About Me

I am a 45 year husband and dad, currently adjusting to life back in the United States after living in Italy for a little over two years. I love spending time with my family, cycling, model railroading, mosaics and watching TV and movies.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Villa Romana and Taormina

It's Wednesday and today was a travel day.  We checked out of Hotel Kalura in Cefalu and checked into Hotel del Corso in  Taormina.  

The drive from Cefalu to Taormina takes about 2 1/2 hours.  We would be moving from the northern coast to the eastern coast.  

Along the way we decided to visit Villa Romana, near the town of Piazza Armerina.  It is located about halfway to Taormina, near the center of Sicily.  Unfortunately, we arrived only to find out that the Villa was closed until March 19th for rehabilitation.  Villa Romana is considered an extraordinary Unesco World Heritage site and probably the most important Roman site in Sicily.  It is thought to have been the property of Maximian, coemperor during the reign of Diocletian.  Although there are other Roman villas located in Greece and Croatia, this villa stands out due its size and its extensive mosaics.  This is what I was looking forward to seeing - the mosaics.  

A man at the gate told us of the closure and suggested we visit a museum located just across the valley, so we headed that way, mostly for the reason of finding a WC (restroom).  What a disappointment!  The museum cost 10 euro for all three of us, and we were able to use a WC, but the museum was a waste of time.  Our conclusion:  this was a family owned museum showing off a few sculptures, some old family furniture and other very random items.  It had nothing to do with the Roman villa.  The man at the Roman villa gate was probably the father of the family, directing people to his museum while he had a chance.  Here is some of the randomness found inside:  

I neglected to take a photo of the old furniture.  At the end we decided it was money well spent for each of us to use a clean and modern WC, a rarity in Italy.  

At this point we decided to just head to Taormina, check in and sightsee in town.  

On our way back to the Autostrada, we stopped for lunch at da Carlo Ristorante Pizzeria.  We enjoyed some bruschetta and some really fantastic pasta dishes.  

Further down the Autostrada, in the middle of nowhere, we had to make another WC stop.  We found this little place (behind the Coke can) along a side road. Katrina told me the inside looked very much like a greasy American diner.  The interesting part was this Coca Cola can - 1/2 liter.  We've never seen a can of soda this big.  Usually its in bottles when its more than 12ounces.  

We headed on to Taormina and checked in around 3:30pm.  Unfortunately, and we don't know why, our three person room was not available.  They offered us a double room and a single room for the first night.  We decided to take the double room only.  Brandon would be sleeping with us.  We asked for a discount for the inconvenience.  They told us that we would get our seaview 3 person room tomorrow night.  

After getting settled in our room, we headed out into Taormina.  Taormina is a tourist town, with shops, restaurants, and tour groups.  It's located on the high on the side of Monte Tauro, overlooking the Ionian Sea and with spectacular views of Mt Etna.  This town is full of wealth, much different than most of Sicily. 

Taormina was the capital of Byzantine Sicily in the 9th century, and today stands as a preserved medieval town.  

Crazy boy!

Duomo and baroque fountain (1625)

Posing over the Ionian Sea

The coast, looking towards Catania.  

Chiesa San Giuseppe

We wanted to visit Taormina's most famous sight, the Teatro Greco, but it closed at 4pm and we arrive around 4:15.  Maybe tomorrow.  

It was getting dark as we made our way back towards the hotel.  We decided to get a bite to eat before heading to our room.  We found a great bar, Carpe Diem, just outside the town wall from our hotel.  This ended up being a fantastic choice.  We were not too hungry, since we had a big lunch, so we each ordered bruschetta.  I had pomodoro and mozzarella.  Brandon had green olive.  Katrina had black olive.  I also enjoyed a nice red wine.  Katrina ordered a mixed drink, a Carpe Diem.

Carpe Diem, the house drink.  

As the evening progressed, this gentlemen started playing his guitar and singing Italian songs.  It was fantastic. He kept playing and chatting with us.  We soon learned his name - Salvatore.  What a great guy.  I think we stayed in the bar for a couple of hours before retiring to the room.  Brandon even sang a song with him and did some dancing.  On the way out Brandon said it was the best night ever.  What a fantastic experience!!

Tomorrow we will visit Mt Etna.    

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