Driving from Siracusa to a holiday apartment in Calatabiano near Giardini Naxos was easy with the Tom Tom. The apartment, which the lovely Maria showed us around before leaving us to it, was a near-new construction and very well appointed – a big master bedroom, good size second bedroom, TV, full size fully equipped kitchen, a washing machine (yay!!) and a massive terrazza or roof terrace that looked out towards Calatabiano Castle on one side and Mt Etna on the other. A lock up garage was a bonus to protect our little Fiat Bravo when parked at home.
View from the roof terrace: Mt Etna on the left, the town of Calatabiano on the right.
We were looking forward to buying some local produce and cooking. I was also looking forward to showing Zorba around Taormina, the ‘Amalfi Coast of Sicilia’ as it is sometimes referred to. We took the Bravo and drove 20 minutes along a twisty windy road to Taormina. Then the head ache of having a car began when we tried to find a place to park. In the end we ended up parking in a big paid car park half way down the cliff from where Taormina is perched and walked up 6million stairs to the top. No joke. It was stair city. I kept telling myself it was good for my quads…
Taormina was pumping on a Sunday evening with every man and his wife, kids and dog out for the evening passagiata, or evening stroll. The purpose of passagiata, which takes place every evening between about 7pm and 9pm, is to get dressed up and slowly stroll up and down the main street checking out what everyone else is wearing. It is FANTASTIC people watching and something Zorba and I have both really enjoyed doing. The designer shops in Taormina were all open, so that meant more sitting on the steps of a monument for Zorba and some browsing in shops by me. I have been so good this trip and hardly bought a thing. Probably because my back pack is too heavy as it is and I HAVE to find a way to get the weight of it down. Not sure how that can be achieved just yet…there’s not that much I’m carrying that can be sacrificed… my hair straightener maybe? Cry cry – I think it is going to have to go… and so are some of my toiletries. I love my STUFF but hate lugging it all around… sigh – shall stress about that at the end of this trip when I wont have big strong Zorba around to help me… cry cry, makes me sad to think about that too…
Anyhooo, back to Taormina…
It is a beautiful ancient walled city with gates at each end of the historical centre, where all the action’s at. It is also an expensive little place – like Positano. We had dinner in a little restaurant just outside the city walls, situated on a second level on a terrace, called La Siciliana. Zorba had homemade pasta with spinach and ricotta, and I had pasta with prawns and saffron cream. Quite nice. The outdoor setting looked lovely, but in reality we were the dinner for all the mosquitoes around that chose to dine on my bare legs! It was hard to enjoy dinner when every few minutes I was reaching down to slap a mozzie!
After dinner, the passagiata crowd had dwindled right down, and we stopped for a cannoli before heading to our home to that apartment.
While we stayed at the apartment, we spent time hanging out at Giardini Naxos, a living seaside town that seemed to missing the usual tourists this time of year attracts. There were many free public beaches available and we made use of those, topping up the tan and chilling out. There were also heaps of restaurants on the beach front promenade with big TVs showing the world cup games. Yay.
Dancing seems to be popular and one night in Giardini, we watched a ballroom dancing competition in the main piazza by the Church of St John the Baptist. It was great! By the time we saw all the action in the piazza, it was after we’d had dinner and on our way home – it was 11pm yet there were heaps of people out. Loads of old pensioner types, loads of families, loads of young ones. There was some freestyle dancing on an open dance floor, but that ended just as we got there and the dancing competition started. They had to do all sorts of different dances, samba, tango, foxtrot, waltz…etc. We both enjoyed watching it.
We made friends with a butcher in Giardini who sold us the most delicious pork and tomato sausages and very tender steak. A big rump steak that fed both of us twice, cost 5 euro. That works out at 1.25 euro per serve or A$1.70. Cheap as you like, and good quality too. We pay for too much for food in Australia, particularly in Perth. In the local supermarket, they sell pure alcohol! 100% pure alcohol! It too was cheap at 5 euro for 750ml. I wanted to buy some and send it to Nonno so he can make proper limoncello! But I didn’t, since it’s highly illegal.
Giardini Naxos was also the place where we have had the best ever cannoli to date. A little pattisceria on the road behind the beach promenade road made them fresh to order. Absolute heaven. Sweet velvety ricotta filling dotted with little chocolate bits, stuffed inside a crunchy open ended shell with pistachio and candied fruit decorating the ends. Oooooohhhh yeah!
We had some lovely meals on the terrazza under the stars. From fresh pasta (that I bought, not made!) with tuna, capers from Lipari, olives and tomatoes, to antipasto with different cheeses, salamis and cured meats, buffalo mozzarella, marinated anchovies, and the tastiest tomatoes you have ever had, and not to forget the fresh and absolutely delectable pork and tomato sausages with crisp salad, and rump steak with marinated zucchini and parmesan and rocket salad. We bought little roma tomatoes for 0.55 euro per kilo!! That’s about A$0.80 oh so cheap! We ate well when at home! Zorba keeps telling me I’ll make a good wife one day…!
The terrazza was a great escape from every day life in the apartment building. Not many other residents used their roof terraces, so often you would have no one around you and the sounds of life going on below would be subdued. The roof terrace was my favourite part of the apartment.