A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

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 Comments (0)

Day 23, Sunday, June 14, 2015, THE END

Our final day of this adventure begins with beautiful, warm sunshine splashing over the mild waves of Belle Isole. Our little dove still has not hatched her eggs and has barely moved from the spot we first discovered her. We had a leisurely breakfast and, with all of the sightseeing out of the way, we were committed to a day of leisure.
Margaret wanted to go to the beach in the worst way...and that turned out to be the way we went...152 steps down and 152 steps back up. We bought entry into a private beach club for 7.5 euro each. That got us two chaise lounges and an umbrella. As you might imagine, Sunday on a hot day and the beach was packed...made for good people watching...old Italian guys in Speedos...the shame of it!
Margaret disappeared for about an hour. Turns out she had observed some flat, submerged rocks near the Belle Isole and she made it a goal to lie on one of them. This beach was all rocks and even her flip flops did not offer much protection from the sharp edges...but she made it to her rock, slid off a couple of times and came back to claim me.
We sat for a few minutes, looked at each other and the Vulcan mind lock was on...why were we sitting at this crowded, rocky beach when we had a very quiet, almost private pool at our hotel...with wonderful views of the beach...and a couple of guys who were constantly asking what we wanted to eat or drink.
So, we made the 152 step trek back to the top...wading past men who were hawking clothes, beach shoes, sunglasses, hats and a variety of other items.
I managed to check in for all of our flights on Monday and was able to upgrade from Premium Economy to Business class for a very reasonable price. I then headed up to the pool to join Margaret and the pool was quite a refreshing respite from the hot sun.
After a few hours of the sun, the A/C in the room felt pretty good as we got ready for dinner. We had a reservation at Rosso di Vino, a restaurant recommended by the sommelier at Villa Athena. It was in a very quaint part of the old part of Taormina.
We struck up a conversation with a young couple at the next table who were on holiday from Ghent, Belgium. He was from Ghent and she was from Italy and they met in Australia. They own a restaurant in Ghent where he is the chef and she is the maitre'd. They were going to the film festival after dinner and had been the previous evening.
My dinner was not very good...first time I remember saying that, although we had a delightful waitress who spoke very good English. I should qualify that dessert, a chocolate soufflé, was quite good.
A taxi took us back to the hotel where we packed and retired early for a 4:30am taxi to Catania airport. We said buona notte to our little dove and prepared for three flights tomorrow. Ciao!

Posted by stevencavalli07 02:15 Comments (0)

(Entries 21 - 22 of 22) « Page 1 2 3 4 [5]