Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Taormina or Bust!

As CR mentioned in his earlier post, we have yet to resolve the mystery of the missing 9:00 a.m. bus, although the traffic along Via Liberta was truly lousy at that hour. Standing there for 25 minutes waiting for the bus, I figure we must've huffed about 400 pounds of car and bus exhaust apiece. This one tiny ray of hope wasn't enough to make a dent in the damage:

Electric Minivan, Catania Sicily

So we headed back to the apt. for an hour, to shower & regroup, and then hiked down to the bus station, bought tickets, and boarded the 11:00 bus for Taormina. Without the deathly-ill CR! Translator-less across eastern Sicily!

When you're headed for one of the biggest tourist hot-spots in Sicily, though, I guess having a command of Italian is probably less important. Is it comforting or insulting to address someone in rudimentary Italian and receive the response in excellent English? The only person we encountered on the trip who didn't seem to speak English was the angry-old-woman panhandler who cursed us eight different ways in Italian when we didn't give her any money.

It continues to be overcast and foggy/smoggy over Catania & the rest of the general Mt. Etna area, so this is the best photo I got of Etna:

Mt. Etna, Sicily

Can you find the giant volcano in that photo?

Monday seems to be the day in Taormina when a lot of things are closed, so we didn't get to check out the Museo Siciliano di Arte e Tradizioni Popolari, which the guidebook says contains "twenty-five panel paintings . . . showing various people being saved by miraculous intervention from such terrible fates as falling onto a stove or being attacked by cats." Dang!

We did wander around the Teatro Greco-Romano, where we saw a lot of middle-aged American women bellowing at each other from one side of the bowl to the other. Not to belabor a point that has been addressed at length by 1000 other writers, but at this point, the obesity epidemic in the USA is beginning to make us look like a different species. We're fatter than the Germans & the Brits, even. Sorry, no photos to illustrate that point. Be grateful.

It's still fairly trivial to factor out the tourists, and the overcast skies, when confronted with this, however:

Teatro Greco-Romano, Taormina Sicily

Note that Mt. Etna should more or less be framed dead-center in that photo. Sigh.

After il Teatro, we set our sights on the highest landmark available: the Castello Saraceno, which towers over Taormina on Monte Tauro, the peak that Taormina surrounds on three sides. It's reached by a seemingly endless series of switchbacked stairs and paths. And presumably because there's a convent near the top, the entire path is lined with these crazy Stations-of-the-Cross sculptures, to accent & contextualize the pain you're feeling in your lungs & legs:

Station of the Cross, Taormina Sicily

It being a Monday in the off-season, of course the Castello was locked up tight. Here's M reading the part about how we're supposed to go to the [non-existent] souvenir stand to ask for the [non-existent] caretaker to unlock the gate:

Dismay and Confusion, Castello Saraceno, Taormina Sicily

However, we didn't let this diminish our feeling of triumph, particularly since C has a late-onset fear of heights that she powered straight through during the long climb. And we did get to see some pretty excellent views:

View of Taormina from Monte Tauro, Sicily

We finished the day with some cafe-sitting, some ceramics shopping, and a fair amount of people-watching. I was and continue to be mystified and amazed by this coat:

Fashionable Tourist, Taormina Sicily

There are other photos in my flickr photostream, and C & M are in the process of editing & uploading theirs as well: