled “calacala”). The wine was the Aetna red, tasting of the earth and minerals, and they brought us all complimentary limoncellos.
The servers were all gracious and helpful, never obtrusive, and it was in every way the sort of dinner one goes to Italy for. Well, we won’t count the police car that squeezed by (as is often the case, the tables were set up in the street, leaving just enough room for a car to get past) with its siren going. But that was a brief interruption.
When we got back to the hotel, our hosts Alice and Guiseppe, pulled out the bottle of the local herbal liqueur, Amaro, which packed even more punch than the limoncello and poured little glasses all around. I, for one, am very sorry to leave Sicily. Perhaps I will feel differently f it rains tomorrow morning? But then, it rains in Anchorage, without any expectation that when it stops the sun will come out and the blue Mediterranean will lie at your feet with sunny breezes to caress your steps.
Our hosts at Hotel Trieste, Alice Bianchi and Guiseppe Koenraadt (part Dutch), and twins.