Day 23, 24, 25, 26, Taormina and Castelmola, Sicilia

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

Only taxi services are allowed behind the city gates and in limited areas.

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.

The deserts were great. Not too sweet but very pleasant. Note the art work on the table. This style will be found all over this region. Spanish era influence?

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:

The entrance to a famous Italian language school.
The symbol of Sicilia.
Pretty narrow street?

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.

A view of Piazza IX Aprile.  A great place for an espresso and people watching.
This mosaic was inside the tower.
Chiesa di San Giuseppe

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

A young Saint Bosco
Saint Joseph, husband of Mary.

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.

And some great jazz music…

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 start of the trail. It was an easy walk from old town Taormina.
Climb, climb climb. Thankfully I brought water. It was in the 80s and humid.
This isn’t what I think it is?
DEVIL FRUIT!!! HISS! HISS!!
Devil Fruit EVERYWHERE!! I’m dreaming of Brush B Gone.
Looking out over the Ionian Sea.
An ancient Castelmola city gate.  I’m getting close to the top.
Climb Every Mountain… (But don’t eat the seeds of DEVIL FRUIT!)
The Church of San Biagio overlooking Taormina and the Ionian Sea

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.

Inside the little church.
The 18th century fresco.
I made it to Castelmola!
Duomo San Nicolo di Bari in the background.  There were lots of places to eat and have an espresso. 
Inside the Duomo San Nicolo di Bari was our friend Saint Giorgio slaying the dragon.
Devil Fruit on the left. Don’t eat the seeds.

Why not eat the seeds? Trust me. And read this: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405857218300469

Within 50 feet of the Duomo were these symbols of fertility. (Rather small, from my perspective.)
Nothing to see here folks. Move along.
Moving right along…
Someone’s retirement project.

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.

The island is called Isola Bella.
This is a delightful fountain above the beach with cold water to refill your water bottle.
The spit to walk across to get to the island.
Where the First Servile War ended in Taormina.

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.

Empty Byzantine era tombs

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

Lady Florence Trevelyan and her husband Salvatore Cacciola

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!

2 thoughts on “Day 23, 24, 25, 26, Taormina and Castelmola, Sicilia

  • Those are some beautiful photos inside the churches without any people! Was it midnight? And how was it that they were open???? Your photography is soooooo beautiful and amazing! You can now find a second profession when you return home to Sacto! Hope you both have a very restful Thanksgiving. Although you may be flying back then???

    I have really enjoyed reading your blog and living vicariously with your travels. Fondly, Mary

    Mary McPherson *Assistance League® of Sacramento* 916-209-3777 916-317-6968 cell assistanceleague.org/sacramento http://youtu.be/CDLFMLZmkc0 *Transforming Lives • Strengthening Community*

    On Sat, Nov 23, 2019 at 8:00 AM Sue & Eric’s Adventures wrote:

    > Eric Bost posted: ” 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. Abou” >

    Like

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