Giardini Naxos 04/02 -07/02/2015
After three months of travelling, not including the 12 days of Christmas, we have checked into a place with some laid-on facilities. By this we mean electricity, water, emptying outlets, a bar and other people. As this is not Spain or Portugal there are no other brits here, a couple of German vans, but apart from that everyone was Italian. All in new Motorhomes and all it seems are spending the winter here; always a good sign. This aire is immaculate, probably the best we have ever been in. Some pitches have sinks and showers en-suite and all for a long-term rate of €8 per night. We are using this as our base to explore Taormina, a town perched on a cliff with views of Mt Etna, an ancient theatre which attracts all the A-list Hollywood types for a shin-dig in the summer, and a year round haven for gay men. Not for a long time have we come to a place that is so breathtakingly beautiful. It is like Hawaii with a spot of class, a touch of culture, an emerald sea, verdant forests and massive smoking lump of volcano reminding you that at any minute it could all be gone.
A short walk from our parking spot put as on a bus ride from the sea to the eyrie on which Taormina sits. A ride that is always going to be fun, scary, crazy and full of incident with a road of switchbacks and a sun-glassed Latin at the wheel while texting.
We are always reading about the quality of Sicilian cakes for breakfast, especially the Cannoli, of which we have had a few but have not been impressed. Not people to give up on a sweet-based treat we have kept trying and finally bingo we got our just desserts, and they were lovely.
Better than a Crumpet? Not sure.
After our bit of heavy-cholesterol based bake we explored the town for a wee bit before heading up to the Greek Theatre. Taormina is sophisticated, chic, and comfortably cushioned by some serious wealth. This is unlike anywhere else moneywise we have seen in Sicily and is very far removed from the banal economic realities of most other Sicilian towns. Ladies that lunch are the majority in this perfectly preserved medieval town and after a bit of sightseeing and shopping Tracy was adamant she was going to join them. So our first stop was the Teatro Greco, this is the main event in town and this horseshoe-shaped theatre is stunningly suspended between sea and sky with its stage perfectly framing Etna on the Southern horizon. And here is the proof.
Picture Postcard Perfect
Built in the 3rd Century BC, it’s Sicily’s second largest Greek theatre and in the summer it serves as the venue for international film and arts festivals. Tough gig for some then. We made our way to the top, gawped at the view and caught some rays. For you TV chef lovers this is where Gino d’Acampo cooked his meat balls and followed it up with a spin around the bay on a jet ski. To be precise here:
Where Gino did his meat balls
But for the rest of us here is a glimpse of beautiful Sicily from this eagle’s nest.
Us, town and mountain
View from the top
View from the bottom
Can’t get enough
Close up of Etna
After all that culture it was time for a bit of R&R and where better for the female half of the partnership to relax than in the shoe shops of a sophisticated Italian resort. It was not long before the plastic was bent a tad and Tracy left the shop with these pair of beauties.
A purest might say they are not the most practical of trainer but I think that is missing the point. I admit they may not be suited for any track and field based activity but they are excellent for eating in lunch in, for example. Anyway to stop any arguments I bought a pair for myself, not quite as steep as Tracy’s but flamboyant in their own small way.
Proper Men’s Shoes
Next stop Lunch. We chose Rita’s, ranked number 2 in Trip Advisor, a guide we seldom use as it always has cake shops or Indian restaurants as the top places to eat. Neither of which can ever be true as one is comfort food for when you are sad and the other is for when you are pissed. It is like voting for Kebabs or KFC; these places are not real restaurants and should not be included in food guides.
Anyway, Rita’s is real Italian fare with Rita and her husband in the kitchen and the kids and cousins carrying out front of house. The young’uns having both spent time living in London and so a bit of banter was exchanged, nothing too serious as they were both ‘Norf London’. Tracy had the national dish of Sicily; Penne with Sardines, I had a pizza that melted the roof of my mouth resulting in me having to quaff a couple of ‘chickens of wine’. Here are a couple of pics of Rita’s
Chickens, Beer and Spritz; to start
Lovely Rita’s, Pizza Made
Suitably refreshed we finished our tour of this delightful town before catching the bus home. Some more pictures:
From the Piazza looking south
The next day we had planned to go and see the filming locations of The Godfather but instead we went to a party given by the owner of the Parking Spot to celebrate Carnival. This turned out to be a fabulous day with the sun blazing down, an excellent Barbie cooked by our host Salvino, music played by a DJ that had two man-bags, one across each shoulder holding his CD collection and dancing by people that danced as only Eurovision winning countries can dance. It was all very polite and friendly until the cakes arrived. These well-dressed, elegant Italian women turned into French housewives visiting a washing area at a campsite; their nostrils flared visibly and their elbows became weapons of war as they tore into the collection of flour-based goodies. For a few hectic minutes it was as if Piranhas had taken over and the serving area now resembled a Capybara with not long to live,. We decided to sit back and pick up the scraps. However, these were generous hosts and not even these sweet-toothed carnivores could make a dent in the spread on offer.
After this we danced, well shuffled around to a bit of Chubby Checker, hopped around the gardens doing a conga, and finished with a bit of dad-dancing to Diana Ross. As there was no chance of any Luther Vandross making an appearance we sloped off to the van for a Baileys and some sleep. A couple of pics
The next day after we filled up our tanks we left; firstly for the supermarket and then the town of Acireale for the Carinival.
Once you leave the pampered environs of Taormina the road snakes inland and as soon as it does the banal areas of Sicily make a comeback. The roads deteriorate, the driving standards deteriorate and the towns are black from the ash of Etna. It is quite depressing in places but it does represent a more truthful picture of how most people live in this sunny southern isle. That is all for now and next time we hope to give you a report from the Carnival. We have no idea what to expect, will it be full of naked women like Rio? Will be full of drunks peeing in the street like Notting Hill? We just don’t know. Exciting.
Love to All
E & T