Sunday, 25 August 2013

Taormina: From the Mountain to the Sea (Last of the Fitness Sicilia Series)

It happens. You fall inlove on the last day of your holiday. It's that incendiary concoction of drunken intensity and knowing that you might not see each other again to recreate the spark, that makes you pass for a 14-year old One-Directioner (I've always been a non-Belieber)--you want more but just can't have more.

Our last day in Sicily was spent in Taormina, Giardini Naxos and Spisone. Driving up to Taormina, I couldn't help but daydream about living in a town where I have access to the mountain and the beach all-year round. And by access I mean not taking the plane to get to both, just relying on my flip flops to get around, and enjoying generous and unrationed sunlight.

View of the Ionian sea before the entrance to Corso Umberto, the main high street of Taormina.

The stand-off. But before reaching the gate, Domenico (not Dolce) the driver had to negotiate a sharp narrow curve to let another bus driver through. One tour guide commented that in Italy--or at least in Sicily--driving is like playing a video game. Domenico aced this round.

The famous old world Excelsior Palace Hotel. Notice the Moorish-inspired exterior, reflecting Arab influence when Taormina was once renamed Al-Muizzia during Arab rule that ended in 1078.

The horizon evokes the thought of water cascading as falls do, as if the sea were just a giant basin of water.

And the luxury cruise ships, yachts, and boats are just made of paper, made to float by a child...

On our way to Corso Umberto

Corso Umbero lined with balconies

The Duomo or Church of San Nicola or St. Nicholas, Taormina's main cathedral, was built circa 1400 on the ruins of a small medieval churchI'm drawn to chapels--the smaller and less grand the church, the better. But this cathedral was relatively small that it almost fit the bill to be considered a big chapel.

My church visits are secular. I go in for serenity. I come out as if I just had an ice-cold glass of water on a scorching hot day.

Not sure what happens here, but cabarets are cabarets.

The Torre dell'Orologio or 12th century clock tower that takes you through to Piazza IX Aprile, the oldest part of Taormina. On 9 April 1860, Garibaldi landed at Marsala to liberate Sicily from the Bourbons. The square was named to commemorate that historic event.

San Giuseppe (St Joseph) Church at Piazza IX Aprile

St. Augustine's church, also at Piazza IX Aprile, just opposite St. Joseph's church, is now Taormina's public library. I particularly enjoy browsing in libraries and it would have been a unique experience to do so in a former church.

Piazza IX Aprile's characteristic black and white paving

The entrance to Teatro Greco

The ancient Greek theatre (Teatro Greco) in Taormina is one of Sicily's most celebrated architectural ruins. It was built early in the 7th century BC, and noted for its remarkable preservation and picturesque location. The theatre holds rock and classical concerts, opera, and ballet. Preparations for the opera Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni were ongoing at the time I took this photo. Elton John, Carlos Santana, Sting, Mark Knopfler, and Patti Smith have all performed at Teatro Greco. The Taormina Film Festival is annually held here in June.

These seats are reserved

Imagine the view at night....

Hanging around Giardini Naxos while waiting for the boat ride to Spisone. I thought Mt. Etna was smoking in the background.

The seats that float. It was blazing hot in Taormina, a quick dip in the sea was in order.

Someone decided to dry her Zumba towel while waiting for our boat.

Here it comes! The boat ride was slightly bumpy, but I suspect the driver enjoyed our cries of excited nervousness. We were served almond wine on board. Mine came in a leaky plastic cup. Twice. I had no choice but to drink it straight. I suppose that was his trick to calm our nerves.

Bryony could see how close we were to the blue caves...

A glimpse of La Grotta Azzura or Blue Grotto, so called because of the distinctive blue reflection in the water that looked as if the sea was lit from below. You can dive to enter the caves.

Can't say no more why I love blue....

The walk down to Ristorante Lido in Spisone for dinner

It looked to me like the dome part of a minaret. Or a fancy watch tower. I have no idea what it really was, but I loved it.

Outside Ristorante Lido Spisone

A pensive seagull looking out to the sea. Had to take this photo from a distance as the flock flew one by one as I got closer.

And I leave you this. Just behind me while waiting for our farewell dinner to be served.

Summer's drawing to a close and I'll soon be moaning that the radiator's not working at the office. You see, in the UK, summer can jump onto winter without hesitation or winter crosses over summer with no second thoughts. My flip flops are getting jittery. But like anything adventure-filled that ends, you look forward to the next, and the wait is only half as bad when you know how good it can get. 

How has summer treated you?


  1. Oh my god, I LOVE this series of yours!! What an unbelievably beautiful place. You're incredibly lucky to have gone there. s

    1. Thank you! Sadly the series is over. I have to give it a rest.
      I'm so glad indeed that I dropped my original summer holidays plan and joined my Zumba group instead :D

  2. i adore taormina - just love it. i do wonder what it would be like during winter but i suppose it cant be worse than a london winter...I could easily spend 6 months there no problemo!!x

    1. It would be interesting to see it in winter. Probably a harsh one, judging by the size and number of radiators in the villa we stayed in. It's always interesting to see beautiful Mediterranean places in their wintry state. 6 months would be great, from end of winter to beginning of autumn. If only....

  3. Just as I was getting used to being back in Birmingham, you go and remind me of my holiday - the sea, the sand, the sun aaah. It looks beautiful and I share your daydreams; I've been daydreaming for the past 7 days. As far as I'm, concerned, the best way to deal with holiday-blues is to book another holiday, but I'm keeping my credit card firmly in my purse for the rest of this year!!

    Hope you are well anyway xx

    1. Hahaha...sorry. I didn't mean to torture you :D I promised one of the women I've become friends with that this is the last post about the fitness holiday. She says she couldn't take being reminded of it anymore. And also, I didn't wanna talk about this when summer's over. It'll be sort of killing me softly. Haha. No more holidays, too till the end of the year! :(

      Have a lovely week xx

  4. Amazing photos Ms. Madge. Yes, I'm always a bit sad when it comes to the end of my holiday, sometimes it takes me a week or two to get back in the swing of things, haha. I am already looking forward to winter holiday! :-) I love your captions, and so interesting about the history of the hotel. :) /Madison xx

    1. Thanks Madison! It takes me that long also to get back in the swing of things. Very difficult. I'd love to go to a winter market, but looks like it's not gonna happen as I only have a few holiday days left. Oh well...we have enough time to daydream :D Have a lovely day! x

  5. It was a pleasure following along with you here. You can certainly see the arab influence in the Excelsior Hotel and I would love to watch the ballet at the Greek Theatre. You captured some stunning views. This summer has definitely been a good one in terms of my travels and the wonderful weather back home in the UK. Thank you for your comment on my Paris Street Style post. Your book about bags sounds interesting too.

    1. Thank you miss b! I think all of us have had a wonderful summer. Even the UK summer has been very kind. I'd love to one day watch a concert in Taormina's Teatro Greco.
      You're welcome by the way. Have a lovely weekend!


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