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Published: February 17th 2018
Despite being awake for 24-hours-plus, sleep did not come as easily as we expected last night, so neither of us got more than five or six hours of shuteye. No doubt it will take a few days for our systems to adapt to the time change, but otherwise we awoke in good spirits without much of a travel "hangover". After one of Dee's delicious bacon and egg breakfasts, we were eager to do some exploring. It was a chilly 45 degrees at sunrise, but temperatures reached the upper 50s under clear, blue skies as the day wore on; ideal walking weather!
We were out the door by 10 AM, walked through a small park that abuts our residence, and then located the series of sixty or so stairs descending to reach the main drag of Taormina, the Corso Umberto. This pedestrianized street, which is packed with stores, restaurants, churches, and quaint piazzas, is the lifeblood of the town. It extends for about half a mile, and during the height of the tourist season it is jammed with hordes of jostling visitors. This time of year, however, there are very few tourists, so we enjoyed a leisurely stroll from Porta Catania
Statue of Padre Pio
This statue is in a tiny park adjacent to our apartment. Apparently Padre Pio was an Italian Catholic priest who achieved sainthood in the early 20th century.
to Porta Messina, the old city gates that mark each end. We made a brief visit inside the principal cathedral (or "Duomo") shortly after beginning our walk, where Dee lit a candle; and then lingered awhile at the Piazza IX Aprile, a scenic square that overlooks the Ionian Sea. This popular and atmospheric public space features two churches, a clock tower, and several outdoor cafés.
After finding a few souvenirs in several of the shops along the way, we located a tour office where we made arrangements for some excursions outside Taormina during our stay. Sicily has a fascinating history stretching back more than 2,500 years, a history that was shaped by foreign domination: Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, Byzantines, as well as Spanish and French dynastic rulers, until the unification of Italy in the late 19th century. As a result, Sicily's cultural heritage is both diverse and complex. Some of the best preserved Greek and Roman ruins are scattered throughout the island (e.g., Agrigento and Siracusa), in addition to notable examples of Arab architecture and mosaics in Palermo and Cefalù. The excursions we booked, which are full-day group tours, should give us a fair sampling of these artistic treasures.
Ruins of a 10th century fortress, which sits atop Mount Tauro (398 meters above sea level), built by Arab (Saracen) conquerors.
After a lunch break of pasta and steak, we retraced our steps on Corso Umberto, returning to the Porta Catania where there is a handy little grocery store. While Dee was shopping, I noticed a cannoli shop next door, where we decided to fortify ourselves with several of these tasty morsels with coffee before trudging up the stairs to our apartment.
Dee's comments: Up early, made breakfast, then out to explore; fun walking past all of the shops and having lunch on a veranda overlooking the Ionian Sea. Other highlights of the day: 65 stairs DOWN to reach the village, then 65 stairs back UP lugging groceries; eating the best cannoli I've ever tasted; watching the sunset from our balcony.
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