May 18 Taormina and Caltagirone
After the luxury of a cruise, staying in hotels for one night at a time is not so appealing and probably not the best idea. Note to self for future trips: Plan better on this detail. The hotel in Milazzo was much less than desired.
Instead of the location being on a beach as I anticipated it was on a dock and sort of in an industrial area. There was absolutely no view and in fact the room had a sliding door that opened out onto an open terrace with extremely high walls, and other rooms opened onto this same terraced area, so there was no privacy. I would never stay in this hotel again and in fact not in Milazzo either. My Sicilian friends indicated that Milazzo was “brutto,” or ugly and in no way compared to the many other beautiful seaside places in Sicily. Cefalù it was not!
I have to say that the hotel was clean and very modern and the front desk staff were very nice, and it was not that far to drive once we arrived in Sicily, after all day of driving yesterday.
We had originally planned to go to Mt Etna this morning and to my friend Teresa’s in Taormina this afternoon, but Teresa told me that it is too far and will take much more time than I thought. Sue was hurting and just wanted to rest, and she asked me to take her to a hotel in Taormina rather than go to Teresa’s house with me. So we found a nice hotel in Taormina and after I dropped her off I drove to Teresa’s house.
Teresa and I decided to go to Caltagirone to visit her brother and his family. I had originally hoped to also go to Siracusa, but there was not enough time. We drove to Catania to pick up her brother Calogero who was just finishing work, and then he drove all of us to Caltagirone.
Calogero is a police officer in Catania and was very helpful in retrieving my lost passport last year so I really wanted to see him and his family again.
On the way to Catania we could see Mt Etna, and smoke was coming out of it. Teresa said it has been that way for weeks since the last eruption last month. It was an awesome sight since the other side of the volcano has snow on it!
We stopped and got some fresh cherries and when we arrived in Caltagirone Monica was there as well as the two kids, Martina and Antonio.
This is such a nice family. I really feel as though we are related. We are after all Savoca’s!
After awhile we drove to the center of town to see the famous staircase with all the flowers. La Scalinetta is a staircase with 142 steps and each riser has unique hand painted ceramic tiles .
This is the city of ceramics and there are hundreds of ceramic shops all over town.
Although I have been here twice before I never climbed the steps but today we were all doing it. It is very cool since along the way there are small shops tucked in little alleys, many of them ceramic shops. The flowers on the steps are arranged to form a beautiful design and it looked lovely.
At the top there is the 18th century church of S.Maria della Monte and we went inside. The chandelier is made with what looks like Murano glass and is one of a kind.
The historic part of Caltagirone is at the top of the steps and some of the doors and alleys are very old. It looked so interesting and there were quite a few shrines built inot the walls here. After we came back down the stairs we met Martina who was with her friends and it seems like she made a new one in the form of a puppy.
We browsed the shops and came upon an art gallery where thee were some young artists working. It is the first of its kind here and one of the artists, Miriam Pace kindly showed us around and then proudly told us that she will be coming to NYC next year to have her work displayed in an art exhibition.
One of the other artists, Santy Ufo, was re-creating ceramic pieces from another time that were damaged. It was an honor to meet these dedicated artists in this artistic town.
I love being with the family all day and I spoke Italian all day since they do not speak English. Teresa is studying English and can understand a lot. Martina and Antonio know a few words and Calogero too but basically it is all Italian so it was good practice for me. I loved watching Antonio who will be 14 in a couple of weeks, walk arm in arm with his Dad in the streets. You just do not see that in America.
When we got back it was almost 8:30 and Monica whipped up an amazing dinner of pork filets, artichoke frittata, salad, some salami and prosciutto, fresh cheeses, bread and nutella pastry. She is an awesome cook and everything was fantastic.
Finally Teresa and I drove back to her house and arrived at 11 very tired. I had a great day in Sicily!