Author: Maria Marrocchino
Date of Trip: September 2011
On any given night you can see stiletto heels strut down cobblestoned streets and jewels glisten against sun drenched bodies, not to mention the latest Dolce & Gabbana wear parading around the small piazza’s of this old Sicilian town. One might easily forget that there’s ancient civilization in Taormina from Arabic and Greek culture, not to mention a seething Mt. Etna. It took me about 11 days to finally start seeing some of these historical landmarks. I kept returning to the flashy Corso Umberto where the people watching is as stupendous as the panoramic views.
Taormina, developed around Mount Tauro and maintaining the characteristics of both Roman and medieval worlds, has always been the most popular vacation spot for Sicilians. But the rest of the world is beginning to catch on to this fiery resort leaving behind the usual choice of Capri or Sardinia to retreat to the spectacular beaches and vistas of this enchanting town.
Walking in between the brick arches, which constitutes the door of Porta Messing (North) and Porta Catania (South West), contain the historical city centre and in ancient times formed a necessary passage for people who had to reach places on both the Messina and Catania coastlines. Today the Corso Umberto swarms with lights, shops, bars and restaurants and is the meeting place for lovers of high style and consumerism. Big names and artisans exhibit their products in a vision of light and color. In between these doorways, the high style shops alternate with monuments and churches. Here you can admire the paintings of Sergio Giolini in the Gladys Art Gallery and view the impressive Palazzo Corvaia, a great building of the fifteenth-century, which contains a wonderful Arabic Tower in the center of its structure. Passing the seventeenth-century Church of S. Caterina, the shop lights illuminate the walkway and the attention of tourists is captured by the variety of products on display.
Marzipan fruits and heaps of gelato are every few feet and the smells coming out of the Pasticceria Chemi will compel you to taste one of the most famous Sicilian desserts, the cannoli. Not your typical cannoli made with Mascarpone, it’s the Sicilian cannoli filled with a sweet cream made of ricotta cheese and combined with vanilla, chocolate, pistachio, wine and rosewater. Of course Sicilians also double the size of this dessert, stimulating the visual sense as well. If you can take a break from eating, many authentic Sicilian ceramics can be found in the Laboratorio Keramelon in Via Santippo. Of course you’ll want to bring back some Vino alla Mandorla, a sweet Sicilian wine that everyone drinks. Good thing Da Pippo & Bar Europa have it in cute little economy sizes.
The nightlife can be as salacious as the day. Locals and tourists come together to La Giara to eat a simple but delectable meal first and then dance and show some skin at the Jar disco at night. The DJ spins local and American favorites all night long and you can dance away among the panoramic view that extend from Mt. Etna all the way to the ancient bay of Giardini Naxos.
Weather you choose to go to the many night spots Taormina has to offer or simply grab a pistachio ice cream from the gelateria Il Gelato and stroll down this satiated street, you can smile knowing that other high society Italians have also walked through this passage the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, Elizabeth Taylor and Marcello Mastroianni. Taormina has always been a magnet for European aristocrats and even a “crisi”, as the Italians call their recession, won’t keep them away from all the wonder lust this town has to offer. “Go to Taormina, it’s beautiful and also very chic,” my Sicilian friend advised me when I was searching for a place to retreat in Sicily. Perhaps he knew this Fifth avenue lady might feel right at home.