art, Jazz, music, Travel, Uncategorized

Valentines Day in Taormina, Sicily

Our Trip To Taormina, Sicily

Taormina is the playground of the Italian wealthy. An ancient town carved

from the side of a mountain. Views that are 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.

The weather in the winter is moderate, typical of the southern Mediterranean

with temperatures in the range of 10C to 18C and even warmer when the sun decides to come out from hiding.

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, $3.50 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 $4.80 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 for one hundred euros.

We arrived at the bus terminal in Taormina and hired a taxi to take us to

our hotel, we were aware that the hotel was about 30 minute walk from the

bus terminal. Without knowing exactly where the hotel was and not

wanting to waste time, I thought a taxi would be best. I did get a firm price

though before we began, 10 euros. I knew that our return to the terminal

would be on foot so I figured I was saving money, somewhat twisted logic

but I was tired and hungry.

Our hotel for our four night stay, the Hotel Continental was a very good 3

star hotel, it was actually one of the only large hotels I could get as this was

Valentines Weekend and I believe lots of folks were making a romantic

weekend of it.

Once checked in and freshened up we 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 valentines dinner. I had made

the reservations a week ahead of time which is a good thing as it was sold

out and only side view seating was available. No problem as long as I can

hear the music I am good to go.

As Google Maps indicated the Excelsior Palace was indeed 4 minutes away

by foot. Of course I went the wrong way on our reconnoitring visit but got

sorted out after not finding it at first try, however we did find a great pizza

place. We had lunch of pizza and beer and ventured of in the opposite

direction, sure enough a few steps away from our hotel we found the biggest

hotel in Taormina the 5 star Excelsior Palace.

At the appointed hour we ventured off to the Valentines Dinner at

Excelsior Palace. Valentine’s Jazz Night with Giovanni Mazzarino & Daniela

Spalletta Quartet. Giovanni Mazzarino, piano – Daniela Spalleta, Voce –

Alberto Fidone, Bass – Giuseppe Tringali, Drums.

The show got under way first some instrumental compositions from the trio

to warm the room up and then the vocalist Daniela Spalletta joined the

group. The singer reminded me of Norma Winstone a great English jazz

singer who accompanies Kenny Wheeler on many dates. I found Daniela’s

phrasing and cadence similar, perhaps an influence of hers. The group

would run through some original tunes, some Latin jazz and some

standards. A wonderful concert led by pianist and composer Giovanni

Mazzarino, an adept pianist 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, a great ambiance, music in the background, the band enjoying dinner

next to our table.

What a great start to our Taormina adventure.