Highly recommended in Sicily is exploring – be curious and lead with your nose! This intoxicating destination has views, architecture and floral delights in abundance at every twist and turn that you simply must investigate.
Therefore leaving our base station at Catania behind we engaged the exceptional services of our tour guide, namely Sebastiano Melita, proprietor of Sicily With Sebastian. Personable and charming, as only a Sicilian named Sebastiano can be, he entertained and informed us with local details whilst the pristine mini-bus wended its way along the intoxicating coastline to Taormina.
Winding roads opened up views that can only be described as mesmerising, making the journey a highlight of it’s own. The sun glinted across calm water over the bay, lighting up azure tones resplendent against the lush backdrop of verdant hills. Our colourful day of adventure was only just beginning!
Taormina is snugly set into the hillside, elevated above a horseshoe bay, gazing out over distant Mount Etna, fields, hills, farmhouses and villages: on a clear day the view just goes on and on. The town is quaint, immaculate and delicately picturesque. Obviously its a big tourist pull, due to the cute factor, so I’d imagine in high season it is bustling to the max. However we were lucky that on a warm Saturday in late Spring it was gently swaying with pedestrians and tourists, inhaling the irresistible charm.
Welcoming cafes and restaurants throng the Corso Umberto and spidering alleyways, all with a charm of their own, exhibit even more. Pre-lunch delicious aromas drifted in the warm air with a heady scent of gorgeousness. Everything about Sicily seems to play heavily on the senses, certainly food always smells amazing there!
Stop for relaxed coffee on the terrace of the Grand Hotel and you’ll be guaranteed the experience of a lifetime.
Step back into days gone by of white gloved waiters, chequerboard floors and silver sugar tongs. Frothy coffee in delicate porcelain, floral etched cups, mini-sweet treats served on impeccable basamento della torta and a view you could never tire of.
A true classic gem providing a haven of cool tranquillity and venerable ambience in this busy town. Wander through the nearby botanic gardens; immaculate with carefully planted arches of delicate shrubs giving shaded relief in the midday sun and take in more views the defy worthy superlatives.
Amble amongst the myriad of shops offering endless souvenirs mixed with stunning leather goods, neat lacework, bright designer items and the quintessential pasta assortments. One delightful local store worth visiting is Il laboratorio Dell’Arte Taormina. From exquisite ceramics to delicately homemade lemon soaps, this little treasure has a treat for everyone; especially if you are frantically seeking gifts as proverbial holiday to home offerings.
Lunch at Granduca did not disappoint. A modest entrance, that must have seen a wealth of customers over many years, opened to a stairwell belying what awaited us.
Walking through the main restaurant, the shaded terrace with panoramic view over the whole bay stops you in your tracks. Picturesque, tranquil and simply beautiful – this is a recommended spot to enjoy after exploring and shopping excursions.
Crisp white table linen, wine chilled to perfection in capacious glasses and a delightful breeze from the sea lifted heat-weary spirits – moreover the food to come was sublime. Homemade pasta, just as mama makes it, al dente to perfection, with seafood to make your soul smile. Clams in delicate broth, local sardines barbecued yet moist, grilled fish from the boats that morning – flavours so erudite the chef practically danced on your tastebuds.
Replete yes, but always a space for something sweet, you cannot leave Taormina without a visit to one of the delicious Gelataria’s to sample creamy-heaven. O’Sciality did not disappoint in flavour nor portion – some of the best ice cream I have ever tasted – lipsmackingly delicious!
Sebastiano was reinstated for info-duties as we travelled to the next instalment of our adventure towards Mount Etna; who was kindly sending out smoke plumes to signal our arrivalAs Europe’s highest and most active volcano it is basically awe-inspiring to get close to something so naturally unpredictable. With soil rich in nutrients due to fallen ash, farming is exceptionally productive and vineyards thrive.
Our stop here was at the renowned Planeta Vineyard, nestled in Etna’s foothills set in a juxtaposed landscape of lush vegetation and stark larva rock. Met by a charming Planeta guide we were first given a comprehensive vineyard tour, hearing about soil, production schedules, variety of crops and grape picking – it was fascinating!
Afterwards tasting a selection of their premium wines and learning about matching for occasion and cuisine was really personal, as though chosen members of an elite club. An added bonus was the olive oil tasting afterwards: who knew flavours varied so much from different methods of production. It was truly fascinating to explore the origin to creation of both wine and oil – and indeed delectable to sample! (if visiting do purchase and bring home if you can, it is absolutely worth it!)
So our time in Taormina was done and Hotel Romano beckoned for more delicious Prosecco to start the night off – well how better could you possibly end such an accomplished day?