Taormina, Sicily

Taormina, Sicily

Taormina is the playground of the Italian wealthy. An ancient town carved from the side of a mountain. With views that are absolutely breathtaking; looking down to the sea, or up into the mountains, it’s all very pleasing. At any given time of the year the town is full of tourists. I have visited in the winter, February, and I have visited in the fall.

The weather in the winter is moderate. This is typical of the southern Mediterranean with temperatures in the range of 10 Celsius to 18 Celsius and even warmer when the sun decides to come out from hiding.

Reggio Calabria

From our home base in Reggio Calabria it is easy to get to Taormina, a short ferry ride to Messina, one of the major ports of Sicily and then a bus to Taormina. The people only ferry, a hovercraft run by Ustica lines, departs directly from Reggio and arrives at the port of Messina about 20 minutes later. The price for the boat ride, one way, $3.5 euro each person.

The bus terminal is a short walk from the port, ‘Piazza Republica’, just to the left of the port when looking towards the city. The bus route takes you through the city of Messina and along the scenic coastal road, stopping in numerous towns along the way. For about $4.8 euros, a one hour and forty minute drive, this is the way to travel. Last time we visited Taormina we had gotten off our cruise ship and hired a private car at a cost of one hundred euros.

Valentine’s Day Taormina

Valentine’s weekend in Taormina and I believe lots of folks were making a romantic time of it. Once checked in and freshened up, we, my wife Nina and I, ventured out to find our evening reservation; such that we could be relaxed when the time came to actually depart for the Hotel Excelsior Palace. I had timed our trip to Taormina to coincide with a jazz concert and Valentine’s dinner.

At the appointed hour we ventured off to the Valentine’s dinner at Excelsior Palace. Valentine’s Jazz Night with Giovanni Mazzarino & Daniela Spalletta Quartet. Giovanni Mazzarino, piano – Daniela Spalleta, Vocal –Alberto Fidone, Bass – Giuseppe Tringali, Drums.

The show got underway with instrumental compositions from the trio, a good start to warm up the room. The vocalist Daniela Spalletta joined the group. The singer reminded me of the great Norma Winstone, an English jazz singer who would often accompany Kenny Wheeler, the late trumpeter on many concert dates (I witnessed the pair live in Toronto, one of  Kenny Wheeler’s last concerts, and I wrote about it. ‘An Overview of the Art of Jazz Celebrations’).

I found Daniela’s phrasing and cadence similar to Winstone’s, perhaps an influence. The group would run through some original tunes, some Latin jazz songs and some of the jazz standards. A wonderful concert, led by the pianist and composer Giovanni Mazzarino, an adept piano player with a refined touch.

After the concert we were guided to another large ballroom where dinner was served. A candlelight feast with a four course dinner, white and red wine at every place setting. A great ambiance, with recorded music playing softly in the background.

What a great start to our Taormina adventure. We would stay in Taormina four days, we had a great time. I hope to go back and spend some more time in Sicily.