A Somewhat Contrarian View on Taormina

by Chikashi

Grand Hotel Timeo

The view from the south-facing terrace of Grand Hotel Timeo is nothing short of superb. The deep azure Ionian Sea is sparkling to the left and to the right Mt. Etna appears as though she is lying on a chaise longue, trying to resist having another tantrum by keeping an even breath. Other people on the terrace were all foreigners, including a pair of heavily Botox-ed Americans who appeared to have raided their respective teenage daughters’ wardrobes before leaving home.

Timeo is lovely. It exists in its own little bubble; you would not even sense the tourist mob outside the property even though it is situated adjacent to the celebrated site, the brick Teatro Greco. However, therein lies the problem: sitting at Timeo, you could be anywhere in the world. You could be on the Atlantic, Pacific, Mediterrannean or the Adriatic coast. Anywhere. So why Sicily?

I probably would feel differently about Timeo if it were not situated in Taormina, which is perhaps the most touristy town on the Ionian coast. The photo above gives a clue, a rather large cruise ship moored in the bay. A gaggle of passengers with the package tour sticker dutifully applied on their left chest, with tour managers carrying their branded flags, were slowly making their way through a narrow street lined with souvenir shops supplying naff rubbish to meet demand on the way to and back from the Teatro Greco. The best thing about the theatre is its location. Otherwise, there are better examples of ancient Greek theatres out there, particularly those that were built from stones rather than bricks.

Taormina was bad enough in July; it is very difficult to imagine what it’s like in August. It’s even more difficult to imagine what the little Isola Bella across the bay is like in August. Thankfully, there are plenty of other places in Sicily.