30 April – 2 May 2011
I am staying in Giardini-Naxos near the port, about 3km away from Taormina up on the hill (easily reached by local bus). Naxos was the first Greek colony in Sicily (in unimaginably ancient 735 BC). When the clouds disperse I can see snow-capped Mt. Etna, the still active volcano which last erupted 3 or 4 years ago. This trip was supposed to have a sea-level theme, but paradoxically I seem to have been doing a fair bit of climbing (of hills at least, if not mountains) of late. My calves are now as hard as steel. From Taormina I walked up to Castel Mola for the view. Capri, Amalfi (and even Napoli and Salerno) were also hilly, with the reward of a good view of the sea after a climb. The most strenuous walk was probably the one from the Marina Grande up to the village of Pogerola at Amalfi. The other thing that Capri, Amalfi and Taormina have in common is that they are all the hangouts of the “beautiful people”. Back in the day, Liz and Richard used to stay at Taormina, apparently. Although there are some very classy restaurants (with prices to match) in these places, there are also cheap ones side by side (and the food is almost always good). I have had a whole dorm room to myself again (the busy tourist season hasn’t quite started yet). It’s like having a private apartment for the price of a dorm bed. It feels a bit incongruous that I am currently reading Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” about her life in New York in the 1960s with Robert Mapplethorpe, suffering from lice and hunger for their art, while I am living la dolce vita (the sweet life). Here are some photos of Taormina. The statue and the painting were in a church on the Piazza Duomo (with a baroque fountain). St Agatha is holding a pair of pliers with which her breasts were torn off, and St. Lucia is holding a plate with her eyes on it which were torn out. The marble statue and painting on wood were completed about 1400AD. Saints Agatha and Lucia were martyred in the 3rd century AD, before Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. The second last pic is a look-out tower erected in the 16th c. to warn of raids by the notorious pirate Barbarossa who was based in North Africa. The last pic is of my hostel host Gianni and his ex-chef friend Emilio who cooked us a lovely vegetarian meal. I took notes so I can try it out when I get back to Melbourne.