Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.
How’s that for a profound statement? I love travelling! Visting new places, meeting new people, tasting new flavours. It increases my hunger to know more, see more and go more places. I’m fortunate enough travel a fair bit (not nearly enough, obviously) and I’m sure there are a lot of people who think I’m constantly on holiday! I’ll forgive them, because even if I’m travelling for something work-related, it’s a fun thing to be doing. I’ve been to some wonderful places, and it’s only fair that I share the experiences with you. Some destinations to consider when you’re planning your next trip, maybe?
First up, a spectacular Sicilian town that really captured my heart.
The beauty of Taormina
Do you believe in love at first sight? Does it take your breath away and capture your heart in an instant? That’s what happened to me in Taormina. And no, not with a person. I fell in love at first sight with an amazingly beautiful medieval town.
Sitting on the hill of Monte Tauro on the Italian island of Sicily, Taormina is 250 metres above the azure sea with sweeping views over two stunning bays and majestic Mount Etna in the distance.
It was founded in 392BC and through history a long list of peoples came, saw, conquered and left, including the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, French and Spanish. Why they departed is a mystery to me!
During the Second World War Ernest Hemingway convalesced here and was inspired to write his first short story. No surprise there; as inspirational places go, there can be few more spectacular. Nowadays the invaders are travellers like me, marvelling at this fairy-tale town.
The main thoroughfare, the Corso Umberto, is lined with beautiful medieval buildings which now house fabulous shops, bars and restaurants. You’ll also find grand piazzas, perfect for a coffee break and if churches are your thing, don’t miss the Fortress Duomo (and its dramatic fountain) and the picturesque Church of St Josephs.
Flowers spill out of window boxes, bougainvillea tumbles over balconies and staircases are festooned with blossoms in bright, tropical colours. Breathe in the perfumed air and take in the history, the views and the wonderful welcome.
We were hustled (in a friendly way) out of an art shop by the owner who insisted that before we did any shopping (even in his shop!) we had to visit the Teatro Greco – the most important monument in the town, he said. This magnificent amphitheatre was built in the 3rd century BC. Set on top of the cliff, its scale is mind-blowing as, again, are the views. During the summer they still hold concerts and theatre performances. Now that must be a spectacle to behold.
The town gardens are also worth a visit, perfect for a romantic amble down a shady avenue and an escape from the hustle and bustle of the streets. And from high up in the centre of Taormina, a cable car can take you down to some of the most famous beaches in Italy in just two minutes.
If all that’s not enough, Taormina is pure food heaven. Ingredients native to Sicily include lemons, olives, capers, pine nuts, anchovies, aubergines, artichokes, sardines, octopus and other seafood. The restaurants offer a stunning array of local dishes like Vitello alla Marsala and other veal dishes, seafood, salads, pastas…and the sweets! I’m not calling them desserts as it seems you eat them pretty much whenever the fancy takes.
If you’ve seen The Godfather (partly set in Sicily, though not in Taormina), you’ll know what cannoli is – delightful little (or huge in some cases) tubes filled with ricotta and sugar. And then there’s the ice cream and granita! Legend has it that in ancient Greek or Roman days, runners brought snow down from Mount Etna to Taormina to be flavoured with nuts, berries or honey as a treat for aristocrats. Who knows the true story – all I know is you’ll never taste better ice cream anywhere – and thankfully now anyone can have some.
After a day in Taormina you totally run out of adjectives (or repeat yourself a lot). There’s nothing for it but to accept you’ve discovered a wonderland, so surrender to your senses (and the superlatives) and savour every second.
Where’s your favourite place to travel to? Where do you still dream of going? What are your plans for the year? Do get in touch, I’d love to hear from you.