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Report 105: 10 Days in Sicily

By Shannon from CA, Fall 2000

Trip Description: I went to Sicily by myself and it was an intense experience. Sicily is a land of extremes; from beautiful seaside villages to rolling hills filled with vineyards and Greek ruins to medieval cities cut into the sides of mountains to truly bizarre, Blade Runner cities.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Sicily

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Foodie Trip; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; Single Traveler

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Page 1 of 4: Part 1 - Taormina

I went to Sicily by myself and it was an intense experience. Sicily is a land of extremes; from beautiful seaside villages to rolling hills filled with vineyards and Greek ruins to medieval cities cut into the sides of mountains to truly bizarre, Blade Runner cities. There is so much history there, it reeks. I donít think people realize how many cultures have had control of Sicily and left their mark there - the Greeks, Phoenicians, Arabs, Normans ... in Venice, itís always been the Venetians! (Well, except for that Austrian occupation, but that doesnít count.)

Anyway, I had 10 days and I covered a lot of ground, maybe too much ground but I am happy that I did it that way because I saw some amazing things, though it would have been really easy and would have made me really happy to just lay on the beach in Taormina the whole time.

Trip report part 1 - Taormina So... here we go. Taormina was first. I flew into Catania and caught a cab to Taormina. The cab trip was my first experience on a Sicilian highway and he went faster than the airplane from Rome did.

I stayed at the Hotel President Splendid, a cheap, funky, awesome place to stay. The room was very small but it had a little balcony with a view of the sea! I loved it. I asked for a glass of wine to bring up to my room and the guy gave me a magnum bottle maybe 1/3 full for about $2.00. So I drank that and unpacked and went out to explore the town.

But I went the wrong way and I was kind of jetlagged so I stopped and had a pizza at some tourist place and went back early to the hotel, crashed and woke up at 3 AM and got some of my fill of Italian TV - Wonder Woman dubbed in Italian (!!!) plus a lot of other weirdness that I loved. I watched the sun rise over the ocean which, being a California girl, is a real treat. Passed out for a while and then got up to really explore Taormina.

Taormina is so beautiful, I could stay there for a month. The town is built on a steep hill, and walking up the hill through lovely streets filled with flowers, I found a path leading up a mountain, so I took it. I didnít realize what I was getting into, but was it ever worth it. It was kind of like climbing Half Dome, but with stairs. The path had statues of the seven Stations of the Cross leading all the way up the mountain and at the top of the mountain there was a church.

So I am going up and up and up, and looking down I can see the whole town and the sea, and the Teatro Greco, an ancient Greek theater carved into a hill. It was breathtaking, stunning, and at the top there was a bar (woo hoo!) so I sat and had wine and looked at Mt. Etna smoke and wrote first postcard to Mom (Cara Mom, drinking wine and watching Mt. Etna smoke. I love it here already, love Shannon.) Walking down the mountain, I saw all the fanciful hotels with really cool pools; I still love my hotel, but some of those places look VERY romantic.

Back in town, I went to lunch at a place called Gamberro Rosso, at an outside table, it was all foreigners eating there, including a really obnoxious group of American women. My first Sicilian lunch - salad, fritto misto, wine, very nice, cute waiter with a Hawaiian shirt that kept "checking his package."

After lunch I found a really nice wine shop, the proprietor, when he found out I love wine, showed me all his special wines, and he was very passionate and I bought the most expensive Sicilian wine, called Duca Enrico, and it was not that expensive, plus a bottle of Sicilian dessert wine that I brought home. The wine shop is right near the clock tower in the middle of town and it is called Di Culoso Pancrazia so if you want some really good wine on your ultra romantic trip to Taormina, go in there and get some Duca Enrico.

I stopped at the Wunderbar - a famous bar that Elizabeth Taylor loved - and like so many places in Italy, I canít figure out why people think a glass of wine for $4.50 is expensive? It was so hot that I had to sit in the shade, the square was very quiet, and jasmine petals were dropping on me.

Later, took the funicular thing down to the ocean, looked around, and on the way up I am standing next to these two British people, and there is something about them that is really annoying me. I thought, wherever I go, these two are going to end up sitting next to me. Sure enough, sitting on the traffic-less Corso Umberto, at a cool bar watching the passagiata, they sit down right next to me. I am not speaking and I am writing in my journal and this is what I wrote about them: They talk of death, of marble slabs, of toxemia; not of the warm breeze and the tasty fishes they might eat later.

Then something amazing happened. We became friends. After two different guys asked to join me (being constantly hit on is something I am going to have to get used to) the British girl says to the British boy, maybe I should be alone like her. So, somehow we start talking. Alex is a classical pianist, and Clea is a cellist, and I bring them up to date on what is going on in British pop music. I guessed both their ages (I am psychic that way and they were both in their late 20s and really a lot of fun.)

We went to a restaurant for dinner that had a Sicilian band complete with Accordion player with hair like Elvis. I donít even remember what we ate, but the band loved us, and Alex surprised them with his amazing voice. It was one of those really incredible, fun dinners where everyone is having a great time because they are on vacation.

Back at the hotel, an old man (oh, excuse me, older gentleman) wanted to do my portrait in pastels "for hobby, not for money." It really looks like me, if you turn it upside down.

Back in my room, my first view of Orion this year, millions of stars, listening to the Doves (very important new British band - now Clea and Alex know.)

Next day, plans for exploring Mt. Etna with Clea and Alex were dropped for new plan of lying on the beach with Clea and Alex. The sea, so warm and salty, so many cute guys running around in Speedos.

Later, I head back up the hill because I must leave tomorrow and I have to see the Teatro Greco before I go. The guy lets me in for free (because heís going to hit on me later). The Teatro Greco is amazing. I am trying to imagine what it was like 2000 years ago, filled with people, looking out over the sea and Mt. Etna, watching Antigone. Most of whatís left is Roman and they had gladiators there, so then I tried to imagine what that was like, and so Russell Crowe was there with me, which isnít such a bad thing. On my way out, the ticket guy strikes up a conversation and I ask him where the locals eat. He tells me, and then asks me to meet him at some cafe later. They donít miss an opportunity, those Sicilians.

So, I meet Alex and Clea at the bar where we first met, and I had promised to take Clea for a drink at the Wunderbar (Clea is broke and very vocal about it, but I really want her to be able to experience the Wunderbar.) We sat at a table by the sea and everyone, us, all the people in the square, just exuded happiness ... then we head to this locals restaurant - it is called Trattoria San Pancrazio, and we had a great dinner with pasta and fish and lots of wine. There is a big group of Sicilians next to us with a baby boy, and Clea is oohing and ahhing and the father takes the baby and puts him into Cleaís arms. When does that ever happen here? She held the baby for a really long time and the baby played with Cleaís beautiful blond hair and the parents just carried on. After dinner the waiter brought us the most delicious dessert wine - called Vino Alla Mandola, white wine infused with almond flavor.

It was Saturday night, and we went out to find a karaoke bar (for them, NOT for me) but the karaoke didnít start till midnight, so we went to another bar and sat outside with a lot of rich Italians. Sat on my balcony until 5AM listening to music and some weird stuff goes on in Taormina late at night. Think "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone." No, I did NOT throw my keys.

Clea and Alex wanted me to stay one more day - and I wish now that I did, but left, in the AM, for Siracusa.

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