WHEN IN ROME Travelog: Taormina, Pearl of the Mediterranean

Just as Kate Miller, heroine of WHEN IN ROME, wrapped up her sojourn in Italy with a romantic weekend jaunt to Taormina, Sicily, the hubs and I also capped off our 2007 trip by heading down to the “Pearl of the Mediterranean” for a couple days before heading back to the States.

Taormina, and Sicily as a whole, has an interesting history. The site of Phoenician and Greek colonies and later part of the Roman Empire, the island saw its share of warfare as various forces tried to claim this beautiful, rocky land as their own. From Byzantium to the Normans, then the era of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, and finally inclusion in the unification of Italy as a plebiscite… and all the while gathering and maintaining a rich cultural heritage that survives today.

Sicily holds a special place in my heart. Three of four sets of great-grandparents immigrated to the US from Sicily, from two small towns in particular (in fact, their families knew each other!). A couple years before he passed, my paternal grandfather had the opportunity to travel to his father’s hometown of Forza D’Agro, a little north of Taormina, meet his uncles(!), and visit the church where his father was baptized. (That same small town also happens to be the filming location for the Italian settings in “The Godfather Part II”, in case you’d like a little fun movie trivia.)

Anyway, the hubs and I were only Taormina for about two and a half days and didn’t have time to seek out my ancestors’ homes. But it was well worth the train fare.

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Because of the seismic activity in the Straits of Messina, it’s an engineering impossibility to build a bridge from Villa San Giovanni to Messina. So they put the trains on the ferries to take them across. Seriously. Pictures or it didn’t happen.

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The view of Messina as you ferry across the Straits. Still a bustling port town after centuries.

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A view of the hillside from the rooftop terrace of our little hotel. Many hotels and multi-level buildings are built into the hillside. You enter on the top floor and then go down to lower levels.

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Gothic church of St. Augustine on IX Aprile Piazza. The hubs and I sat on the front step and ate gelato while a little street band played some traditional music.

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Breakfast al fresco!

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I was ready to move into our hotel for good.

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A view of Mount Etna, not too far from Taormina. We skipped the hiking tour due to time constraints. It actually erupted a few days after we left!

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Awww…. We hiked up to Castelmola the first morning in Taormina. Hardest hike of my life, but so worth the view!

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Taormina is full of archaeological sites, including the impressive Teatro Greco.

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Incredibly well intact, and often still used for concerts and events.

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The original marble stadium seating (similar to what would have been found in the Coliseum once upon a time) remains cool, even on the hottest days.

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Taormina has one of the most famous pebble beaches in the world, Mazzarrò is just a cable-car ride down from the town, and includes….

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….Isola Bella. Once a private residence and nicknamed “the pearl of the Ionian Sea” (must be a thing about pearls in this part of Sicily), now this island is a nature preserve.

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We weren’t sure what this was. Ruins of something (there were steps leading down into the water inside this stone wall). Incidentally, the hilly peninsula in the background houses the Grotta Azzurra (blue grotto) that Kate and Domenic visit in WHEN IN ROME. The hubs and I didn’t have time to take the excursion. It’s a bucket list item.

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I got brave, crawled out on the ruins, and played “The Little Mermaid.”

That’s it for our amazing trip to Italy! I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos. For a full dose of romance, don’t forget to pick up your copy of WHEN IN ROME!

WHEN IN ROME is available now for Kindle – and don’t forget to check out BETTER THAN CHOCOLATE (now available in print from Amazon and Barnes & Noble), the story that started it all!

Three friends. A broken engagement. A surprise elopement. A big secret. A lot of chocolate.

Three friends. A broken engagement. A surprise elopement. A big secret. A lot of chocolate.

Love isn't always picture perfect...

Love isn’t always picture perfect…

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