Holidays and Other Excursions

Tag: Taormina

Sicily – Days 7 – 14

Wednesday 23 – Wednesday 30 September 2015

This morning we transfer over to the Ashby Hotel in Taormina – close to the town centre (up a small sharp hill – Taormina is up and down a lot of hills) – which is then fairly flat through the town centre.

There is a lovely view from the pool at the back of the hotel from which we can see the hotel we were in last night and also over to the mainland.  Once we are settled in we decamp to the pool area and a couple of sunbeds – hopefully we will be here getting browner for the next week.  And at one point during the week I can see a train on the railway.

We had a good couple of days by the pool and were certainly getting browner but on the Saturday afternoon the rain set in and it was then pretty wet all the way through then to our departure.  One day we chose not to even leave the hotel – it was the only way to stay dry.  The rain a few weeks earlier had knocked out the cable car service and so we were not even able to go down to the sea level and we needed to take care not to get soaked when going out to eat!

The hotel itself has a posh restaurant as well as a casual one but, perhaps like Greece, Sicily does not do “posh” that well – leave it to the French!  Out in the town we sampled a restaurant in the open air down one of the side streets – a great opener.  Elsewhere in the town we had memorable meals at Restaurant Cinque Archi – the meat here comes from a local co-operative which they work with and it was the best meat of the fortnight – and Granduca which has good seafood and wonderful views over the sea.  Also I must mention Tiramisu which served a good meal and we ended sharing the best tiramisu ever!  There was also a good bar in the town square for a drink in the open air to do some people watching – at least one session cut short by yet more rain!

One evening was a night when there was a concert at the amphitheatre – and the local population obviously dress up for their evenings out as DJs and dresses were the order of the evening – quite unlike most of the visiting population in shorts and so on.

One drawback we suffered (and this is unusual).  My wife is always well protected against insect bites and my protection is their inevitable preference for nibbling her.  On this part of the holiday we both suffered, so Taormina bugs must be attracted to different smells than much of the rest of the world.  Used up the various creams, new stocks needed for India.  We both had bites and were applying anti-histamine cream to each other in hard to reach spots!

We had planned to take the train around the foot of Etna – but decided against for two reasons – we had seen a lot of the scenery anyway and having looked at the connections for the train services I could see that missing a connection would give us an hour wait – and that would not be much fun on holiday.

Overall verdict on Sicily – lovely; food can be very good and there are some wonderful sights to see as well as a complex history.  Having seen the sights and sampled the food and wine we are not convinced there is any need to return – perhaps if we had got brown rather than rusty (well I managed to catch up on my reading as well) we might feel differently.  And if the mafia are still around we were provided with no evidence of them.

Sicily Day 5

Monday 21 September 2015

Much earlier in the year Sicily had suffered some enormous storms and as a result a section of the motorway A19 had suffered damage as the ground had suffered a landslide.  Consequently many journeys are being delayed as the alternative is a long journey around the hills.  We take a break (much needed) in Polizzi Generosa which these days has a major claim to fame as the birthplace of Domenico Dolce.  On the way we can see the distorted motorway – and that will take some time to fix.

Our target today is Villa Romana del Casale which is almost in the centre of the island.  Perhaps a brief recap the history of Sicily might be in order.  The Phoenicians had the western end of the island, whilst the Greeks had the eastern side.  The latter evenutally drove out the former.  When the Romans were in dominant form they took the island from the Greeks but later the westward spread of the muslims saw a complete change in the island which was recaptured for Christianity by the Normans (although it took them 20 years).  Subsequently the island was passed around various European countries by treaty and eventually Garibaldi landed at Marsala and this finally led to a formation of a single Italian state in the nineteenth century.

Sicily is at the crossroads of the Mediterranean and holding the island was often key to being able to trade across the sea.  During their time here the Romans were at their pomp and consequently there was a lot of money which the owner of this villa ploughed into the building – it was both an extensive but also extremely well decorated villa.  Our guide has been excellent throughout but today I wander through the villa following the approved route taking the photographs which I fancy and from which a small selection has mare it to here.  Given the mosaic work used throughout the edifice the entire property must have been owned by someone very wealthy – although there seems to be no certainty about that aspect.  For more history go to this Wikipedia link.

The villa has been dated back to about the 4th Century AD; it was abandoned in about the 12th Century following a landslide.  Excavations commenced in 1929 and finished in 1960.

Having had a look around the web there are some excellent photographs to be found on this site.

The most famous mosaics relate to the “Bikini Girls” – so not a sixties invention after all – and hunting scenes.  My own pictures do not do the enterprise justice and I am quite disappointed that I have not managed to get the light levels right.

We have another lengthy drive across to the east of the island to a hotel near to Taormina. For lunch however we go to a restaurant in Piazza Armerina which is a relatively short drive.  Another good meal.

In the afternoon we cross through a huge agricultural area and I can appreciate how the island was considered a valuable resource as it could easily provide food for armies.  Later in the drive we can see Mount Etna in the distance as we pass the southern side of the volcano before reaching the motorway and then passing the eastern side of the volcano.

Our destination (Hotel Antares) is a large tourist hotel built on a hillside with its own private little cliffside railway to provide a route between the rooms and linking the public areas top and bottom!  The town itself (at sea level) is reached by descending by yet another lift through the rocks and then a walk through a car park, under railway and roads on viaducts along to the front where we found a restaurant on the sea front and had a good meal.  Most of our fellow travellers seemed to turn up in the restaurant as we were leaving.  Also entertaining was a waiter attempting to chat up the girls at the table next to ours!