Yup, I’m writing about Italy again! Honestly, I just can’t help it, it’s one of my most favourite diverse countries in the world to visit. Whether you go to Rome, Venice, Tuscany, or spend an afternoon in Taormina in Sicily, you’ll sometimes struggle to remember they’re all part of the same country because they vary in style, architecture, landscape, food and language so much. It’s a unique, special and wonderful country to visit.
I’ve not written much about my last trip to Sicily despite having lots of drafts started, so I figured it’s about time I did a little catching up.
Driving from the north of Sicily around the east coast and down to the South is something I highly recommend doing. Initially we were going to take the most obvious route and drive through the middle of the island taking us straight to our destination, but after a wrong turn (guilty), getting stuck in the longest tunnel you’ve ever seen and seeing how pretty the coastal route was, we decided to add a couple of extra hours on to our journey and throw in a few stop-offs. Because why not?
One of those stops included Taormina, which Steve wasn’t too sure about as he really wanted to spend a lot longer there than a few hours. Totally understandable, but to me it was worth having a little glimpse, getting a taster of what it’s like, and seeing if it is worth the hype.
If you’ve not heard of Taormina, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage town spectacularly perched on the side of a mountain close to the foot of Mount Etna. Located on the east side of the island with the closest airport being Catania, it is easy to see why Ernest Hemingway (apparently) said “it’s so pretty it hurts to look” and it is, don’t get me wrong, but I’m always a tad sceptical of over-crowded, hyped-up towns and places…hence why I was most certainly happy to be only spending an afternoon there.
Parking here was surprisingly very easy. We drove to this standard multi-storey, paid around €12 euros for the whole afternoon and had absolutely no issue getting a space nor leaving. The road up is a bit scary, but by now I was used to winding steep hills, the crazy Sicilian way of driving…and coming down again is so much more fun!
Taormina has every Sicilian cliché you can find, no lie. Turn one corner and you’ll find stacks of crates overflowing with citrus fruit and giant lemons. Shop windows are full to the brim with cannoli, there’s endless gelato stands (which you’ll need in August as its sweltering between those crumbling buildings, winding streets and countless steps) and Sicilians are shouting, cheering and selling their wares outside every church, tourist hot-spot and souvenir shop.
It’s 100% worth a pit-stop and I absolutely would return, but it would need to be out of season for me. Granted it’s hugely touristy and yes, it’s probably the most expensive place I’ve been in Sicily, but the town deserves a visit if not just for its ancient archaeological theatre, beautiful gardens, people watching and breathtaking views. I’d love to spend more time on the beach with a wander over to Isola Bella, and I imagine its super pretty at night too.
The views in Taormina are something else. It’s what I loved the most. Everywhere you turn you’ve got one. Whether its the rolling hills with Sicilian houses that you dream of living in one day, or the Ionian Sea with its glittering turquoise colours.
Compared to the rest of Sicily, Taormina doesn’t give you that rugged, rustic oldy-worldly type of day out. It gives you a taste of Sicilian chaos…but in a good way! I promise.
Wandering up through the town along the Corso Umberto is unique in its own charming way and for me, no visit to Sicily would be complete without some time in Taormina. Discovering boutique art galleries and gift shops that sell Sicilian trinkets and souvenirs instead of only general tat, this popular street goes all the way from Porta Messina, a gate in the North end of town, to Porta Catania, a gate in the South end of town. We started at the latter, made our way up… ate… and made our way back down again.
Usually what happens when we venture out for the day is that we all get relatively hungry quick, and with constant cries from the teenagers about how hungry they are, or desperate shouts of “can we stop for drinks yet” start to work on me pretty quick. I’m a sucker for giving in with a craving for some shade and delicious food.
In Italy, and especially Sicily, food is EVERYTHING. It plays a huge part of everyday life and no trip would be complete without trying all its traditional dishes. So these moaning children just remind me that I’m OK with stopping for food and drink every so often. It’s a necessity. 😉
I’d been on the hunt all day for a particular type of lemon where you can eat the whole thing, rind and all! Sicilians are proud of their lemons, and they should be. Nine out of ten of the lemons in Italy come from Sicily. And whilst the folks on the Amalfi coast may disagree, there is a saying in Sicily that they’re not real lemons unless they are Sicilian. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find them, so the hunt is still on! I asked the owner at our next hotel about them and she did say that the lemon I was looking for is a lucky find, and only grown in certain areas… another reason to go back I suppose!
Anyway, I settled for a good Caprese salad where the tomatoes were a vibrant red and incredibly juicy. It never fails on a hot day followed by some simply made pasta… perfect!
We then carried on wandering up the streets with a granita (a semi-frozen dessert made from sugar, water and various flavourings) before heading back down again to the car park and continuing our journey to Syracuse.
Lucy went for the same as me. Steve and Coby went for their usual trick of devouring a quattro formaggio pizza EACH in record-breaking time. If the saying “you are what you eat” was true, then these two should have definitely turned into stinky cheese by the end of this holiday. Steve also had an addiction to ‘chinotto‘ which to me tastes awful, but he loves!
Suitably refreshed we jumped back in the car, headed down the winding steep hill, took another wrong turn (standard) and carried on our journey to the next hotel… which you can read all about here.
Have you been to Sicily? Did you love it as much as me? Or are you now tempted to go?