The train from Catania to Taormina took an hour. I don’t know how much faster it would have been if it hadn’t made a dozen or so stops along the way. But it did.
It was mostly cloudy when I left Catania. Or, if you are a glass partly full, rather than a glass mostly empty sort of person, it was partly sunny.
When I arrived in Taormina, clouds completely covered the sky. Or, for you glass half-full people, give up. Your glass is empty. Face facts. There was no sun showing.
Despite the threatening clouds, the rain god slept in today. Rain didn’t start until after I checked into my hotel, settled in, and then went out to explore. (My room was already ready despite arriving around noon.)
My Hotel in Taormina
I chose a hotel just a small piece back from the sea. It’s in section of Taormina (actually Mazzarò, but part of the Metropolitan City of Taormina) that’s not much more than one street and the buildings off it, as well as some other buildings and a beach even farther off it, down a hill. My hotel sits immediately beside the road, the equivalent of probably a few floors above sea level. The Taormina train station, Taormina-Giardini, is on roughly the same level as my hotel.
The historical centre of Taormina is, however, on a large plateau probably about halfway up a mountain and well above my hotel. According to Google Maps, if I wanted to walk from my hotel to the centre of Taormina, it would take thirty minutes. That’s not bad. I can do a 30-minute walk, easy peasy.
But Google also says the walk involves a 187 metre (613.5 feet for those who still use those units) rise in elevation. Um. Nope. Not for a man my age. Heck, not even for me when I was a lot younger than my current age. Maybe heading back down if the weather is nice. Downhill gets an assist from gravity. Unless it pushes you off a cliff. Then gravity is your enemy.
The Trenitalia (Italy’s train company) website sells tickets from Catania to a station called Taormina Centro in the main, upper portion of Taormina. But it involves a transfer at Taormina-Giardini. And that transfer is to a bus. There is no way a train could make it up the very steep mountain. Fortunately, I learned that before I bought a ticket and bought one to Taormina-Giardini instead.
I chose my hotel because:
Its Trip Advisor and Booking.com ratings were very high.
The back of the hotel abuts a stone cliff, so all rooms face the sea.
I was able to get a room with a balcony.
On a map, my hotel looked walkable from the train station.
The hotel’s online listing says it is a short walk from the lower station of a cable car (gondola ski lift style, not San Francisco style) that goes straight up to the historical centre of Taormina. (The cable car is called the Funivia here. Much to my surprise, that doesn’t translate to “fun way” in English. Google Translate tells me it translates to “cable car.” Go figure.)
Let’s tackle those points one at a time. First, based solely on decor, I’d rate it a tad lower than the ratings it garners, but …
Second, the rooms do look out at the sea. And the view is breathtaking. There’s a beautiful, rocky, steep hill of an island just offshore and a beach on the mainland. The greenery on the island and mainland are lush.
Third, yes, I do have a balcony. It’s not enormous, but large enough to hold a small table with two chairs still have some standing room. I.e., more than ample size.
The rain held off when I got my room. So I had a chance to go out on the balcony, and then catch my breath after the view took it away.
Fourth, my hotel did look walkable from the train station on a map. Google said it would take about a half-hour to walk it, with not unbearable changes in altitude. Then I arrived at the train station. As I mentioned above, the sky was overcast, but it didn’t look like it would start raining for at least the half-hour walk. Then I looked at the road I’d have to walk along. It was narrow, twisting, busy, and didn’t have sidewalks. I treated myself to a taxi.
Finally, about that cable car station that’s supposed to be a short walk from my hotel. It is. The cable car isn’t. It’s closed for maintenance according to the front desk at my hotel. (“Extraordinary maintenance” according to a sign at the station.)
Instead of a cable car with a number of gondolas running in a continuous loop, they now run a shuttle bus on a set schedule between the upper and lower stations. The frequency of the buses varies from a half-hour to as much as an hour depending on the time of the day.
I imagine the cable car, which follows a straight line up the mountain, would be faster than the shuttle bus, which drives up a windy road with a number of hairpin turns.
The Rain God Settles Into Taormina
It started to drizzle shortly after I left my hotel to go to the lower cable car, now shuttle bus, station. By the time the bus reached the upper station, the rain came down heavily. But after walking just a couple of minutes, it no longer rained heavily. Torrentially is a more accurate word.
I had two choices. Find someplace to go inside and have a long lunch or find a store that sells ready-to-float arks. I chose the former. Although, I began to wonder if that was the best choice. I feared the rain might raise the sea level more than halfway up the mountain.
Lunch was so-so, but I took my time with it.
While I was inside, the thunder and lightning gods made a number of appearances. And the lights in the restaurant flickered a couple of times. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Apocalypse is a real thing.
I lingered over lunch as long as I could. Most of the lunch crowd left before I did. I fear the rain washed them away as soon as they stepped outside. May their memories be blessings.
Towards the end of my meal, the people at the table next to mine made noises to a server about settling in for the afternoon. The server and patrons spoke English as a common language, although not the native tongue of any of them. The server politely encouraged them to not plan to stay too long because the restaurant was going to close until dinner. I took that as a hint.
By the time I left the restaurant, the rain diminished from torrential to merely exceptionally heavy. It’s a fine line. My umbrella helped, but it could only do so much.
You probably think I’m exaggerating about the intensity of the rain. Look at the water gushing out of the downspout near the left side of the nearby picture and the water falling off the steps. I took that shot when the rain tapered off a bit.
Yeah, it rained that much. Shallow rivers flowed down the sides of the streets and along the sidewalks, where there are sidewalks. I learned that my shoes are less than 100% waterproof.
I walked around for about fifteen minutes. Not only did the rain not decrease below an exceptionally heavy level, but the thunder and lightning gods returned. At one point, I counted to only one after the lightning god’s flash until the thunder god’s boom. And, yes I do probably count more quickly than one number per second. If the volcano god doesn’t get me, the lightning god might.
I surrendered and decided to head back to my hotel. Of course, when I gave up, I’d missed a shuttle bus by just a few minutes. The next one wasn’t for almost half an hour. Fortunately, there was a waiting area with a small canopy.
Despite cutting the visit today short, before leaving the historical centre of Taormina I got a few pictures. You’ll find them scattered on this page. Taormina looks spectacular, even in the rain.
Back at the hotel, I typed a few of these lines, went for a drink in the hotel bar, where I typed a few more lines, and later went to a restaurant a few steps from my hotel for dinner.
By the time I went to dinner, the rain had tapered to a drizzle. True, it was a heavy drizzle, but relative to earlier in the day I considered it a good omen.
I’m here all day tomorrow. The forecast calls for the rain to stop by about noon. I hope to get out and have more to report then, assuming the rain doesn’t wash my hotel out to sea with me in it first.
I would have greatly preferred that it had not rained. But you, dear reader, should be thankful. Because of the rain, this post is shorter than has been my habit of late. You got off easy today. I don’t promise that will happen again. Enjoy your extra free time.