31 May 2016

Sicily: Taormina Vistas

To say J & I are ambitious travelers is an understatement. Our time off together is precious and we like to fit as much in as possible (and yes, we do relax, too...kind of!). Our honeymoon was no exception. Over the span of three weeks -- a work trip was tacked on at the very end -- we hit twelve airports.
Enjoying Maine!

We started on a Thursday, heading down to Los Angeles to attend the wedding of our friends. We left
that wedding, and LA, on Friday evening to head to Maine (via Boston) to attend the wedding of another of our friends on a small island off the coast. Two days later, it was time to head and start our time overseas.

Getting there was not without incident. The day we were set to leave was the day the Lufthansa pilots went on strike. What airline were we on? Lufthansa! It was a very trying several hours -- but with the help of an awesome United rep in Boston Logan, Aaron, our adventures were only delayed by a few hours.

  • Protip #1: When you book on a codeshare flight, call your originating carrier. Their lines are going to be much shorter and they'll have more time to dedicate to you. (We eventually walked over to United's customer service)
  • Protip #2: If there are two of you, split the efforts...get in line, make calls, tweet. We did this until we got an answer. 
  • Protip #3: Try not to get stuck in Boston Logan. It has a terrible international terminal.
But soon enough, we did arrive. We had chosen to fly into Catania, the airport on the eastern coast, and spend the evening in Taormina, a beautiful hill town that overlooks the coast as well as Mt. Etna, even booking an awesome hotel. Our delay meant that we didn't get to spend much time enjoying the amenities of the hotel, and also meant that we arrived in the middle of some torrential rains!

Getting to Taormina is not for the feint of heart, even when the weather is dry. It requires a slow trek up a very steep mountainside road. With the rain, there were a few washouts, so the going was even slower. I had a data plan on my phone (this has become a must -- one of us gets the data plan, usually me since I'm the navigator, and we turn it on in moments like these when we aren't 100% sure where we are going). 

If you find yourself staying at the Hotel Monte Tauro, be prepared to wind around this little town, then, when you think you can go no more, look to your right. You'll see a sign and a very steep driveway. This is your spot. Be careful! We had a wonderful room at this wonderful hotel, overlooking the pool. It was closed due to the storm, but it offered a view of the ocean and lower-lying towns.

View from our room
Taormina captures the romantic idealism of Italy. As you walk around the small town, you will not find many cars, allowing you to move freely to the shops, caffes, and restaurants. Wander around and you will find all sorts of restaurants, places to stop for a espresso or Etna Rosso, and plenty of gelato!

Though we were tired, we stopped for dinner -- sharing a bottle of local wine and indulging on panelle (Sicilian fried chickpeas). The restauranteur had a love for California, so we talked for him with quite some time about that! We then meandered through town, which was simply magical in the post-rain evening. Not ready to go home yet, we stopped at the Caffe Wunderbar to sit and enjoy the music and people watching. 

It was in Taormina where we noticed all the pine cones -- La Pigna. These ceramics come in all sorts of sizes and colors, and we saw them everywhere we went in Sicily! 

The other image you will not escape in Sicily is that of "The Godfather." I had heard most Sicilians try to distance themselves, you will see Godfather paraphernalia everywhere you go. There is always a t-shirt snuck in there, or a small wallet, or something. This has some significance -- many of the "Corleone" scenes were shot in/around Taormina.  

I wish I had one full day to enjoy Taormina -- if you find yourself there, it is small enough to see a lot in that amount of time. If you have time to enjoy a second day, you will truly enjoy la dolce vita!