Esquire Travel: Sicily's gorgeous Taormina
Perched on the side of a mountain, 250m above the sea, Taormina is a Sicilian gem that occupies a rocky bluff on the island’s east coast, overlooking the beaches and the ancient bay of Giardini Naxos.
In fact, you are guaranteed postcard panoramas from almost anywhere here. Once described by Ernest Hemingway as being so pretty “it hurts to look” at, Taormina counted fans such as Ava Gardner, Oscar Wilde and DH Lawrence (who lived here), as well as Truman Capote, who threw parties that staggered on long into the night.
The chi-chi destination has been popular with holidaying high-rollers ever since, and last year this “pearl of the Ionian Sea” achieved a more weighted distinction when it was unexpectedly chosen to host the G7 summit, bringing in world leaders including Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump, who sat at the runway entrance for a Versace fashion show, where the paparazzi photographed him staring at Kate Moss’s pink hair.
Stay at the 29-room Villa Carlotta, built around a hairpin bend into a cliff-face, with views of mainland Italy to the left and Mount Etna to the right. Dine at Tischi Toschi, the two-storey trattoria serving modern Sicilian dishes, described by Yotam Ottolenghi (on Instagram, everything is eminently Instagramable) as “superb”.
Stop in for a night-cap at the bar at the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo – next to Teatro Antico di Taormina, the ancient Greco-Roman amphitheatre still used today — where the historical Russian vodka collection and sundowner drinks trolley are too good to let pass by. The town is also becoming noted for its wine offering, with vintners finally taking advantage of Etna’s volcanic soil and enviable climate to cultivate grapes with intense minerality and flavours. Taormina can even boast its own cable car, which will ferry you from expansive beach to secluded cove. “The next step will be starting an application process to become a Unesco World Heritage Site,” says Mariarite Sgarlata, of the University of Catania.
For further information about this hidden gem, the second-best source is blogtaomina.it, an online newspaper. The first, however, is to speak to the retired local boys who occupy Taormina’s main square every morning, and know everything about everyone, past and present. But for that, of course, you will have to go there.