If you like this piece you can buy a kindle version of the book Julian’s Journeys, which contains this story.
The bus headed northwards past several resort towns on Sicily’s eastern coast. The weather was warm and the sun was just beginning to come out, thought the top of Mount Etna away to our left, was covered in clouds and there was evidence of plenty of snow on the highest point that we could see. Just past Taormina’s railway station the road began to ascend the lower slopes of Monte Tauro, the hill that the town is situated upon. The culmination of this climb was a series of hairpin bends skillfully negotiated by the driver, his vehicle seemingly going to be too long, but always just fitting the twisty turns of the road. At the bus station, the nun turned to us, pointed outside and said “Taormina!” After a journey of an hour, we had arrived at our destination.
After leaving our luggage at our bed & breakfast, situated on the slopes of Monte Tauro with superb views over the town, the coastline towards Catania, and towards Mount Etna, we headed into the centre. The main thoroughfare, Corso Umberto I, meanders through the town from the Porta Catania to the Porta Messina. Walking along this pedestrianised street I saw that almost all of the town houses had balconies full of potted plants, which enriched the faded facades of the buildings and their fragrances augmented the subtle hints of sauces and almonds emanating from the cafes and restaurants; I gradually began to unwind from the journey and to understand why, when combined with its staggeringly beautiful situation, this town has become so popular with tourists. This attraction started with the English nobility ‘doing’ their Grand Tour of Europe in the late 18th Century and continues to this day, judging by the number of visitors we came across.