Taormina: The terrific and tasty island in the sky

Taormina is perched on a cliff overlooking the Ionian Coast and is often referred to as the island in the sky. It claims to have been inhabited by an Italic tribe during the Iron Age even before the Greeks arrived on the island in 734 BC. The city has been both a well-known tourist destination and a draw for artists and writers for millennia. The main road, Corso Umberto, runs the length of the town between two entries, Porta Messina and Porta Catania. Mostly pedestrian, it is filled with shops, restaurants and several great plazas with views of the sea below, Madonna della Rocca church and a Castello above, and when the clouds part, we are told, a stunning view of Mt. Etna. The ancient 3rd century Greek theater is well preserved and continues to be used for performances (mostly on weekends). There are remarkable views of Mt. Etna and the Ionian Sea along with the still-terrific acoustics.Approximately 600 or so steps brings you up to Madonna della Rocca Church. Along the route there are amazing views of Taormina, the Greek theater and the sea. A further hundred steps brings you to the castle; alas, there was only a padlocked door with no way to walk in or around the grounds. A funicular is available outside the Porta Messina entry which, for the small price of €3, will drop you close the the stairs to Isola Bella. This charming and tiny island is a protected preserve. During low tide you can walk over without getting your feet wet. The beach is stone and the water is very inviting and shallow. There is a lovely public garden/park/memorial that we happened upon as we meandered through the quieter streets of Taormina. Many of the trees were in memory of fallen soldiers there was also a statue and a torpedo in with the shrubs and trees.The restaurants are both abundant and delicious (we enjoyed a lot of them) and the best are just off the main road either up or down.The local specialties include granita (a sort of slushy sorbet made with fruit, chocolate or nuts) served with a sweet brioche for dunking a typical breakfast, but actually great any time of day; of course arancini and cannoli; and then cheese, pasta and anything eggplant. Just yum.

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