“To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.”
– Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, 1787
Sitting in the heart of the Mediterranean, Sicily has been conquered and ruled by many cultures. The island’s ties to Italy are a new chapter in its long history. The Phoenicians, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Romans, British, and French all left their mark on Sicily. From Greek theatres to a rich cuisine and culture, Sicily is uniquely its own.
Whenever I get to writing these guides I learn more fascinating history about the place. In my research I discovered that Goethe praised Taormina’s beauty and magnificent scenery in his book the Italian Journey. It is because of his poetic imagery that Sicily was added as a must destination in the “Grand Tour” – a traditional trip in the 17th and 18th century that European aristocrats took through Europe when they came of age.
“The purity of the sky, the tang of the sea air, the haze which, as it were, dissolved mountains, sky and sea into one element”
It was indeed Goethe’s lyrical prose that led to the popularisation of Taormina, a Sicilian village nestled on a mountaintop overlooking the Ionian Sea.
The views Taormina offers are truly magnificent. We wandered through Taormina to take in our surroundings – breathtaking views of the sea on one side and mountains covered with lush greenery on the other. Beyond the village of Taormina lies a castle that watches over the village and further in the distance but just on the next mountain top, lies the small village of Castelmola, tucked away in the clouds.
Within the village we found beautiful stone churches, plazas and statues (and some big floppy hats to rock too!)
We wandered into gelaterias and confectionaries to get a taste of the Sicilian dolce vita.
We wandered from one edge of the town to the other to take it all in.
We are surrounded by the sea in Malta but these long stretches of seemingly endless coastline from Taormina’s vantage point were something else.
We passed by beautiful mosaics through the outdoor walkways. Greek and Roman influence is evident in Taormina.
Strolling through the residential areas of Taormina we spotted balconies full of flowers and beautiful courtyards. Bitter orange trees lined the streets with restaurants on every corner.
We read that the Ancient Greek Theatre of Taormina was something that we couldn’t miss on our visit to Taormina. Built in the third century BC, this spectacularly placed theatre was built by the Greeks and then later adopted by the Romans who renovated it with bricks. Today it is still being used as an open-air theatre in summer.
We were a little bummed to find construction works in progress as we wandered the theatre. The open-air theatre in summer calls for a modern stage. When we were visiting they were building the stage during visitor hours and it took away from the beauty of this historic site.
As the Sicilians say, when life gives you lemons, make limoncello.
After a beautiful day trip in Taormina we left for a seaside dinner in Giardini Naxos. We found a restaurant situated right on the beach. If my descriptions of Taormina didn’t convince you to go to Sicily, then boy let me tell you about the food.
Gina ordered a salmon and truffle pizza, which she said was the best pizza of her life, Miles and I both ordered the spaghetti al nero (spaghetti with squid ink) and Jonas ordered a pizza topped with so much goodness – hardboiled eggs and all. Truly divine.
Watching the sun set over the bay with a volcanic wine in hand was pure magic.
So what are you waiting for, grab your closest friends and take a trip to Sicily!