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Published: September 17th 2017
Geo: 37.8253, 15.2667
I got a tolerable night's sleep that included a little wakeup around 3am local time so I ended up talking to Mike on Facetime-- kind of fun. Apparently the rose bushes that I ordered several months ago decided to show up in time for someone else to have the fun of planting them. From what I understand, trying to unearth rosebushes from their nest of packing peanuts can be a painful process.
So far, I'm not a huge fan of Italian bus drivers. Generally when I travel, bus drivers seem to recognize that I'm clueless and could use a little help, specifically, a shove or a shout when my stop comes up. These guys are 0 for 2 so far. They don't seem to care if I get off where I need to. I got really lucky the first time and accurately traced the route on my map. Today I went a stop too far before figuring out the lay of the land and having to walk about 2 miles back. It was hot, but most of the walk was along the coast and very pretty. I saw a watch tower used to alert the locals of impending raids by
View from near the top of Taormina
Most of the time in Taormina, you are in a kind of alley between two ancient buildings, but every once in a while you get a magnificent view of the Ionian Sea.
I found L in the lobby of the hotel. Yay! I stashed my stuff in the room and we got on another bus (same route) to go to Taormina-- a very hilly, touristy town just north of here. We started with a frozen treat from GelatoMania. The rest of the day was a good calf workout walking up and down narrow streets checking out ridiculously old churches and a really wonderful Greek/Roman amphitheater. The "/" is not because the two are the same or the history is unclear, but because it was thought to have been built by the Romans, in the style of the Greeks on the foundation of a previously existing Greek theater. They also call it the Ancient Theater which also covers it. It is extremely impressive, both for its size and its aspect looking down the cliffs and over the Ionian Sea. The theater is still used for performances, in fact they just finished an opera series a few days ago. Lucy said she met someone who had volcanic ash fall from Mt Etna fall on him during a performance. He says that's not uncommon.
Since Taormina is a hill town, it has lots of switchbacks.
Our view from lunch
Hmm, wonder why we picked that restaurant.
Since it is an incredibly old Italian town, it has really narrow streets flanked by tall buildings on either side. The streets are dominated by pedestrians and the buildings seem to have been given over almost totally to shops and restaurants. Still, we saw activity from 2 weddings during our perambulating, so there are still a few people living there. This makes sense if you read the book Italian Ways by Tim Parks. According to him, no one in Italy every really leaves the place where they are born, even if it means commuting long distances. Taormina would be an amazing place to play hide and seek.
One of the "new" attractions of town is a large public garden that dates back to the 19th century. It was the pet project of a Scottish woman who had a fling with Britain's Edward VII and left in disgrace. She ended up marrying and Italian doctor and fancying up Taormina with plants and stone follies. It seemed a little haphazard to me, but it was nice to find a little green space tucked in amongst all the densely packed buildings. The residents try to green things up with boxes full of sedums and overhangs
of bougainvillea, but there is only so much you can do from above. It just starts to feel close. Next to the garden we saw 3 honest-to-goodness red clay tennis courts. We stopped and watch play for a few minutes. It didn't take long for a ball to end up in one of those bougainvillea constructions.
Lunch was at a place that had a gorgeous location outdoors on one of the cliffs over the ocean. L had a giant plate of melon and prosciutto. I did a little carbo loading with a pretty pedestrian pasta dish with chilli-laden olive oil. I honestly was more interested in the drink and chair at that point.
I think we lost some steam after lunch. We made sure we saw everything that looked interesting on the map and spent some more time wandering around and checking out a shop or two. We had some doubts about whether we would get on the bus back. People were stacked outside its door like cord wood. We got two of the last few seats and then people just stood, dissatisfied in the aisle as the bus switchbacked its way back down the mountain-- not advised for those with motion
We loved these Medusa heads
sickness or a fear of heights.
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