Taormina is a not-so-hidden gem in Sicily, located approximately 200 m. above the sea level (which ensures a really nice breeze) and offers an incredible view of the bay, historical tales and monuments, a tasty cuisine, and a deep cultural heritage. However, I must admit that I was quite disappointed regarding the volume of tourists. Unfortunately other people have found this great place..so I would definitely not recommend to go there in July/August, unless of course you wish to drown in the sweaty tourist-wave (instead go Jun/Sep or even before or after..as long as you avoid July/August).
On a random movie exhibition I managed to stumble on Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s “The Leopard” (which is apropos a brilliant piece of work telling the spellbinding story of a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by the approaching forces of democracy and revolution) which is describing really well, I think, the Italian character and one of the main reasons for why the country is the way it is:
“All this shouldn’t last; but it will, always; the human ‘always’ of course, a century, two centuries… and after that it will be different, but worse. We were the Leopards, the Lions; those who’ll take our place will be little jackals, hyenas; and the whole lot of us, Leopards, jackals, and sheep, we’ll all go on thinking ourselves the salt of the earth.”
Italy will never change – as it simply does not believe that anyone can teach Italy how to be Italy. Therefore I have decided not to question the country so much, but just enjoy it as it is and have another bowl of squid-ink pasta and another good glass of wine.
When in Sicily you need to eat – the Sicilian cuisine is one of the best I have tried, and there is a high chance you will leave rounder than when you arrived. Especially I would recommend to try:
Granita (DO NOT THINK THIS IS SLUSH-ICE OR CALL IT A SLUSH-ICE. THAT IS DISGRACEFUL). Contrary to the slush-ice from most European countries (made of crushed ice and added some artificial syrup where you often suck out the bottom and are left with some tasteless crushed ice) – a granita is made out of water, sugar and various flavorings usually made from fresh fruits, all mixed into a puree and occasionally scraped with a fork to form its granular to flaky consistency. It is perfect if you are hot or grumpy. Go for a lemon Granita if it is a very hot day, or actually just go for them all. They are all good. Though..if you really want to find yourself in paradise: mix lemon granita with beer… before you know it you’ll forget about whatever problem you ever had and find yourself in heaven.
A sicilian breakfast: Starting your day with a huge mound of ice cream on a big gorgeous and fat brioche. Seems too decadent and misplaced? Meh, it could have been worse. Italians always start the day with something sweet, and the frozen part actually makes sense: eating something very cold will lower the body’s temperature (a good idea when your clothes is going to be soaked with sweat by 9 a.m.). In a larger sense it reflects Sicily’s cultural history, an ability to adapt to any situation in order to further survival, as well as the ultimate enjoyment of life. BTW don’t forget your coffee.
Squid-ink pasta: Food made pitch black with squid ink is not a culinary gadget – it is an addiction. If you think it looks horrible due to the color – that is ok. Then there is more for the rest of us. The intense black color and strong taste..makes you crave for more and more until none is left. I am already depressed by the thought that I will not be eating this for a while.
Yum yum! And then obviously…. there is the spritz. You cannot skip that. If you want a very nice view accompanied with your spritz (and do not mind paying 30 EUR for your drink) then enjoy it at Grand Hotel Timeo. You will not regret.
All in all the few days we spent were great and we managed to eat and drink way much more than we probably should have done…but, well, who cares. The squid-ink pasta was worth it.