So my latest travel adventure has just begun: three weeks in Sicily to get to know this beautiful historic island and to learn Italian in another cultural immersion experiment. My regular readers will know that I love to learn languages and in the last couple of years I have a chance to study Spanish in Havana and in two different language schools in colonial Cuernavaca, Mexico, all wonderful experiences. In the meantime my Spanish has become pretty presentable and I thought I would expand my linguistic and travel horizon a little bit and add Italian to the menu.
The Porta di Messina in Taormina, rainy weather on my first day…
My brother and sister-in-law, both of whom live in Austria, regularly travel to Italy and just simply rave about this country, and I thought that it’s been a long time since I travelled to “Il Belpaese”, so it was time to venture forth and explore this beautiful country. I had seen a bit of northern Italy, but what I really wanted to explore was Southern Italy, and over the last couple of months I had been reading travel books for a variety of travel regions south of Naples.
Narrow alleyways in Taormina
What I settled on was Sicily – I love islands, and for millennia Sicily has been at the confluence of many cultures. This was sure going to be an interesting place. So yesterday, after an extremely hectic day at work my husband finally took me to the airport in the early afternoon and I got off without a hitch on my flight with Alitalia to Milan. Ever the astute traveller, I had cashed in some Airmiles to get a free return flight to Sicily, an excellent way to keep travel costs down.
Entrance to the historic Palazzo Corvaja
At the airport I had a nice chat with a young Italian engineer who regularly travels to Toronto to look after client projects. He was telling me about the long working hours at his company in Milan, and I realized that not everywhere in Italy does “dolce far niente” (the “sweet doing nothing”) reign supreme. Despite the laid back atmosphere that the tourists are seeking, Italy of course is a modern industrialized nation, with the same economic pressures every other Western nation faces.
Taormina’s historic Torre dell’Orologio and next door the “Wünderbar”
After a brief touchdown in Milan and another landing in Rome I was finally on the third and last leg of my trip to Catania, the second largest city in Sicily, after the capital, Palermo. All the formalities were quick and my suitcase arrived in no time, and just outside the airport I hopped into a bus that would bring me directly to Taormina, the destination for the first eight days of my 21 day trip.
Interesting stores along Taormina’s main street, the Corso Umberto
Taormina is one of Sicily’s most popular and beautiful travel destinations. Perched on a mountain called Monte Tauro high above the Mediterranean, Taormina has been a popular vacation spot for over 100 years now. Its recorded history dates back to the fourth century before Christ. Naxos, a town close to Taormina on the seafront, was founded even earlier in 735 B.C. and is the oldest Greek settlement in Sicily.
Narrow alleyways in Taormina and steps are everywhere