27.05.2015 - 30.05.2015 22 °C
Took the bus from Catania airport and had amazing views along the way. Starting with a crowded, dirty city at the start, to the open expreesway through what used to be marketlands, then onto smaller village streets through many seaside towns struggling to stay viable. We were told by locals later that there were no jobs in the country (or even in Sicily) so people were all leaving - the economy was relying on tourism and the season had just started.
Taormina was certainly a tourist magnet! We walked directly uphill from the bus station, stopping for a Sicilian brekky (of granita coffee and brioche) on the way. We were glad of our walking practice in Malta as we realised that we'd get more experience with steps here! We settled in to a lovely apartment then again took to wandering the streets and lanes of the village - all really made for donkeys and now for people, but cars and motor bikes tried to compete. The going was slow for them, though, as they had to wait while vans stopped to make deliveries and to chat, and for people to get out of the way.
Again we'd found another town full of catholic churches, in fact in the region we only discovered one reference to jewish history which was a little area in Taormina. There was a big feast day on the Friday which had lead up celebrations for the 5 days beforehand. On the final day they had masses throughout the day, balloons festooned the front of the church, and they had the local town band and then a children's choir! All the towns people turned out to watch the evening festivities, alongside all the tourists muttering in different languages and taking many photos.
We walked up to the Greek amphitheatre (passing the convention center which was holding a conference for endocrinologists - most of whom were standing outside smoking when we passed - both ways!) which has survived hundreds of years having various bits refurbished over time till now when the stage area and first tier are used for productions while the upper three tiers are more like ruins which can be climbed on and provide a beautiful view of the surrounding coast up to the Messina Straights and downs to Catania, and of course, of Mt Etna.
For Trev's birthday we'd arranged a Godfather's Tour which took us out of Taormina town and into the surrounding countryside and the smaller and less touristy villages. We of course saw many of the sites used by Francis Ford Cuppola which looked familiar, although they had of course been modernised. Gone was the dirt path used for the couple to walk down to the village after the wedding, instead we could see the church where the wedding happened (unlike them who had to have a pretend altar set up on the steps, we could go inside and absorb the beauty of the the architecture and the art) and the we took a walk down the same path, which is now paved in local stone.
Inside on of the Cathedrals the guide pointed out a skull resting on the base of the crucifix, which was found to signify that there was a catacomb below. In this case the catacombs were only discovered late last century when they started restorations. We visited an area where they prepared, drained and bound the bodies readying them to lie in their crypt - a practice stopped early 1900. Later we stopped in many churches with a similar skull and crypt entries inside, showing the practice was widespread in the area.
we wandered through a few different villages, sometimes connected to the Godfather filming, but not always, and really enjoyed the quiet, slow approach to life. We were reminded many times of Glo's cousin - the mayor - and his village and home and way of life (not that we saw any boar skins, or bottles of wine cooling in the creek!).
On our last night in Taormina we went to the opera in the Taormina Opera House ( which makes it sound a much grander building than it was). It was quite a small hall, accoustically presented and with a beautiful terrace looking over Taormina and out to the sea. We heard a tenor, a soprano and a pianists who all performed brilliantly!
A final wander through the town and down to the bus stop the next day topped off a wonderful few days!