Because we met up with friends, because we based ourselves in one place, because it’s bookended by ferry crossings, our nine days in Sicily have seemed like a holiday-within-a-road-trip. Really sorry to see it end.
Here’s a short slideshow of some wonderful memories. Thanks so much to our good friends Helen and Roger for joining us.
Now we are heading north to spend Christmas with our two children in Bologna.
Two English women who came to Taormina for very different reasons left their mark.
Whilst walking in the welcoming public gardens we discovered a named statue of a woman; which is a rarity in any country. She was Florence Trevelyan who came to Sicily in 1884 to escape the scandal of a “sentimental liaison” with Edward VII. She fell in love with the town and also conveniently married one of the town’s wealthiest men and devoted herself to creating the public gardens, which we are still benefitting from today.
The other English woman was Daphne Phelps. In 1947, she inherited a house, Casa Cuseni, a rambling run down mansion on the edge of Taormina, set in about two acres of land.
She was encoutraged to sell the house, but instead devoted her life to its upkeep, by taking in artists and writers, making enough to keep it going. Greta Garbo, Tennessee Williams and Bertrand Russell all stayed there for the peace and quiet and views of Etna. Daphne wrote the book A House in Sicily about her time in Taorminaand you can still get a tour of the house and garden by private appointment.
The four of us were wandering round the Taormina backstreets when we discovered a small tennis club with three clay courts. Surrounded on two sides by tall apartment blocks with washing hanging colourfully from balconies and Mount Etna on a third, it was an inspiring location.
In the club house, we were told we could play as guests for ten euros an hour per person; not cheap by UK standards but justifying bringing the tennis rackets, balls and tennis kit 3000 miles.
They raked the court for us, and we attracted a small crowd of interested observers, to see how the Ingleezes played. However, despite our best efforts, we soon realised they were more interested in their iPhones and cappuccinos than watching us…
Perhaps we should try and play tennis in every country we visit.
In Taormina the place to enjoy the semi-frozen Granita Siciliana is the Bam Bar right in the historic centre.
The photograph below shows Hilary with her raspberry one, and our friends with their souped-up raspberry plus chocolate ones. To us the raspberry tasted like very fresh sorbet but better.
There are 23 flavours to choose from here and it’s traditional now to eat Granita with Italian brioche.
Originally Granita was based on Arabian Sherbert. But then using snow from Mount Etna and lemon juice, the Sicilians added their twist and by storing the snow in caves they had their own cool summer dessert.
It was 18 degrees here but felt a lot colder due to the heavy rain and strong winds. So time for rain jackets and umbrellas.
But it didn’t stop your intrepid bloggers – and their friends Helen and Roger – enjoying a full day of sightseeing in Ortygia (Syracuse), the Parco Archeologico della Neapolis and Noto. The streets were deserted, so we had the places to ourselves.
Locals tell us that the weather is getting worse with more frequent, heavier downpours and flash floods; the roads quickly end up as rivers.
We spent yesterday asking Sicilians which way they were voting. Nearly everyone said “No” and made some negative comment about the government.
So the scale of the referendum “No” vote came as little surprise to us. 60% voted “No”, in a high turnout. Matteo Renzi, the PM has resigned.
Just as in Britain there’s a feeling here that politicians are only interested in themselves. People want change and they are taking it out on anyone who is failing to listen and deliver. This was as much a referendum about Matteo Renzi, the government and the state of Europe, as about the question on the ballot paper.
It was getting dusk in Taormina. Outside the church a fabulously elegant crowd was waiting; men in crisp dinner jackets and women in expensive full length dresses. The strange thing to us was that a significant number of the women were dressed in black, but apparently in Sicily that’s quite normal.
Then the square went quiet and the photographers pointed their cameras up the hill.
The bride was arriving.
It was a pleasure to watch a daughter and her father walk into the church together. Such a special day for both of them.
One day, one church, one wedding. A scene repeated all around the world.
There’s been talk for years about building a suspension bridge across the Straits of Messina. And now Matteo Renzi in the run-up to Sunday’s referendum has revived the idea. It would be spectacular – think the Golden Gate Bridge but much bigger.
Clearly it would be welcomed by the Sicilians, but apparently not by the Calabrians. “We have so many problems, there’s so much to fix, we can’t afford a bridge” one woman told us.
Anyway, as travellers we would miss ferries. They enhance the expectation, create a special moment and make the world seem bigger.
We are here in Sicily for a week. Time to wash our clothes….