October 29, 2019
It was raining in the morning when I left Siracusa. As I was leaving the parking lot I noticed several local city police vehicles on the street. Something was going on. I proceeded to leave the lot and everything seemed fine. About 10 minutes later after exiting a roundabout I noticed I had taken the wrong exit and was driving down a wide street between warehouses. I was getting ready to turn around and I noticed a policeman in his car and he suddenly turned on his lights and signalled me to pull over next to him.
The officer indicated to me that I had ignored a stop sign. I apologized and said that I had not seen it (I really hadn’t). He could speak very little English and asked me if I could speak Italiano. I indicated that I was sorry I could not.
He told me I needed to be more careful and that I needed to turn around and leave. I thanked him and said that I would be more careful. As I was driving back to the roundabout there were no stop signs nor any “Do Not Enter Signs” or symbols. Sometimes stop signs are painted on the pavement and given the rain, may be I had missed it. I don’t know. I felt very lucky I did not get an expensive ticket.
This jangled my nerves and then I realized my GPS street navigation was confused about my location. I had to pull over (off the street!) to get things synced up on the smartphone app. I took a few moments to relax. The last thing I wanted to do is make a mistake given the amount of police presence. The rain was getting worse. I remember taking several deep sighs and just listening to the rain hit the windshield. Special moments…
Within 15 minutes I was back on the freeway heading to Taormina. Traffic started to get congested around Catania. I did notice the access to the airport looked pretty straight forward. There was also an IKEA that looked just like the one back home. It pretty much rained all the way to Taormina.
Taormina was not designed for cars when it was established in 400 BC by the Greeks. Luckily, modern Taormina has modern security monitored parking garages and free shuttles from the garages up to the old town. Getting to Taormina, parking the car, and locating my hotel/B&B was easy even in the rain. Here is a great link for history on Taormina: https://www.thethinkingtraveller.com/thinksicily/guide-to-sicily/towns-and-cities-in-sicily/taormina.aspx
Here is a Google map link for Taormina: https://maps.app.goo.gl/76TeHEC5ZBUVdcP86
That evening I went on a wine and food sampling tour. I experienced some great wines, samples of seafood, and deserts:
You can’t go wrong with a wine marked DOC or DOCG. A bottle will cost about 7 to 10 euro ($9 to $12 US). The quality and flavor of these wines would be $15 to $20 (US) back home.
Walking back from the food wine tour at night I saw the following:
The next day I explored the ancient Greek/Roman amphitheater built in the third century BC. The arena is still used today for concerts and plays. It is believed the Romans rebuilt the amphitheater to accommodate gladiator games. The Greeks did not use bricks so what we have today is a design that is basically Greek built using ancient Roman technology.
More information can be found here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_theatre_of_Taormina
An on site video was playing showing what archaeologists think the amphitheater looked like in its prime. I found the same video on YouTube and is linked below (click on the image below):
Walking back to central old town and wandering around:
Throughout the city are ancient artifacts that are fun to discover. The Greek mosaic below is from the second century BC and was part of a courtyard of someone’s home.
In the Piazza IX Aprile, Chiesa di San Giuseppe (Church of Saint Joseph), is grand baroque style church. This church also venerates Saint Giovanni (John) Bosco.
For more information on Saint Giovanni (John) Bosco see this link: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bosco
Another important church in Taormina is the Duomo di Taormina. The church was built in the 13th century.
For more information see this link: https://www.traveltaormina.com/en/churches/duomo-the-cathedral-taormina.html
Night changes everything. Day trip and cruise ship tourists are gone. People sitting at outdoor tables are being served food at at least a hundred restaurants. As you walk the streets and ancient back alleys, all the wonderful smells are their own entertainment.
I enjoyed the opera singer in the below video as well. We were all in the moment… (click on the image below)
The next day I hiked up to the village of Castelmola on an ancient Roman trail.
Here is a Google map link to the village: https://maps.app.goo.gl/eCgisiXB5d5N4w9a7
The above church was built in 40 AD. Yes. 40 AD! Think about how dangerous it must have been to go to this church under Roman rule. The church was restored in the 1990’s. They were able to preserve a fresco from the 18th century.
Why not eat the seeds? Trust me. And read this: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405857218300469
I made it back to Taormina and was raging hungry. The food above cost only 12 Euro from working class cafe. The wine was DOC. Very, very good and I slept well.
The next day I took the cable lift down to the sea. It costs six euro round trip or one can use stairs and trails to get to the sea.
Recall the First Servile War that started in Enna. The slave rebellion spread to other parts of Sicilia including Taormina. When Rome crushed the rebellion in Taormina, all of the prisoners were scourged and thrown off these cliffs into the sea.
I wondered how many people frolicking in the sea and sand were aware of this. What happened over 2,000 years ago should not be forgotten and we should at least learn from it. The same is true for the thousands of rebel slaves following Spartacus that were crucified and posted along Appian Way near Rome. I even have sympathy for the Roman soldiers that carried out these atrocities. Groups of soldiers that were suspected of being cowards or questioning authority were subject to decimation. A healthy and decent human mind can be warped and bent to do awful things.
Here is infomation on the First Servile War: https://mikedashhistory.com/2016/07/16/king-magician-general-slave-eunus-and-the-first-servile-war-against-rome/
Here is information on Roman decimation: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decimation_(Roman_army)
I returned via tram back to the city center to do some more exploring.
Taormina has a very nice Giardini della Villa Cumunale (public garden). It was a good 10 degrees cooler in the gardens than the rest of the city. It also receives a steady cool breeze off the Ionian Sea.
Lady Florence Trevelyan designed and donated this garden property and Isola Bella to the City of Taormina after her death. Her story can be read here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Trevelyan
Taormina is a clean beautiful city that is mostly a tourist destination. The views, food, shopping (some very high end shops), people watching and historical parks are amazing. Most tourists seem to be Italian, German and American. During the daytime cruise ships disgorge passengers and can make the main business district crowded. The evenings are best when the cruise ship people are gone and the temperatures cool off. The beaches can be crowded if you don’t have a rental car to drive north to the less populated areas.
On to the next city of Castiglione!