There is something about the sunrise in Sicily. I’m not a morning person, and yet I managed to witness two breathtaking spectacles in a four-day visit to the seaside town of Taormina on the Italian island’s east coast.
One awoke me with intense golden light streaming through the open terrace doors of my suite at the Villa sant’Andrea before 6am. Dazzled by the pinkish gold hue lighting up the white buildings that encircle the bay, I stumbled half asleep on to the terrace to capture the sun rising over the sea.
The other time we caught the sunrise we had not yet made it to bed. Instead we sleepily gazed at the volcano Mount Etna, lazily smoking away bathed in the purple light of dawn, after a long night enjoying the best of Taormina’s nightlife.
It was our second day in Taormina, and already we were under its spell. In fact, I’d been enraptured by the Sicilian town’s magic from the moment we were escorted into our Executive Junior Suite at the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, welcomed with Prosecco, fruit and an obscenely large tray of cannoli (which we demolished, washed down with the bubbles) within an hour of arriving.
Any weariness from our travels dissipated as we lounged on our large patio, located in the original 1874 building, overlooking the hotel terrace with beautiful people enjoying evening aperitif, and on to the Ionian Sea. By the time we’d freshened up and headed down the stairs to dinner, we were in a blissful state.
During our meal, Mount Etna erupted. Nothing to be concerned over – minor rumbles are commonplace. Our waiters joined in on our excitement despite being used to the eruptions, provided glasses for me when I couldn’t make out the distant spurts of orange lava, and gifted us with bags of volcanic ash to take home.
We worked off our five course dinner (and almost as decadent breakfast) the next morning with a hike up to Madonna della Rocca, a challenging walk up the hill that rewards you with spectacular panoramic views of Taormina and the sea when you make it up.
The town of Taormina is comprised of elegant cobblestone streets that lead to open piazzas crowded with holidaymakers in summer, eating and drinking al fresco as the sounds of music and chatter fills the air. Bougainvillea spills out of windows and climbs trellises.
The ancient Greek Theatre, Teatro Greco, is carved out of the hillside; what is left of the ruins frame the often snow-capped Mount Etna perfectly. During the summer months concerts are held in the open air amphitheatre. The idea of listening to live music on a warm summer night with the smell of the sea in the air, and the dramatic backdrop of Mount Etna, is reason enough to book a return trip.
The beaches of Taormina Mare are far below the hilltop town, accessible by a hairpin drive or quicker, by the cable car. Pebbly beaches are crammed with deck chairs for hire, and we were spoiled with the contrasting calm of our hotel’s private beach.
The azure water is brisk even in July, but the shock to the system when we dove off of our boat during a complimentary snorkeling excursion was much-needed, only hours after our sunrise exploits. We moored in a cove to dive into the ridiculously blue water.
We spent much (too much) of our time in Taormina drifting between the private beach and, when the sun retreated from the sand, Villa sant’Andrea’s infinity pool, where we would float in the water admiring the view of the bay below.
We were left utterly mesmerized by Taormina. It’s hard to put my finger on what is so special about this place. Did I just drink the Kool Aid? Or is it really as magical as I remember? Truman Capote, D.H. Lawrence, and the artists Gloeden and Geleng (both credited with bringing Taormina to prominence among European holidaymakers) clearly thought there was something here. They all came for short time, and stayed much longer, some indefinitely. I happily would too.
Want more? Read my other posts on Taormina here.