Day 18: Swimming Upstream in Taormina, Downstream in the Sea

This morning’s breakfast at the resort was one of the most elaborate buffets we’ve ever encountered when traveling, right down to the cream puff pastries and chocolate bundles.  After we were full we wandered over to the concierge desk, as we’d been told upon check-in that they had a shuttle to take guests to the nearby popular hilltop town of Taormina and all we had to do was show up and make a reservation.  However, this morning the guy behind the desk told us the next shuttle wasn’t until 15:00.  Wait, that was the only shuttle of the day?  No, he said, the other shuttle left 5 minutes ago.

Well, crap.

Is someone handing out €100 bills here?

Is someone handing out €100 bills here?

This left us with only one suitable option, which was to drive ourselves to the base station for the funivia (cable car) station and take that up to Taormina (€3/each, one-way), which sits high on a cliff overlooking the sea.  The funivia left at 11:15 and took 5-10 minutes, dropping us close to the main gate into town.  Once at the top, we ran straight into… crowds.  And lots of them.  Taormina, it turns out, is a tourist trap of epic proportion.

Strolling the peaceful back alleys of Taormina

Strolling the cacophonous back alleys of Taormina

Apologies to anyone who likes Taormina, but when there appears to be a town solely based on tourism, we tend to head the other way.  Were there attractive buildings?  Sure.  Were there expansive vistas over the sea?  Sure.  Were there charming piazzas?  Sure.  But other towns we’d been in had every bit as much charm, just without the over-priced cafes and boatload of (not) made in Italy crappola souvenirs that were for sale in almost every storefront.  It was Erice on steroids.

We walked the length of town and stopped for a coffee at the far end before deciding we’d had enough.  Back down the funivia we went, back to the car, and back to our little resort paradise.  It turns out to have been serendipitous we didn’t take the hotel’s shuttle. 

Immediately we changed into our bathing suits, picked up a couple of beach towels from the front desk, and hot-footed it down to the beach for our first swim in the Ionian Sea.  The Ionian Sea is just as watery, blue, and salty as the Mediterranean, and every bit as fun to float and bob around in.  We swam, sat on lounge chairs, swam a little more, and then headed up to one of the pools for another swimming expedition.  This is, after all, what resortists do, and after being on the road for 2 1/2 weeks it felt good to spend time on the down low.

Setting up camp, the kind of camping we like

Setting up camp, the kind of camping we like

As the sun was going down, we grudgingly pulled ourselves away from the outdoors and headed inside to shower and change for dinner.  Tonight we went back to the nearby restaurant row for dinner, this time having a mediocre meal at La Tortuga.  After dinner we went to the resort’s bar for a Sambuca nightcap and chatted with the waiter for quite some time.  The resort was shutting down for the season in just a few days and he was ready for some time off.  We couldn’t blame him, but at the same time were grateful this place was still open and available to host a couple seat-of-their-pants-nomads such as ourselves.  It might have gotten awkward had we been sleeping on a bench outside the front gate, or worse, had to pony up €189 to sleep at the Hilton down the street.

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