Like many travelers, we chose to start our Sicilian adventure in Taormina. About an hour’s drive north from the Catania airport, Taormina is high above the Ionian Sea, affording fantastic views of both the sea and Mt. Etna, especially if you have chosen lodging above the town as we did, at the Villa Ducale. More on that later.
The drive up the winding A18/E45 to Taormina is usually uneventful except for when you have to share the narrow roadway with enormous tour buses and trucks careening through curves beside you. As we approached the A18/E45 toll way on our last visit, we saw traffic backed up for a good distance—this was unusual. When we finally arrived at the ticket booths, we noticed many people leaving their cars and walking up to the ticket machines. There were no workers on site and the machines were not functioning either. A number of the toll barriers had been lifted up and people were just driving through—without tickets. We followed suit while I frantically searched my memory banks for the Italian words to tell the toll taker at the other end why we had no ticket. I had just about figured out what to say when we reached our exit and saw the big posters pasted on the tollbooth—Sciopero–Strike! We should have known. There are frequent strikes in Italy. They are usually announced in the media in advance of the event and they are not particularly long lived. It is a good idea to pay attention to what and who exactly will be striking, particularly if you are relying on public transportation.
That experience behind us, we continued our drive up into the hills above the city of Taormina to our hotel—The Villa Ducale. Visit www.villaducale.com for rates and more info. Via Leonardo da Vinci, 60, Taormina. I must admit all those glowing Trip Advisor reviews I read made me a little apprehensive when I booked in for our first visit last year. How could anyplace be that good? I’m pleased to report that it is indeed a wonderful place to stay. We have stayed there twice for a total of seven nights and were delighted with our lodging, the service, staff and the quiet location above the town of Taormina.
There is no “restaurant” at the hotel however; dinner is served nightly on their beautiful terrace with gorgeous views to the sea below and Mt. Etna above. Sit back with a nice glass of prosecco, enjoy the view and peruse the menu which features delicious Sicilian specialties like fresh tuna or swordfish prepared in a number of ways, pastas featuring seasonal ingredients, several meat dishes, and lovely vegetable dishes and salads. They have a good wine list with reasonably priced local selections. Desserts are also terrific. Everything is prepared in house and with a deft hand. Service is attentive and the terrace is glorious. If you stay at Villa Ducale, be sure to book in for dinner your first night (at least) as they have limited seating.
Breakfast is also served on the terrace, as are complimentary cakes at teatime and appetizers at cocktail hour. There is also a sister property, Villa Carlotta, down in the town of Taormina. It has a pool, which is available to guests at both hotels, and there is a complimentary shuttle that goes between the two as well as to the town.
Next up, exploring the town of Taormina.