This week in Postcard, Adam Hurrell recommends Taormina, Sicily
Taormina is perched on top of a cliff looking out across the Ionian Sea and is one of the most beautiful towns in all of Sicily. Positioned about halfway between Messina and Catania, Taormina has been an immensely popular tourist destination since the 19th century. The town was a particular favourite of artists and intellectuals during the 20th century. It was home to English writers D H Lawrence and Daphne Phelps. During her time in Taormina from 1948-1999, Phelps entertained friends and fellow writers, including Bertrand Russell, Roald Dahl and Tennessee Williams. One of Taormina’s most well-known artists in residence was German photographer Wilhelm von Gloeden, who lived in the town for almost 50 years before his death in 1931. Oscar Wilde is also said to have visited, making it a town adored by bohemians and academics alike.
Taormina is characterised by small alleyways, cobbled streets and squares with delightfully Mediterranean cafés. If you are a lover of ice cream, you will be more than catered for. And for those with a penchant for designer clothes, you really are spoilt for choice as the shopping in this cliff top retreat is exceptional.
My favourite place:
As a lover of history I found the Teatro Greco, otherwise known as the Greek Theatre, fascinating. It’s an ancient theatre that, despite its name, was most likely built by the Romans on the base of an older theatre originally constructed by the Greeks. It is the second-largest theatre in Sicily, after Syracuse, with a diameter of nearly 110 metres. It is still used today as a stunning setting for operas and concerts. The theatre is at the very top of the town and the view across the bay is breathtaking and worth the climb alone. Go to the top of the auditorium and take a seat for a few minutes and drink in the atmosphere. You can’t help but marvel at an incredible feat of engineering that has stood the test of time.
The main square in Taormina, is charming and looks out across the bay below. Lunch in one of the many restaurants is something you won’t ever forget. Another highlight of Taormina is the Carvajal Palace, which is in the Piazza Badia. An Arabic tower dominates the main body of the palace and further Arabic influences can also be seen in an inner courtyard. In 1410, Carvaja Palacel housed the Sicilian Parliament and it was heavily renovated after the Second World War. Ice cream is something the Italians are famous for and with good reason – they make the best in the world. No visit to Taormina would be complete without trying some of the local ice cream and I cannot recommend La Gelateria on Corso Umberto, the central street of Taormina, enough. With an array of flavours so vast you could honestly spend all day deciding which one to chose, it has some of the best ice cream I have ever tasted.
Taormina, like so many picturesque towns in Europe, is fiercely expensive. Walking is certainly the main mode of transport here and on cobbled streets, it can be tiring.
Like all tourist spots, there are plenty of places where you can purchase local souvenirs to remind you of your trip. The shopping in Taormina is good, especially for designer clothes and jade jewellery. You can also purchase lacework and jewellery made out of pumice stone (volcanic rock) as Taormina is close to Mount Etna.
Where to stay:
Taormina is a very affluent town and is home to numerous five-star hotels. Having stayed at the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, I can vouch for its splendour. The nearby Hotel Villa Diodoro, is also excellent and slightly cheaper.
Top five things to do:
1. Visit the Teatro Greco
2. Visit Carvajal Palace
3. Have some local ice cream
4. Take the cable car down to the beach
5. Have lunch in the main square and enjoy the view