Our last stop in Sicily is the small resort town of Taormina. Taormina is just a little bit more colorful, crowded, expensive, and upscale than Cefalu.
Watching the World Cup in a bar in Taormina made me miss Lipari with its inexpensive beer and wine and large plates of free appetizers (or things to nibble on) as our favorite waitress called them. Lipari wasn’t off the beaten track; a fair number of celebrities visit the Aeolians (Armani was in Stromboli when we were there – his black yacht is seen there regularly, Sting and Bono have also climbed the volcano), but it isn’t pretentious. Taormina seems a little spoiled by the steady influx of rich tourists.
That said, if you visit Sicily it would be a mistake to bypass Taormina. Only an hour away from the gritty, and slightly scary Catania, it seems a world away. (Somewhat like Capri is a world away from gritty and slightly scary Naples).
Taormina’s most famous site is the Greek Theater, built to have a stunning view of Mount Etna. It is huge – making me wonder how many people lived in the area when the Greeks were here. Most of it was rebuilt by the Romans (probably turned into a stadium for their Gladiator games). The town winds itself along a steep cliff from the Theater towards Mount Etna. The beach is a cable car away – and a castle on the hill above the town likely offered protection from the pesky invaders that loved to conquer Sicily.
Bougainvilleas drape this city in a burst of color, and added to interesting architecture, a small, strollable downtown, music playing all evening, and the stunning views it really is set apart from some of the other villages and towns we’ve visited in Sicily.
Our hotel has what has to be one of the most stunning rooftop terraces we’ve seen so far in our travels. Last night we bought a bottle of wine and some pizzas, and watched Mount Etna in the twilight. Today, I’m watching Mount Etna ‘breath’ – letting out small clouds of steam that form into a long, milky cloud.
Mount Etna has been quiet since her short-lived eruption a few weeks ago. Evidence of it remains with fresh ash on the steps up to the castle above town.
When she’s a peace it’s hard to imagine the power she holds to destroy cities like Catania.
It’s hard to say goodbye to Sicily and Mount Etna, but we’re ready to move on to northern Italy, France, and Switzerland and turn our attention to glaciers. It’s time.