TechnomadicsVagabonding Europe

With some time to kill before we were to meet up with Nuccio and Carmelo again, we decided to see if we could find a caravan park to spend some time hooked up to electricity to do some work. I spent some time finding possibilities online, then we proceeded to spend the next five hours or so driving around being thwarted by unexpectedly closed caravan parks. Oh, what we wouldn’t do for a small cold fusion generator.

Rather than re-visit the unpleasant caravan park we’d stayed at the other day, we found a wild-camp by the beach just down the road from it, and stayed there for the night, running off the leisure battery.

The following day, we visited the picturesque town of Taormina, overlooking the sea between Sicily and the Italian mainland.

Taormina, looking towards Mount Etna and Giardini Naxos

The view North from Taormina, towards Messina and the Italian mainland

We walked up the winding road to the town, and made our way through the narrow cobbled streets — stopping to talk to a friendly English-speaking local for a moment, initially for directions, then speaking more generally — to the old Greek theatre that sits overlooking Mount Etna and the coast to the south. It was built to take advantage of the views, so that the players stood in front of the impressive vista; when the Romans appeared, they decided views weren’t for them, and bricked the theatre in to make it more suited to the gladiatorial entertainment of which they were so fond. Later, a Spanish family took over the site and turned part of it into a residence. Everyone’s had a go. Now, it crumbles gracefully, underneath the tacky scaffolding and makeshift chipboard stage and seats that are there for no reason we could see.

The Greek theatre at Taormina


Taormina from below

We wandered around the town a little more, stopped for gelato, said farewell to our new friend, and hiked back down the hill.

We met up with Nuccio and Carmelo back in Linguaglossa, and drove with them once again to Taormina (we were getting to know that stretch of road quite well!). Nuccio squeezed his car right up against the edge of the road and we hopped out and walked a little way up the road to the town, being passed by a few contestant cars, to Nuccio’s great glee. On the way, Nuccio stopped and spoke to an organiser briefly — he’d negotiated to get us a souvenir, one of the official rally stickers to go on the side of the cars!

He pointed out some guys sitting by a rubbish skip on the outside of a particularly tight corner, and recounted last year’s rally, when a car lost control around the corner and went careening into the skip, throwing the guys sitting atop it into the air. He shook his head and indicated all of the people standing in the worst possible places — “like foxes, on the road”.

We scrambled up a hillside overlooking the corner, and settled in as the safety car made its way up the road, signalling its closure and the imminent start of the rally. Nuccio nodded to and euro-air-kissed half the people up on the embankment with us — other regulars. Then, the first engine growl started and the rally had begun.

Taormina-Messina rally

Taormina-Messina rally

The first few cars zoomed by impressively, and we ooh’d and aah’d along with everyone else. The best parts were when the drivers drifted around the corners, tyres squealing, or better yet, when the drivers messed up the corner altogether and spun out.

There were much fewer cars that last year, Nuccio explained, as they postponed the rally a month, out of respect to those killed in Messina due to the huge storms causing flooding and landslides. So, many contestants had returned to their home countries.

Not being quite the rally buffs that one probably needs to be to get the most out of a rally like this, one car started looking much like the next, but we enjoyed the ambiance, watching the sun go down, and watching a small whale that appeared off shore for a while.

After the rally, we drove back to Linguaglossa, and with a hankering for pizza, we asked Nuccio whether he could recommend anywhere. Amazingly, he proceeded to drive us about ten minutes out of town to point out his favourite pizza restaurant to us and make sure it was open, then took us back to Nettle and told us to ask after someone he knew there, and to tell them we know Nuccio.

IMG, 0377We co-ordinated with Nuccio to catch up again for the next rally — this time at a venue inland and to the north west — and took off in Nettle to visit the restaurant. It was called “Sharamanika”, about ten minutes down the road towards Randazzo from Linguaglossa and they had the best pizza we’ve ever had, by several orders of magnitude. The pizzas were at least a foot and a half in diameter; there was a pesto pizza, with parmesan and spinach, an eggplant and tomato/cheese pizza, and…My mouth is watering just thinking about it. We’ll definitely be back to Sicily, is all I’m saying.

So, we ate our fill, and quite a bit more, then made our way back to Linguaglossa. Earlier, Carmelo had extremely generously offered his driveway/front yard as a quiet place to stay the night in Nettle, and we took him up on the offer — when we awoke, the view was breathtaking:

Mount Etna, from Linguaglossa

Mount Etna, from Linguaglossa

We had had an issue with a leaking window seal, and while we were wandering through Linguaglossa with some time to spare, I popped my head into an auto supplies shop, pulled out my translator app, typed in a question asking to see if they could recommend anything, and showed the guy behind the counter the Italian version. He took us out to his car to do some pointing — a seal like this? Like this? — but in vain, as I wasn’t able to see any similarities with the motorhome window. So, amazingly, he drove us to Nettle, took a look at the window, wrote down his prescription and drove us to a completely different shop with instructions to buy black silicon. He waved and drove off, leaving us dumbfounded at his kindness. Man, Sicilians are the greatest people ever!

So, we bought silicon and a silicon gun from the friendly shop assistant in the other shop, then made our way back to our beach-side wildcamp spot in San Marco for the night. Later in the evening, Nuccio called and reported that there were some explosions happening on Etna — we wandered around to try to get a vantage point, but didn’t have any luck — we were in the wrong place for it. Next time?

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2 Responses to Taormina, Taormina-Messina Rally

  1. Rocco says:

    Good blog.

    My wife and I are planning a trip to Italy next March. The first week we’re going to Rome and Venice because….because they’re Rome and Venice. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to decide where in Southern Italy to spend time exploring by car. I’m usually very good at this sort of search but nothing I see really convinces me. There is lots of info on beautiful beaches (Tropea) and glamorous stretches of road (Amalfi) but not much on out-of-the way places. Usually any photos are various carefully composed angles of one spot and/or EVERYBODY mentions the garbage. (I’ve beeen to Mexico and there’s lots of garbage there but hardly anybody mentions it so how bad must it be in Italy?!)

    We don’t intend to do any camping but my wife and I love the outdoors, small villages in pretty locations and exciting cities (I guess basically the same as everyone else.) I know if we stop at some beautiful beach and there’s trash and garbage scattered around, I’m going to be really pissed-off. Poor is one thing, dirty is another.

    Anyway, it appears from your writing you have a sympathetic view so, do you have any recommendations of a 5-6 day drive? Would you skip South Italy and go directly to Sicily?

    Thnaks much.

  2. Michael says:

    Hey Rocco,

    If we’re talking south of Italy, then I would definitely say head straight for Sicily. We drove down quite quickly through the south (check the preceding blog posts from this one to read about it), and found it very underwhelming/distasteful, for the reasons you describe; Then we hit Sicily and things changed completely – we’re very fond of Sicily.

    Highlights for us were Mount Etna National Park (absolutely fantastic, beautiful – check out our photos of Mount Zoccolaro in autumn), Zingaro National Park and Erice (all written about here, for more details). I quite enjoyed the drive towards Mount Etna from the south coast, too, actually.

    Best, Michael