Thursday, 16 June 2016

Sicily - Taormina

Our first long break here in Sicily was at the beach-side town of Letojanni. Not a lot of town – and not particularly attractive either – nestled between the sea and the motorway and railway. Its principle reasons for being popular are the (stony) beaches and easy access into Taormina (known as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sicily).

Letojanni in the distance, from Taormina
We were picked up at the train station by our host’s mother and sister and driven to the apartment via a supermarket, as it became apparent that we weren’t hiring a car and the biggest supermarket around was too far away to walk. Our apartment at the far end of town was in one of a series of blocks that were either hotels or private apartments, all sharing a private beach. Nice and modern except for an appallingly-designed bathroom, unless sitting on the toilet with your shoulder and thigh pressed to the wall and your feet in the shower tray is the norm here …

Looking from our apartment towards Taormina
We did avail ourselves of the beach a couple of times for swims dips: the water hasn’t yet had time to warm up, so the experience was refreshing. Still, the sun was hot and there were only a couple of others on the beach. In fact there are very few tourists in town so we presume that July/August is the short peak season. Probably not hot enough for the Italians yet, and the English we’ve seen are mostly older and seeing the sights, but there are quite a few Germans around.
Letojanni water-front street

The best that this town offers are the numerous restaurants along the beach, mainly serving fish and seafood dishes.

Birra Moretti for Nigel

Prosecco for Vicki
Yes, it's a metrosideros (related to our rata and pohutakawa) but I haven't been able to find out which one - there are others from other parts of the world. I'm pretty sure they're not native in Sicily, but they grow well - here they were growing as a long, two metre tall hedge on the border of a  hotel, but we've also seen them as small shrubs in pots.

a short step from our apartment to the Med
The result of an Italian apartment without a corkscrew! Nigel used a knife to chip away then push in the cork. Loved the line "morbido e corposo', which, strangely, has nothing to do with corpses and morbidity.

The town of Taormina sits up on the hills nearby. It has a long history of being important to the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans and everyone else who has been through Sicily. In the 19th and early 20th Centuries it became a popular tourist destination and still is – tourists everywhere. The main street is full of expensive designer shops so it is well maintained and very pretty with numerous restaurants.

The Greek theatre sits above the town
Apart from the usual spectacular churches it is famous for its Greek theatre with a backdrop of Mount Etna. We did make our way up hundreds of ill-maintained steps to an old church built into the rock and then further up to the top of the overlooking hill where there are the remains of a Saracen castle. Sadly the gates were locked as it is probably in a dangerous state of repair, but we were rewarded with glorious views back over Taormina, the sea, and Mount Etna. And while that was my highlight of the day, Vicki’s was her special lunch: a crepe filled with pistachio gelato, lightly grilled and topped with pistachio cream and chocolate sauce. Not for the faint-hearted. It now qualifies as “Best Crepe Ever”.

'That' crepe ...
Nigel's yummy bruschetta
Taormina's main piazza

Our second "narrowest street in Italy"

the church built into a very large overhanging rock

this symbol of Sicily is everywhere


Mt Etna, which is a little more active than usual at present

Looking south

A locked gate at the Saracen fort
view of a neighbouring village

Lunch for 4.50 euros at the train station ...
One day out in this busy tourist spot was enough for us, pretty though it was it still didn’t have quite the atmosphere of some of the northern Italian towns. We were happy to report to the train station for our trip down the coast to our next stay in Avola, changing trains at Catania (the second large city in Sicily) and Siracusa (aka Syracuse, which we’ll be visiting while in Avola).

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