We left our cottage in Gioiosa Marea today, and continued down the Sicilian coast. Along the way, we stopped to visit a couple towns. The first one we saw was a hill town called San Fratello. It was raining, and Mom was the only one brave enough to pop her head out for a look around a nearby cemetery. There were a number of large tombs, each one for a different family. However, as the rest of us were keen to stay dry, we moved on. Even my mom was done after a few minutes.
Taormina: The symbol of Sicily since the 1200s
The next place we stopped at was Taormina. Luckily, the weather had improved by now. We walked through the town for a bit, enjoying the unseasonably warm sunshine. It seems like it's never winter here. There were lots of crowded shop windows to look into, full of pottery, jewelry, and other trinkets. Each pottery shop had a number of decorations with a rather bizarre symbol on them: a woman's head with a pair of wings and three legs sticking out of it. It turns out to be the symbol of Sicily, and is called a triskelion or trinacria. It's on the Sicilian flag, and trinacria was actually an ancient name for Sicily. If you're interested, the full story is here. There were a number of bright, breezy squares to stroll through, and many ever-winding streets, as is typical of the Sicilian towns we've seen (and driven through, as you've heard). We had lunch at a little diner, and tried some Italian foods that were foreign to us. Our favourite was arancini, which are fried rice balls made from risotto coated in breadcrumbs. The three varieties we had were ragù, spinach and prosciutto. And what would a sunny day in Sicily be without gelato?
Taormina: View from near castle above town
We explored Taormina a little more, and took a hike up a bluff nearby in order to get a view of the town. There were lots and lots of cacti covering the hillside, which was a little surprising, at least to me. I wasn't aware that Italy had the right climate for plants like that to flourish. There was a little church on the way up, as well as stone sculptures of the Stations of the Cross every several steps. Unfortunately, we never did see the top. There was a large locked gate blocking our way, and an impassable stone wall, though my dad and sister argued otherwise. In the end, we told ourselves that it's in the journey, not the destination, and headed back down the bluff.
While we were climbing, we saw an amphitheatre located on another nearby cliff. We decided to go visit it as well, seeing as it had looked so impressive. We're getting pretty good at appreciating ruins, especially amphitheatres (this is our third this trip). We got to walk around inside and up and down the steps, most likely contributing to the erosion of the two thousand year old monument. There was a fantastic view of the Mediterranean waters and Sicilian coast as well. It was a tough town to leave. I've already decided to return.
We drove another half hour to get to Sant'Alessio Siculo. It took a little while to find the campsite, but in comparison to our last place, it was a breeze. The place feels kind of like a motor home, except it's bigger and doesn't have wheels. The owners, who are brother and sister, are very friendly (as are most Sicilians), and have never hosted Canadians before. We think we'll give them a pin. After shopping for dinner at one of the most depressing grocery stores ever, we settled into our accommodations. We're looking forward to a walk on the beach tomorrow.