Date of Trip: July 2009
July 11: Messina, Sicily
Our port times were 2-11pm, so we got to see our entrance into Messina and the Peloritan Mountains. Our nephew & niece met us as we were getting off in port & drove us to Taormina. He is in the Navy & they moved to Sicily only two months before, so it was great for all of us. They had familiar visitors in a foreign land & we all got to see Taormina. (We asked them to hold off until we could explore it together, and in return we’d take them to dinner!) It was also so perfect that we were there on a Saturday, when he wouldn’t be working!
We parked in a lot, received the ticket — pay upon return — and took the free shuttle up to the hill town. We walked through an old stone gate — Porta Messina –at the end of town nearest Messina. The other city entrance at the other end of town is called Porta Catania. A lovely old city, extremely picturesque, many flowers, narrow steps between the buildings that reached another level, lots of cute shops with pottery and laces made in Taormina.
After looking at lots of stores on the Via Teatro Greco, I finally settled on the eggcup I wanted: €8 at Girasole (one of two artisan Manago ceramic shops in Taormina). Different artists & designs, some more intricate than others, all made in Sicily. At another shop I bought a lace-edged handkerchief/serviette. (I don’t use the word “napkin as often as I used to since there are British readers!) Cate found a painted clay holy water wall hanging — very nice – €15 (marked €18).
One upset & frustrated man in the shop was using their phone: He had gone to an ATM, got a cash withdrawal and a receipt — but no cash!! He had “withdrawn” $250. He was calling his credit card company & explaining how he was stranded. This is Saturday. Banks are closed. The phone he was using was unable to use the push button feature, for some reason – I didn’t notice if it was a rotary dial phone. Hopefully it worked out…
We walked up the road to a large plaza that had an amazing view of the coastline and small harbor below. A coin telescope was there. We did a progressive lunch thing: snack (ham/cheese pastry) & drinks at Sugar & Spice – €15, 4 gelati at Bar Capriccio – €8. There were 5 of us, but not everyone had something.
We passed a wedding taking place in the church near the plaza. So interesting seeing the local flavor of a place.
When we went to get dinner at a recommended restaurant that DH had found, it wasn’t open yet. As is customary, most of the non-tourist restaurants off the main areas did not open for dinner until 7 or 7:30pm. It was 6:45 and we needed to eat. We didn’t want to stay late, as our relatives live farther away. They had to drive us back to Messina, and they live in Catania — the opposite direction. Taormina is almost exactly halfway between the two — about 28 miles.
We found an open restaurant, Solaris, on a back hill, Via Timeo 31 — it overlooks the “small theatre” of Taormina, the Roman Odeon. (We did not go to the Greco-Roman Theatre. It was a warm day, and it would have taken too much time, since we were “hanging out” with relatives today. The cost: €6 each.) So for free, we sat at an outdoor table on the hill, took photos of this little theatre, and ate Bruschetta & pizza: €48+ €5 tip.
Had a relaxing evening with a view of the Odeon, watching local life. Poignant moments. A bird quite near us had apparently fallen and was very hurt. We couldn’t do much but pray for him and watch. A little boy, the son of the waitress, came by, & although very interested, thankfully left him alone. The bird rested and seemed to be better by the time we left. An old woman was seated near the inside doorway, with tears running down her face, and a younger woman, perhaps a daughter or friend, was crouched beside her, trying to comfort her. Things one notices when not rushing around.
We stopped at a bakery for cannelloni (€3.90) and went to Shaker cafe where we ordered coffee (€19). Dusk came and as we sat at the cafe, we saw a procession of costumed horses and carriages with musicians playing accordions and tambourines. A very nice end to a relaxing day. Shuttle back to parking lot; €9 parking. Only walked 3 1/2 miles today.