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Day 22, Saturday, June 13, 2015 Hop On/Off Tour

sunny 82 °F

Saturday morning we slept in because breakfast here is served from 7-11am. The breakfast buffet was excellent, one of the best we have had, including Prosecco for mimosas if one so desired…aw what the heck, we’re on vacation.

After breakfast we decided to catch the hop on/off bus which would take us not only to the center of town (high above us, which could otherwise be reached by a funicular which is not my cup of tea) but, also, to the adjoining towns of Lettojani, Castelmola and Giardini Naxos. Lettojani is fairly uninteresting, but it is a little beach town with some nice sand beaches.

Castelmola is 1800 feet above sea level, has ruins from a 12th century castle, and has the most spectacular views imaginable. Along the cobblestone streets within the ancient walls of the tiny commune, the 360 degree panoramic views of mountain, sea and sky are simply stunning.
The fellow driving this bus deserved a standing ovation. He made some turns that appeared impossible on winding, cobblestone streets where one would think that two Fiat cinquecentos (500s) could barely pass…and then there were the buses he encountered coming in the other direction. Somehow it all worked out. I remarked to Margaret that, as crazy as the drivers are in Italy, we have not seen an accident…anywhere!!
We had already made a pass through the center of Taormina, but the bus stopped there again after winding down from Castelmola and we hopped off. We made our way to the ancient amphitheater which dates to the 7th century BC.

The ancient theatre is built for the most part of brick, and is therefore probably of Roman date, though the plan and arrangement are in accordance with those of Greek, rather than Roman, theatres; whence it is supposed that the present structure was rebuilt upon the foundations of an older theatre of the Greek period. With a diameter of 120 meters (after an expansion in the 2nd century), this theatre is the second largest of its kind in Sicily (after that of Syracuse); it is frequently used for operatic and theatrical performances and for concerts. The greater part of the original seats have disappeared, but the wall which surrounded the whole cavea is preserved, and the proscenium with the back wall of the scena and its appendages, of which only traces remain in most ancient theatres, are here preserved in singular integrity, and contribute much to the picturesque effect, as well as to the interest, of the ruin. From the fragments of architectural decorations still extant we learn that it was of the Corinthian order, and richly ornamented.

As we walked to the theater, it was interesting to note all of the Mercedes cars that were driving to and from the Hotel Timeo which is right next to the theater and where the rich and famous stay (except for us, of course)! They were all marked as the official vehicles of the Taormina Film Festival.

After viewing the theater, at the top of which were stunning views of Mt. Etna, one of two active volcanoes in Italy…the other being Vesuvius…although that ignores the volcano on Stromboli in the Aeolian islands which puts on a light show almost every night…we walked to the gardens and the church in town and then resumed our journey on the hop on/off bus. It took us next through the charming little beach village of Giardini Naxos which had a couple of miles of beautiful sand beaches (the beach where we are is all rocks and pebbles…more on that tomorrow…I can see the future) and an endless string of beach front and seaside cafes. I was in the mood for pizza..it was my night to choose the restaurant…and I was making note of the number of restaurants that were on the beach and were offering pizza on the Notes app on my iPhone.
The bus eventually returned us to a spot about 500 meters from our hotel (I now think only in metric terms) and we got back for a little pool time followed by cocktails and doms out on our terrace.

After some extensive research on TA, I settled on La Vela, a trattoria in Giardini Naxos. We took a taxi and were seated outside on a beautiful, warm evening overlooking the sea and the surrounding areas. As night time progressed, the views became more spectacular. My pizza was not the best we have had…Antico Borgo the very first night of our trip was outstanding, second only to the pizza I made at Casa Gregorio.
I am amazed at how the Italian people order a pizza…and these are 12 inchers…and devour the entire thing. I forced myself to eat half and, while it wasn’t great, it was very good…and the waiter who picked up the remaining half had a very chagrined look on his face when he asked if it was “va bene” (OK) to which I responded, “Si, but it was more than I can eat.” He said, “I have to report why." Margaret had spaghetti carbonara which she reported as quite good and fresh and we shared a salad. The wine list was pretty weak, but I found a Syrah for 17 euro that was actually pretty good. Total for dinner was 38 euro, our cheapest dinner thus far. And that included a wonderful Tiramisu for dessert.

After dinner we walked about a mile down the strand. Giardini Naxos and the beach area where we are staying are noted for their “discos”…yep…they still call them that. Marg can testify to the fact that she heard the pounding beat of Saturday Night Fever until 2:30 am this morning. For me, that’s why God made earplugs. Back to the hotel for a late night game of doms and checking up on our little dove. We have completed sightseeing for Taormina and tomorrow is all beach and pool R&R!!

Posted by stevencavalli07 09:39 Archived in Italy

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