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Published: February 19th 2018
Yesterday we decided to take a break, staying home to catch-up on housekeeping chores, laundry, etc., and to give our aching legs a break. Dee performed her usual magic by preparing a light lunch of pizza and salad, and later prepared chicken coquettes with risotto and salad for dinner. We tried to hit the sack earlier than usual, but both of us were wide awake by 3 AM, struggling mightily to stay in bed for a couple more hours of sleep.
Our plan for today was to visit Castelmola, the medieval town near Taormina that sits atop a craggy hill, 1,736 feet above sea level. We left the apartment shortly before 10 AM, under partly cloudy skies; rain was in the forecast, but it did not materialize. After descending our "65-stairsteps-from-hell", we waited at the nearby taxi stand for a ride up the tortuous, sloping roadway toward Castelmola. By some bizarre coincidence, the first taxi that appeared was the same fellow who met us at the Catania airport last week! So he proceeded to deliver us to the main square of Castelmola in about 15 minutes.
This tiny village, with a population of 1,100 souls, is criss-crossed by a
labyrinth of alleys, small streets and roads that frequently offer amazing bird's-eye views of the surrounding area, including Mt. Etna, Taormina, and the Ionian Sea. The village has several small churches, the ruins of a Norman castle (that probably dates back to the 10th century ), and several bars, cafés, and tourist shops. Sadly, no doubt owing to the time of year, there was very little activity. In fact, except for a handful of tourists, the place seemed deserted. We walked around on the cobblestones, scaled a bunch of stairs, visited the main church, and enjoyed the panoramic views.
We had hoped to stay long enough to have lunch at a place where the ambience is quite unusual, to say the least. The Bar Turrisi, now operated by a third-generation owner, is plastered with phalluses, most of them of gigantic proportions. Regrettably, it too was closed for business today, but we were able to take some photos that capture the essence of this place. If anyone's interested, here is the link to an article written for Rough Guides a few years ago that provides some history and comments by the current owner: https://www.roughguides.com/article/turrisi-italys-penis-cafe/.
After two hours of roaming
around, and no prospect for lunch in Castelmola, we used a taxi to return to Taormina, where we walked along Corso Umberto to La Cisterna del Moro, a nice little restaurant close to Piazza IX Aprile. By this time (1:00 PM), we were quite famished, which perhaps gave us bigger eyes than our stomachs could hold. We both ordered appetizers (mussels and smoked salmon), which turned out to be meals in themselves; then calzone and lasagne, along with wine and beer. We devoured what we could, but left the restaurant feeling a bit like bloated whales!
Following our feast, we walked further along Corso Umberto to reach the Palazzo Corvajo, a mansion that was principally built at the end of the 14th century, and is named after one of the oldest and most famous families of Taormina, who owned it from 1538 to 1945. It was originally built in the 10th century by the Arabs (Saracens) who then ruled Taormina, having conquered the town in 902. The origins of the palazzo incorporate an early Saracen fortress dating from the 10th century, which in turn was constructed on Roman foundations. It was subsequently added to over various periods up until
the 15th century. Its main body is an Arabic tower, and it has an inner courtyard where the Arabic influence can be seen in the arched windows and doorways. A 13th century staircase leads up to the first floor and an ornamental balcony which overlooks the courtyard. Today, the palazzo belongs to the municipality of Taormina and is used for public purposes.
We began our return home via Corso Umberto, making a brief stop at a cute little coffee, gelato and wine bar, where I tried the first gelato of the trip; and Dee drank a small glass of almond wine (vino alla mandorla)
, which we'd sampled earlier at another place. While there, we bumped into a couple our age from Manhattan, NYC, with whom we shared our mutual disdain for the political situation back home. BTW, the Italians we've met, and no doubt many other Europeans, are in a state of shock and disbelief at the sad state of affairs in the USA.
Dee's comments: A relaxing day yesterday doing laundry (which took 2 hours in the high-tech washing machine in the apartment); then I heated some pizza in a frying pan, since we could not figure
out how to fire-up the gas oven; hung-out the laundry on our balcony; then cooked some chicken cutlets and risotto for our dinner. Today, off and running to Castelmola, another "rock joint" for me, with lots of stairs and cobblestones; everywhere we turned there were more steps! After descending from the "rock joint", OMG, we were so hungry that we ordered TOO much food for lunch, and the servings were huge. We went to walk it off, but Mitch spotted a spot for gelato and coffee, and I tried my new favorite drink, almond wine---yummy! After returning to the apartment, I took a short nap; today was the first day I felt a little chilly, so thank goodness for my cuddle duds.
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