Taormina was on Ton’s must see list today. I made a scouting run down to the terminal to discover the best way to Taormina. Option 1 was a hop on hop off bus that gave us use of the tourist bus and the regular bus for €14 each or take a regular bus for €3. We were torn about what to do, and still had not made up our mind when we got to the terminal. We finally chose the regular bus, but after we bought the ticket the cashier who must have heard our debate, asked the Hop on Hop off bus driver to let us ride to Taormina, so we ended up with the best of both worlds. This good samaritan was the same guy who had rebuffed my earlier attempt to ask him about the bus to Taormina in Italian, with a gruff “What do you want?” in English.
Taormina has been a town since the ancient Greeks, and it is really a spectacular site on a large bluff overlooking the harbor at Giardini-Naxos. We were dropped off at a nondescript bus terminal, but as soon as we began hiking up the road to the town the views were spectacular. As we got closer to the town center we both became more charmed. Despite the fact that Taormina is definitely on the tourist trail, complete with all of the brand name stores lining its main street, it still had a spirit that we both really enjoyed.
The town meanders up and down hill. The main road is wide and flat, but all of the roads off of it are either up or down and quite narrow, which adds to the atmosphere. Off of the main road the shops were run by locals who were very friendly without being pushy. Ton had picked out two potential restaurants for lunch, but one had gone out of business, and the other was not open. Just down the street was a cheese store that advertised lunch and we were both drawn to it. We went inside to take a look and saw a restaurant in the back. We asked the lady at the counter if they served lunch and she said yes in an hour, would we like a reservation. Something I have learned is that in romance languages my short name “Ron” (in Spanish it means Rum) is perplexing, so when she acted confused about my name I switched it to Ronaldo, she immediately connected the dots and had a good laugh with one of the customers.
Having an hour to kill we decided to head up to the Greek Theater which is the big attraction in town. When we got there it was €10 to get in, and since we have seen a lot of antiquity sites on this trip decided to pass. We still had time to kill so we went to the municipal park and sat down on a park bench to enjoy the views.
The lunch at the cheese shop was superb. We opted for a Sicilian food and wine tasting. It consisted of three wines, and a plate of cheeses, meats, and grilled vegetables. We have had a lot of good meals on our trips in Europe, but we both agreed that so far this is the best. The food and wine while simple was fresh and delicious. The service of the husband and wife was great and they enjoyed explaining the food and wine to us. They were clearly proud of their Sicilian heritage and happy to share it with us. At the end neither of us could bring ourselves to leave so we stalled with a coffee, and an aperitif. Ton was tempted to return for dinner, but they were full, though we could tell if we pushed and had some flexibility they would have found a way to accommodate us. We rarely mention places by name but if you are ever in town do not miss La Bottega Del Formaggio.