Arrival in Taormina and First Impressions

I had read so much about Taormina, and several of my friends had already been there and all agreed it was a beautiful place – a definite must-see during a visit of Sicily. Well, when I got there the weather was starting to cloud over, and I checked in at my abode for the next eight days. Hotel Villa Nettuno is a two-star hotel located on the north side of Taormina with a beautiful view of the Mediterranean. I dropped off my luggage and started to stroll into town to look for the Italian language school where I would be studying Italian next week.

Taormina’s Porta di Catania

After a relaxing walk up Via Pirandello, past a variety of street vendors and several restaurants, I walked through the Gate of Messina past the large open space in front of historic Palazzo Corvaja, through a number of narrow winding side streets, and dodged a variety of Vespa riders who navigated the narrow passageways between the homes. Just seven or eight minutes after I left I had reached my destination, the Babilonia Language School, and met Angela, the school’s accommodation coordinator. She showed me around and gave me a variety of useful local tips. I was also able to use the schools computers free of charge to access the Internet and found out about the excursions that the school was offering in the next few days.

View of tennis courts towards Mount Etna from the Babilonia Language School

The school’s location is great, on the southern edge of town, overlooking some clay tennis court with, what I was told, a beautiful view of Mount Etna and the Mediterranean coastline. At the moment the famous volcano was completely shrouded in an increasingly dark set of clouds. The schools rooftop computer room and terrace provide a beautiful place for the students to gather. After Angela gave me a tour throughout the entire facility it was time to head out and satiate my growling stomach. I found a little corner café called “Mambar” where I had a seat and enjoyed a foccaccia sandwich with cheese. From my comfortable spot on the outdoor terrace I was watching a variety of miniature delivery vans backing in an out of the narrow alleyway, all the while admiring their driving skills.

Piazza IX Aprile in Taormina

But now the nice weather had ended and the sluices of heaven opened up. I kept sitting on the terrace because fortunately a large awning was keeping the patrons dry, but huge drops of water kept pelting the pavement. I started a conversation with a retired German lady from Hamburg who has travelled to this area numerous times. She and her husband used to go to Tuscany many times until they decided to explore Sicily. So they loaded their car onto the train and travelled this way to Northern Italy from there they embarked on a driving vacation to Sicily. Unfortunately her husband had passed away recently and due to her poor eyesight she is unable to drive any longer, so this year she flew to Sicily. This conversation illustrated to me that even advanced age and failing eyesight can’t keep a real travel enthusiast at home, and this woman in her late seventies was still nurturing her quest for adventure.

Bougainvilleas are blooming everywhere

Jetlag was catching up with me, and I started my stroll back to the hotel. On the way I stopped at an ice cream stand and chatted a bit with Claude, the owner. At 1.25 Euros, his ice cream was not just delicious, but also very affordable, and Sicilian ice cream is a real treat. Claude added that he would feel guilty if he charged more than his usual price. He said he’s never going to get rich as an ice cream vendor, but he definitely loves his job and enjoys interacting with the locals and the tourists.

Claude, my favourite icecream vendor

Well, my first day in Italy was a success, I had arrived safe and sound with all my luggage intact, found my way to Taormina, liked me hotel and hooked up with the school the will be my second home all through next week. I can’t wait to start my discoveries….

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