In The Writers' Footsteps
Scooting along the A18 north from Catania is a little surreal. With the soaring, smoking peak of Mt Etna looming over our left shoulder and the coastline tumbling away into the Mediterranean on our right we followed the oleander lined highway to Taormina.
It seems almost impossible to write anything new and original about this lovely hillside town which has been described over the centuries by the likes of Goethe and DH Lawrence to name but a few. How can I possibly wax lyrical in that league? As we exit the highway our first decision is whether to head up, to the town of Taormina itself, or down to the seaside. We decide on down. Most of this strip is now controlled by hotels and the pebbly alcoves are considered private property. I recall the battle the community of Palm Beach in Sydney waged against one of its wealthy citizens when he tried to claim the water front in front of his property as private. I don't think so, mate.
There is however, one stunning little bay which remains accessible to the public. The centrepiece of this tiny bay is an aptly named island called Isola Bella. Attached to the mainland by a narrow spit which is washed over by ankle deep water at one point, the outcrop has several buildings scattered over its flanks and peak. Although these appear to be ruins of ancient buildings, on closer inspection it seems there has been some reno work done and these could now quite possibly be quite exclusive residences. This is only our guess, of course. We descend a set of narrow steps to reach the water's edge and negotiate our way past the clothing and souvenir vendors and the roped off private section to reach a patch where we can set up camp.
This is no beach by Australian standards. It's visual beauty is counter-balanced by the sheer uncomfortableness of sitting on a ground covered in walnut sized pebbles. Reaching the water involves struggling across even larger smooth rounded rocks. We spend a brief time here swimming in the beautiful, clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea before heading off for the upper town. The town of Taormina itself is built around a series of hairpin bends ascending ever upward. We stroll the length of the main retail precinct where numerous souvenir shops spill out from ancient stone buildings then stop for a snack before retracing our path and on to Niscemi to meet Jeremy's host family.
I would definitely recommend Taormina as one of the top places to visit in Sicily.
Go to next article: Driving in Sicily: Catania to Niscemi