The Tao of Taormina

Taormina is bliss

I first came to this spectacular Sicilian village about 25 years ago when I was a living in Florence and immersing myself in everything Italian.  I remember marveling at the raw beauty of this place.  At that time, the idea of a husband and children were mere daydreams of a future that was yet undefined.  I only knew that one day I wanted to return to share this special place with special people.

Unlike the Amlafi Coast where steep rugged vistas of rock and verdant landscape are best viewed from the sea, the coastline of Taormina is more barren and arid.  Cactus are at home on the dry rusty soil, and everything appears raw and unpolished.  Taormina is a diamond in the rough, a jewel of a town filled with beautiful old stone churches, palaces with arched balconies perched over the sea, and cobbled streets lined with quirky shops filled with bright ceramics, antique oddities, and stylish clothes.  Here people gather for the late afternoon passagiata, the relaxed stroll about town, and the main piazza throbs with energy each evening.  From a window, the high pitched wobbly melody of The Godfather theme floats above the din of Italian conversation.  Time passes slowly and easily; I hardly notice as the hours slip by.

We ventured to Mount Etna, to climb yet another volcano.  Unlike Vesuvius, this one is still quite active with significant eruptions as recent as 2002.  We boarded a gondola to the mid-summit and then a rickety bus that kicked up dust as it labored to traverse the switch-backs to the top area for public viewing.  It looked like we landed on a black lunar landscape.  The only swaths of color came from the many minerals within the Earth: yellow for sulfur, green for copper, blue for aluminum, red for iron, and white for calcium.  The trip was well worth the time and effort as we placed our hands in crevices where hot steam warmed the rocks,  coating our hands in a humid blast of heat from inner earth.  We wandered past craters of recent eruptions, steam vents, and craggy lavascapes.  All the while, the summit spewed a constant stream of sulfur that hung like a suspended cloud over the top, reminding us that the volcano is still very much alive.

We enjoyed exploring the ruins of the ancient amphitheater that still sits majestically at the top of the town.  The dilapidated ancient arches frame Etna perfectly, looming in the distance.  This is the one site I remembered well from my previous visit as a student years ago.  I loved sharing it with my girls and hope that I have instilled in them the same wanderlust that I felt as a girl not too much older than they are now.

The rest of our brief trip was spent far niente, or as the Italians say, doing nothing.  This suited me perfectly as I wanted to treasure every moment with my girls together as a pair, knowing that the end of this trip marks the end of our family unity for some time.  Katie will leave for Lawrenceville on Saturday, and her loss will be felt among us until we all adjust to the new arrangement.  I captured a picture of them together during our last dinner out and wish that I could freeze this moment.

But, I’ll have no such luck as time keeps marching forward, like it or not. However, sometimes you have the good fortune to return to a place where time stands still.

That is my tao of Taormina.




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