The Sicilian Flag. Adopted in 1282 it is characterized by the presence of the triskelion (trinacria) in its middle, the (winged) head of Medusa and three wheat ears. The three bent legs are supposed to represent the three points of the island Sicily itself. The colours, instead, respectively represent the cities of Palermo and Corleone, at those times an agricultural city of renown.
On our last morning in Rome we woke early to make it to the airport in time but had to first make one important stop. We rushed to the Trevi Fountain before the rest of Rome began to stir so mum could throw some coins into the fountain, which according to legend will ensure her return (as I said previously I was unable to see a few key things on this trip so my curiosity will ensure I return). Besides making Mum extremely happy it was lovely seeing the Fountain devoid of the tourist which normally cram the tiny piazza and properly admire it beauty – but not for long as we had a tight schedule to keep to! We checked in at the airport and eventually (after a silent change of gates for our flight which resulted in a mad rush not long before boarding) made the flight from Rome to Catania (Sicily).
When we arrived – it wasn’t as hot as we had hoped but considering Rome was raining when we left, we weren’t complaining. We made our way to the luggage carousels and after finding the right one waited and waited and waited. And waited. Until one person gasped, another laughed and en mass everyone moved to another carousel where some people must have recognized there luggage cruising by! But after a while only 20% of the people had seen their luggage come through so the rest of us waited and waited. And waited and waited. And…. WAITED……Until…….again there was a GASP and a rush of people as luggage turned up back at the first carousel! Welcome to Sicily! I’m positive this is just their way of ‘breaking in’ the travelers and getting us accustomed to “Island time”. Our luggage eventually came through and after grabbing a yummy panini on the go we found our hire car – a zippy little Fiat and were off!
After much lively “Debate” over directions, adjusting to the driving on the other side of the road and getting our bearings –
we made our way towards Taormina whose extensive history of invaders perfectly embodies the tumultuous history of Sicily. Taormina’s area was inhabited by the Siculi even before the Greeks arrived on the Sicilian coast in 832 BC. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Taormina continued to be one of the more important towns of Sicily, and from the strength of its position was one of the last places that was retained by the Greek emperors. It was taken by the Arabs in 902 after a siege of two years, and its Muslim rule of the town (see History of Islam in southern Italy) lasted until 1078 when the Normans invaded. Then there were the Hohenstaufen, Angevines, Aragonese, French and the Bourbons dynasty of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, (Naples and Sicily). By the beginning of the 19th century and the area was ‘relatively’ peaceful, Taormina had become a popular tourist resort in the whole Europe and was an important stop of the “Grand tour”. Later that afternoon we would find out why. To get to our apartment we bypassed Taormina (strategically perched up on a mountain) and went along the coastline. Once we finally found the address we met our landlady, Margarita, at the entrance of our apartment that is about 50m from the beach and overlooks the stunning Isola Bella also known as The Pearl of the Ionian Sea.
After taking in our lovely apartment we headed to the beach! Its all stones which was quite painful to walk across and we were harassed a few times by Chinese ladies “veriveri belLISSSima Ma-ssaaaage” “For you little missy (taking my feet for a sample) seeeee veriveri niiiiiiiiiiiiice” ( I gave in 2 days later). Eventually they left and after soaking up the sun whilst doing some reading on Sicily Dad and I did something quite stupid. We went swimming in the near freezing water!
It was the coldest water I have ever swum in but instead of turning back (as a sane person would have as soon they dipped their first toe in) I kicked and pulled myself through the water as quickly as possible in an attempt to warm my muscles. I instead found that my skin slowly went numb and I couldn’t put my head under water for more than a few seconds as I got horrific brain freezes. But I kept going. One semi frozen arm after the next, following after dad until we both came to decision that we must put an end to this unpleasant absurdity and swam back to shore. We were shaking and numbed to the core when we pitifully crawled back onto the beach and sank onto the warm pebbles. We later found out that around Isola Bella is notorious for its cold currents. Even if around the cove was a little warmer, I wasn’t tempted at all to get back in! After I was warm and had soaked in my fair share of information about Sicily
I wandered back along the pebbly shore – daintily stepping to minimize pain to my feet. I went up the stairs and past the beautiful spring flowers as I went into our apartment.
We got dressed quite nicely (if i do say so myself!) and then walked down to the Funicular that took us up to Taormina. A truly gorgeous, ancient, town with cobbled alleys leading in all directions and panoramic views of the ocean and on a good day, Mt Etna.
We walked the whole length of the main street and back in search for the perfect little restaurant and eventually just took the plunge down a mystery alley and found ourselves a quite modern restaurant with lovely ambience and the most hilarious and genuinely charming waiter – Pepe. Pepe made our night. In between pouring wine and bringing out mouthwatering dishes he filled us in on the ins and outs of Sicilian wine, local history and interesting information about the best places to visit all with the funniest mannerisms ( we ended up laughing every time he came over to us) and genuine wish to make our evening as relaxed and pleasant as possible which he most certainly did. We stayed quite late, drinking wine and musing over everything from human nature to the many tribes who conquered Sicily, to the essence of Italian food and even our likelihood of death by Volcano (or terror tsunami caused by the bubbling underground volcano that scientists say could explode tomorrow or lay dormant for another 200 years)
Needless to say by the time we got home and crashed into bed we all slept very soundly.