Standing at the belvedere situated in themain square, you can see the majestic Etnaand you can imagine seeing, further away,Syracuse. You almost have to close your eyes for a moment, almost blinded by this magnificent view, and you will get a feeling of intense vertigo mixed with euphoria, and just like a bird you will feel that your eye goes far away towards the Strait of Messina, from there it goes to the east where you get dazzled by the sight of the wonderful bay ofGiardini Naxos, and behind it the magnificent Etna towers above this spectacular panorama of indescribable beauty. You can see all of this from a small town, Castelmola, an ancient medieval village situated above Taormina, on the top of the mountain Mola. From up here, 500 meters above the sea level, it seems as if you can glide driven by the gentle wind that only the great Sicilian summer heat produces, or when it seems as if you are floating when the clouds wrap up the houses and transforms everything into dream material.
Castelmola is the town of scenery, the happy village of good retreat , far away but yet close to the mundane and crowded Taormina. The town has remained a small medieval borough with its’ one thousand inhabitants, with its’ narrow streets paved with black lava stone from Etna and white marble, emphasizing beautiful lozenge mosaics, continuous and discontinuous. In the narrow alleys you can see small balconies full of flowers and colors, portals in carved lava stone and small shops with a style of bygone days that sell beautiful lace, embroidery, and the “scanni di ferula” that are ancient style stools made of ferule-wood, made by the elderly of the town, all throughout the streets of De Gasperi and Pio IX.
The town used to be the acropolis of Taormina during the Greek rule, and then became a stronghold during the Medieval with its’ Castle. With its’ beautiful 5th–century-castle and its‘ churches of San Giorgio and Sant’Antonio, this little town is a true jewel of the Ionian coast. Here the fumes of the mundane Taormina are banned, and the town motto is to relax, preferably while drinking almond wine and dipping a “piparello”, a dry biscuit with almond and fennel-flavor, into the wine. The most popular places to go are the Bar San Giorgio, on which armchairs sat Winston Churchill, Rockefeller, Guglielmo Marconi, Marcello Mastroianni , Sophia Loren and Vittorio De Sica. The other great bar to go is Caffé Turrisi, where transgression lives, and one must be prepared before entering. Everywhere, on the tables, on the walls, the statues, the door handles, the arms of the chairs, and even the faucets and the mirrors, have one theme that belongs to the male body, that is phallic symbols: of all forms and dimensions, this is the home of the phallic symbol. All these unique objects were collected by the grandfather of the owner, who collected them because he had a passion forGreek mythology in which the phallic symbol represented fertility. Here too, celebrities like Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Burt Lancaster and Charlton Heston had a glass of wine, to relax after having participated at the movie awards of the Taormina Film festival, that ended with the awarding of the David di Donatello at the Greek theatre in Taormina.
But Castelmola also has its’ place in literature, through the story of love and betrayal witnessed by D.H. Lawrence, and he turned this erotic event into one of the most scandalous novels of the beginning of the 20th century, “Lady Chatterley’s lover”. The ancient borough has a lot to tell, and it is not even that difficult to get here, only 5 km from Taormina, 7-8 min by car, but surely all the lovers of walking prefer to get here by the wonderful staircase that begins near Porta Messina inTaormina, and leads up, first to the Sanctuary of Madonna della Rocca, and then continues, among agaves, prickly pear-cactuses, aloe, capers and palmettos, and you can see the cave-tombs from the Sicels of the Iron Age. Continuing further up, you finally arrive at theBelvedere of the Sant’Antonio Square, where your eye gets lost in the infinity of the sea.
This town is a member of the club of “the most beautiful boroughs of Italy”, which is an association of small Italian towns that distinguish for their great artistic, culturaland historical interest, for the harmony of their social life, their livability, the services offered to its’ inhabitants and for the way they welcome tourists. All of this while managing to preserve, in its’medieval alleys, the unchanged magic and charm of ancient times that gives you the impression that time stands still here.
So while you wander among the streets, alleys, and churches of ancient origin tasting the granitas, cassata-cake, cannolis and almond-wine, among… tourists and beauties from every nation, you will have an infinity of choices when it comes to what to do and where to go… offered by this beautiful medieval village. If you want to visit Castelmola during the high-season you must book as early as possible a holiday home nearby, since the town literally is stormed during these periods.
Each visitor must handle his/her own gluttony because the temptation to see, experience, taste and enjoy this miracle of nature, and you want it all, at once.
……and you will get mesmerized and come to understand that perhaps only one holiday is not enough.