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The rest of our stay was a sunny and warm 21°C (70°F). We got to explore the beaches and decided to hike from Letojanni to Taormina. Turns out there are no pedestrian friendly paths from one to the other, but we did find some cool ruins of unknown antiquity in some of the less accessible parts of the beach between the towns. (see below)
Taormina itself has been around since sometime around the 9th century BC, it seems. The Greeks built a theatre here in the third century BC, and the Romans expanded and improved it a couple hundred years later. It commands a magnificent view of the Mediterranean and Mount Etna – Europe’s largest active volcano, which looms above the town.
We enjoyed a Sicilian pizza with a view of the bay, and rode a cable car down to the beach, ate canola and sampled various pasticcherie for their dolci. The best was also found in Letojanni’s Piazza Durante at the Niny Bar, with a great ambiance. Unfortunately, the coffee did not compete with the less sophisticated place we tried before, just across the piazza, but the little pastries they make here are incredible.
While we got some good photos, i also found another travel blog with several really good ones: http://www.galenfrysinger.com/taormina_sicily.htm
Letojanni is a summer resort town, and we were there in the off-season. On the first day, as we hiked down the hill from the resort to town in the rain (about 3km, and 500’ down) it reminded me of Ocean Shores or Leavenworth in the off-season. If you see it during the peak, you cannot get enough of the place, but if you come when nobody’s around you see everything there is to see in about half a day. Nancy’s main frustration was that even the places that were open for lunch apparently did not serve pizza on Sundays or until dinner. Mine was walking back to the resort. Uphill. In the rain. Wearing shorts.
Thankfully, first impressions are not always accurate. It was Sunday, after all, so many places were closed and the locals were at home observing the Sabbath. And even in the winter, rain is not too common so all the locals were wisely waiting it out. We did stop for a caffé under the awnings of the rather tacky looking “Palm Beach Café”, right on Letojanni’s main square, Piazza Durante, faced by the Church of San Guiseppe. The caffé was excellent, and the server was a genial guy who shared about his trip to the U.S. and about how it was nice and quiet now, but in the summer it was crazy with foreign tourists – Japanese… Americans… Italians…
When we did get back to the room, the view was worth the hike.
Sicily or bust
It is a nine hour train ride from Rome to Taormina, about 750 km (466mi), and worth the extra 20 Euros for first class – which just means you get a semi-private cabin with up to passengers instead of open seating among sixty.
Before we left, a friend and classmate here told us that the way they got the train from the mainland to Sicily was by loading the passenger cars on a boat and then shipping us across! There’s only a mile and a half at the straits! If there’s a tunnel running 26 miles from England to France, surely they had a bridge or something for Italy to Sicily. Our skepticism melted when we got to the port of Villa San Giovanni, where, as predicted, they drove the train right onto a massive ferry and we set sail for the Sicilian port of Messina!
When we arrived at about 930pm, we discovered that the train station was actually 5 km drive up a winding road up a vertical climb of 700’ to the town of Taormina. But, we were actually staying a couple towns over, in Letojanni – 7 km away.