Taormina, a jewel of Sicily

On occasion, James and I think, “Wouldn’t it be nice?” and the next thing you know instead of sticking with our plan, we abandon it.  In this case, we turned left 90 degrees south and headed for Taormina.  There are moorings run by George Risso ‘en vicino’ to the Taormina railway stop. This meant we could leave Mercier on a mooring and be ferried to land by the very friendly Branko and take a bus up the hill to Taormina. Perfetto!

Mount Etna is our backdrop. Today she was shrouded in mist and clouds.
Mount Etna is our backdrop. Today she was shrouded in mist and clouds.

As we are on a mooring, there is no electricity, hence no coffee.  As soon as we walk through the Porto Messina arch, we head for the sumptuous Hotel Timeo and their perfect coffee. We gaze over the Botanical gardens of Taormina with the stunning Mount Etna as the back drop.

View from the Hotel Timeo
View from the Hotel Timeo

We walk through Taormina after the coffee and call into churches and shops. Then we jump in a cab and ride up the tortuous road to Castelmola for a visit to the castle village and lunch. Etna was completely ensconced by cloud and wispy clouds seem to be floating up to us too.

View from Castelmola
View from Castelmola

The bus down the hill deposits us at the Arch again and we wait for Frosty to arrive.  After Frosty arrives we arrange a quick tour of Taormina, which includes a short visit to the Greek Theatre, which is hosting a film festival but not tonight.

Then we head down to Mercier, move to a quiet anchorage and row ashore for dinner.  Frosty’s celebratory birthday dinner was the main event. Today we have motored over to Reggio di Calabria and we found a berth in the Legale Navale.

Bronzes of Riace, circa 450 BC
Bronzes of Riace, circa 450 BC

This meant we were able to visit the Riace bronzes (circa 450 BC) at the Reggio Calabria National  Museum. The Riace Bronzes were found by a scuba diver, vacationing in Riace, lying on the seabed and they had been there for thousands of years. There was no evidence of a ship wreck, although they may have been thrown overboard in a stormy sea. Their restoration is wonderful. It is close to miraculous.

Bronze
Bronze of Riace

In this part of Italy, you can not be non-plussed by the beauty, the grittiness or the surprising. You can only enjoy it.

Note the skull and cross bones over the church door.
Church in Taormina, Note the skull and cross bones over the church door.

The heel of Italy and the soul

Once we had landed in the marina at Santa Maria di Leuca, the village on the very heel of Italy, we wandered around the town we had visited two years ago. By chance, as the tourist season doesn’t seem to have started, only Gelaterias were open. We have a gelato test – if the gelato is piled high out of the container, we walk by. If it is level or just slightly higher than its container, we order. The second test is pistachio ice cream must be a dusty olive green and not bright or flouro green. These two tests are fairly fool proof.

Needless to say, the gelato was wonderful at Crema and Cioccolatta Gelateria and afterwards we walked down the street and noticed a medieval fort built to protect against the Saracens.  The fortress is covered in beautiful caper plants, which must self seed into crevices of the hot, dry stone walls.

Fortress - Santa Marina di Leuca
Fortress – Santa Marina di Leuca

This part of the journey finds anchorages and marinas few and far between, we are sailing or motor sailing for 60 miles a day, leaving at day break and getting in late afternoon or early evenings.

Two years ago, we went into the Porto Vecchio at Crotone on a Sunday.  There wasn’t much open and we only saw the very gritty area near the fish markets.

Crotone Streets
Crotone Streets

Yesterday, we walked up to the beautiful castle built by Carlos V and the old town, then down to the beach with beautiful sands.  We commented that it didn’t look affected by tourism at all, except perhaps Italian tourism.  As we were departing this morning, we saw a cruise ship come into Crotone. We realized we were doubly lucky: we weren’t there on Sunday and the Cruise ship was not in town.

On our Western track, we passed the Promontorio di Capocolonna.  In a very small area, we see the ruins of the Temple of Hera Lacina, the Tower of Nao, a XVl century fortress, a church sanctuary and a light house.

Capocolonna
Capocolonna
Temple of Hera Lacina
Temple of Hera Lacina, in what was once a forest

 

Efcharisto (Thank You) Greece! Buongiorno, Italia!

We had our last night in Greece in the small harbour Ormous Ammou on the Nisos Othoni.  There on this small outer island, north of Corfu, one would have found a Venetian lighthouse and medieval fortress, with views over to Albania. We had two days on Corfu with Ric and Sandy, what was one highlight you ask? The boys might say it was watching Lateen rigged boats sail on Corfu harbour. Once the sail was in they rowed. How would Davo go with all that weight?

Lateen Rigged Boat - Corfu Harbour
Lateen Rigged Boats – Corfu Harbour

We had time to sit on board and think about how much we enjoyed Greece, how hospitable the people were, how beautiful the harbors and bays are.   Its history is the history of Western democracies. I feel the connection all the way back to Athena and Aphrodite and the Virgin Mary. The food is superb and fresh fruits and veggies are so ripe and wonderful.

North Corfu beaches
North Corfu beaches

All through this trip, we have wondered if there would be trouble travelling in Greece, with the IMF and Angela breathing down Greek’s neck. We haven’t had one difficulty, not with diesel or ATM’s or any of the myriad problems that travel agents in Europe had been forecasting like ancient Jocastas.

Sail past Albania
Sail past Albania

 

So my take is: visit Greece, it is inexpensive compared to the rest of Europe, it has something for everyone and it is beautiful.  The food is wonderful and so are the people.

leaving Greece at daybreak
leaving Greece at daybreak

 

Today we have sailed across to Santa Maria di Leuca, Italia. Usually we are on the lookout for ships, lobster pots and dolphins, but today we narrowly missed hitting a tree.  Ok, afterwards we reassessed “tree” and think maybe it was a big shrub, but it seemed to pop up as we glided right by it. It was quite strange but we think a storm might have taken it off a cliff and it was floating just below the surface until we went by.  Soon after, beautiful dolphins did come and play with us jumping up two by two for several minutes.  We think they were saying “Buongiorno”.