Somewhat Sunny Day in Taormina
When I got out of bed this morning in Taormina (or, to be more precise, Mazzaro, a part of the municipality of Taormina), the day started with a little light rain. (Days don’t start until I get out of bed. Those are the rules. I don’t make them up.)
By the time I went for breakfast on the covered terrace on the upper floor of my hotel—a terrace with some small, potted lemons trees bearing big, ripe lemons—the rain had stopped and some breaks opened up in the clouds. And before I got too far into my day’s explorations, the gaps in the clouds widened more and, well, to quote those oft-cited philosophers, The Beatles,
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
The cloud god never did totally surrender His, Her or Its perch today. (Although He, She or It came close toward the end of the day.) And His, Her or Its countenance was often heavy.
But, after the early morning, the rain god mostly stayed His, Her or Its hand. The worst that the rain god mustered for the rest of the day was very few, very scattered light sprinkles. So, the rain god can be merciful if He, She or It wills it.
And BSG (blue sky god) scored some victories, with the sun god, blessed be He, She or It, taking advantage of the openings. Most of those victories were small. But, during sets in later afternoon matches, BSG and the sun god battled the cloud god to some brief ties. Maybe even a few wins, but the Judges are still out in that. And, at the end of the day, well, wait for it.
The point is, after the Apocalyptic weather of yesterday and the gloom of the day before, the glimpses of sun today felt glorious. That’s particularly true considering I spent the day in and around Taormina. Molto bella. (Unless Google Translate failed me, that means “very beautiful.” If Google Translate did fail me, sorry, that’s what I intended.)
Okay. You waited long enough. By the end of the day, back at my hotel, after I finished my outing, BSG’s victory was almost complete. The cloud god could muster only a few small clouds in the last couple of hours before nightfall. (See “Bonus Pictures,” below.)
Many people claim that the sun god is the supreme god in our solar system, and perhaps the universe, and the only truly important one. They are wrong.
He, She, or It might or might not be the supreme god. I don’t know. I haven’t written enough of the holy scriptures yet. But the only truly important one? Nope. No way.
Sure, the sun god provides all of the energy for most living things on this planet. And, thanks to the technology god giving us photovoltaic cells, many non-living things too. (No, heathens, the sun does not influence the winds and, therefore, power wind turbines. The wind god is solely responsible for the winds.)
But, think about it. The sun god would provide little of its energy to us if BSG didn’t punch holes in the cloud god’s defences, thereby allowing the sun god’s rays to reach us adequately.
Thus, while the sun god is important, it needs BSG to win the day.
After taking the shuttle bus up to the centro storico of Taormina I walked around a bit. I then took another bus even higher, to the mountaintop town of Castelmola. The timing had more to do with bus schedules than anything else.
Castelmola is a quaint town that looks down on Taormina. (I can speak only about the two town’s relative altitude and geographic location, not about whether the people of Castelmola feel superior to the people of Taormina. They might. They might not. I don’t know.)
At Castelmona’s highest point sit the ruins of a medieval castle. Not much of it remains. But the town topped the castle ruins with terraces. The views from up there are beyond awesome. I took in sweeping, magnificent views of Taormina below, the coast and sea beyond that, and valleys and more mountains in the opposite direction. Spectacular.
Castelmola itself is also very appealing. Small, shops, restaurants, bars, and residences line narrow, rock-paved streets, lanes, and stairs, along with some tiled public squares.
Chiesa Madonna della Rocca
From Castelmola I walked to Chiesa Madonna della Rocca, a small sanctuary situated about halfway down the mountain from Castelmola to Taormina’s centro storico.
Google Maps told me the route is fairly flat and it would take me a little under 25 minutes to walk it. Google Maps got the time right, but lied about the walk being fairly flat. Although, despite it not being reasonably level, it is mostly downhill. So, gravity worked with me.
The route is along narrow, real roads and narrower roads that I was absolutely sure were solely walking paths. I changed my mind about the latter when I saw a car parked in a driveway off the path-road.
Most of the slope was gentle. Although, one part of the path-road was quite steep. They constructed that portion of concrete with deep grooves to provide a grip. It was on this section that I saw a car parked in a driveway, obviously belonging to a braver soul and better driver than I am.
The last little bit of the walk to Chiesa Madonna della Rocca is uphill.
Chiesa Madonna della Rocca has a small, tranquil chapel. Half of its ceiling is raw rock. The other half is white plaster.
A Madonna statue with a halo rests beside a small, plain altar. Lit lightbulbs circle the outer edge of the halo. The Madonna holds the Baby Jesus, who wears a similar, but smaller halo.
The terrace outside the chapel provides additional spectacular views of Taormina and its surroundings.
Downstairs to Taormina
A long set of stairs with a large number of switchbacks leads down from the terrace to Taormina’s centro storico. I walked down them.
The views of Taormina on the way down were, you guessed it, spectacular
Did I mention the set of stairs is long? (*scrolls up a couple of paragraphs*) Yes I did. That might be misleading. They aren’t so much long as interminable. At one point I thought they were infinite. I paused there to Google “Escher.”
I only changed my mind about the endlessness of the stairs when I reached the last flight and saw that it dead ended at a perpendicular street that leads into central Taormina.
During my trek down the stairs I encountered many people walking up them. Younger people. Most of them were much, much, much younger than I am. However, some of them didn’t look much more than a decade my junior, if that. Apparently, I am a wimp. I have little, if any, interest in walking up that many stairs at this point in my life. It probably wouldn’t kill me, but by the end I’d likely wish it did.
Back in Taormina
Back in Taormina I wandered aimlessly a bit, had some lunch, wandered some more, saw some sights, and wandered some more before heading back to my hotel. Wonderful, wonderful, … wonderful. Did I mention, wonderful?
Streets, Squares, Stairs and Churches
Taormina is delightful, particularly when not visited by rains of biblical proportions, as was the case yesterday. Narrow streets, paths, and stairs wend their way through the town. The central shopping street, and, of course, all of the stairs, are usually for pedestrians only.
I assume delivery vehicles and city services can drive on the street, but, obviously, not the stairs, during off-hours. And I have proof that at least one type of service vehicle also uses the shopping occasionally even during busy times.
As I walked back to catch the shuttle bus back to my hotel, an ambulance millimetred its way along the crowded street, with neither lights flashing nor siren blaring. (“Millimetred” is my coined metric version of “inched.”)
I didn’t understand that. There are streets in Taormina that aren’t intended solely for pedestrians. In fact, some are pedestrian-hostile.
If it wasn’t an emergency, why not take one of those streets and use a gurney or wheelchair to go the rest of the way if their destination was on the pedestrianized shopping street?
And, if it was an emergency, why not flash the lights and/or blare the siren so the ambulance could centimetre, decimetre or even metre along rather than millimetring along?
These are the kinds of questions that plague me and diminish my appreciation of every day. But, enough about that. Back to Taormina.
Small public squares, including a couple with views out to the sea down below, dot the town. Old churches are scattered about. I ducked into a few. They aren’t spectacular, but they are quaint and calming.
Taormina has a public gardens down from, and almost adjacent to the site where the Greek-Roman theatre (see below) stands. It is exquisite, as evidenced by the picture I took through the bars of the wrought iron fence around it. The gate was closed and locked.
A computer-printed, plastic sleeve-enclosed paper sign said in Italian, English and French that the gardens were “Closed.” That was the only multilingual text on the sign.
The sign also had other information in Italian. The camera function of the Google Translate app told me it said the closure is specific to today. It mentioned no other dates. And it said the closure was due to a “weather alert.”
A weather alert?! Really? Yesterday a deluge soaked the town, but they closed the gardens today? The weather wasn’t perfect today, but it was dry and calm. The gardens’ paths visible through the fence had thoroughly dried out from yesterday’s downpour. And I saw no damage of any kind. In fact, the park looked pristine.
Ha! A weather alert. Yeah, right. That’s what they want you to think.
But what the government and fake news mainstream media won’t tell you is they had another reason to close it. They feared that, if they didn’t, I might escape today without a “my mazel!” moment.
(I might be wrong about that motive. Do your own research.)
From what I could see, the gardens looked lovely enough that it would have warranted its own subtitled section in this post. But, did I mention, it was closed today? Yes. Yes, I did.
So, the heck with them. No separate section for them. I could have promoted the gardens to my four readers. But the guardians of the gardens chose to forfeit that opportunity. Their loss.
Greek-Roman Theatre (Teatro Antico) of Taormina
In the third century BCE, the Greeks build a theatre on top of a cliff in what’s now Taormina. When the Romans took possession of the place, they remodelled it extensively. Because, hey, doesn’t everyone want to make their new place their own, with their own touches? So, today it’s known as the Greek-Roman Theatre, or to not play favourites between the Greeks and the Romans, the Teatro Antico (Ancient Theatre).
Take a look at the picture I posted here taken from near the stage-level of the theatre. I’m pretty sure the white, molded plastic seats in the lower section of the seating area were not part of the original structure. I’m not an expert, but I think the ancient Greeks and Romans made little use of molded plastic, or any plastic for that matter. They were probably just waiting impatiently for the technology god to invent it for them.
Above the section of molded plastic seating there are tiers of stone benches, which may be of ancient origin. Above the stone-bench tiers are more tiers, this time of wood bolted to uniformly manufactured metal brackets. Again, not from the original Greek or Roman theatre.
From the upper tiers, I saw Mount Etna. True, it was shrouded by haze. And the top was totally obscured by clouds. But I’m claiming success in my quest to see Mount Etna. Sure, it’s only a partial triumph, but I’ll take it.
There are also some magnificent views of the sea and the area around Taormina from the stairs up the outside of the Teatro Antico and from terraces behind the upper level of the seating. But there are already a few beautiful views pictured on this page. How much beauty can one person stand in a single journal entry? I wanted to spare you from beauty overload. But I do have pictures of the vistas and would be thrilled to bore you with them if we find ourselves in the same city. If you like, send me a private message and I’ll be happy to keep you informed as to where I’ll be so you can make sure you won’t be anywhere near me.
As you probably gathered from above, I love Taormina. If you are the sort of person who creates a bucket list (I’m not), and you can afford to go, you should definitely put Taormina on the list. I regret I didn’t book a day or two or three or more here.
My only complaint about the town is that too many tourists come here. The long, pedestrian shopping street was crowded today, sometimes almost to the point where I felt the need to draw on the clichéd tin of sardines for this post.
And there were few streets or squares that were empty or even a close approximation of empty. This is considered to be the shoulder season, not the high season. I hate to think what it’s like in the high season.
Seriously. Tourists, when assembled in particularly large numbers, diminish everything.
As amazing as it is, and it truly is amazing, Taormina would be even better if all of the tourists left. Every single one of them. Oh, wait. Right. Never mind.
Remember those pictures I showed you yesterday of the vistas from my hotel balcony? Here’s roughly what the view looks like with mostly blue sky. I took these pictures in the early evening from the hotel terrace, which is one floor up from my room. I went there to have an aperitivo and type some of these words after coming back from today’s outing and before going out for dinner. BSG finally became the clear victor of a match.
Unfortunately, the sun god ends His, Her or Its days behind Taormina’s mountain, not below the sea’s horizon. So there is no setting sun over the sea here.
Nevertheless, despite the sun god not showing his face over the sea at sunset, he can cast some colour on any clouds in the sky as He, She or It heads to sleep behind the mountain in back. If I were a better photographer, you’d see an incredible photo here. Instead, you are stuck with this.
(I know what you’re thinking. If the sun sets behind the mountain in back of the sea, it must rise over the sea. So, there must be some beautiful sunrises.” Nope. There are no sunrises. None. We clearly established above that the day does not start until I get up out of bed. Hence, no sunrises. Please try to follow along. These journal entries are already too long for me to have to repeat everything.
(Oh, another update. You know that rocky island just offshore? You can see it in these pictures. It’s called Isola Bella. There is an abandoned building at its top. And I have visual evidence that it’s only truly an island at high tide. At low tide, it’s connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus.)
Feel free to tell me how much you envy and/or hate me for my current state of being.
I distinctly detected a gloat. All that talk about the sky gods was just a front for a self-satisfied “I’m so lucky and I know it” smirk. I am totally entranced with Taormina, and when I see you next I will happily settle into a photo-fest (with commentary). Thank you. I have found my almost-next destination. I am thinking February break. Take that tourists. Except of course for one, looking-to-be self-satisfied Italophile.