ON TO SICILY

After five days painting in Sorrento, we traveled back up the coast to Naples and flew to Sicily. Our first stop was Taormina, a town first settled by the Greeks then invaded by the Romans, the Arabs, Lord Rodger and the Normans and any other marauding horde that drifted across the salty waters of the Ionian Sea. Today the main invaders are tourists and traveling artists.

Our Hotel had fantastic view of the coast from its vantage point above the steep incline to the water.

The Hotel was typical of the stylish, post war, Italian opulence created to attract tourists and build local economys.  High ceilings, large panoramic windows, polished marble floors and beautiful antique furniture created just the atmosphere to make a group of traveling artists feel right at home.

A large shaded terrace, adjacent to the bar and looking over the sea made a great location for our critique sessions at the end of a hard day painting.

Unusual in Italy, the white sandy beaches of Taormina look more like those in the tropics than from a volcanic island.

Rich Volcanic soil and plentiful water from melting snow mean the gardens of Taormina are something else.

On a hill in the middle of town, the Greeks built this theatre. It faced the sea breeze so the actors voices would be carried into the crowd. The Romans, less than happy with the Greek architecture, decided to add the brick structure across the far end of the theatre. After the Romans were moved on, various other pillages removed bits and pieces of the structure for their own creative efforts.

This impressive structure in the Town Gardens was built in the late 1800’s from a mixture of  salvaged ruins and contemporary materials. Paid for by a British woman, Florence Trevelyan, who was encouraged to leave England due to an affair with the future King Edward. The building served no practical purpose other than to decorate the garden.

I wandered away from my painting of the garden structure to see how everyone else was going. The painting was quickly hijacked by this young girl. Her mother snapped a photo of her painting in the garden to send to the folks back home.

Hiding in the theatre alcoves.

Mt. Etna makes an impressive backdrop to the town. It is often cloaked in cloud, but on a clear, still day, steam can be seen rising from the volcano’s crater.

The old town of Taormina is made up of winding cobbled streets and narrow laneways. We arrived in a massive bus which the driver managed to maneuver through town to our hotel on roads a normal person wouldn’t attempt to ride a Vesper!

Red carpet for thin people.

Ornate church doorway on not so ornate church.

Ceremonial lemons outside a more ornate church.

Ice cream was introduced to Europe by the Sicilians. First brewed up on Mt Etna from a mixture of  Ice, fruit juice and sugar. The same recipe is followed today and is called Granite. The best Granite in Sicily comes from Saretto’s Bam Bar.

We were painting Saretto’s scooter and bar one afternoon and were all treated to a sample of his granite – what fantastic stuff! He showed us photos of numerous Hollywood icons enjoying his wares, and a quote from the New York Times stating his was the best granite in the world! You can’t argue with that.
The small square we sat in to paint, turned out to be the driveway to a lady’s house. We watched, amazed, as she somehow juggled a smart car into a dog kennel sized garage on a lane not much wider than the car. She was interested in our paintings and proud of her beautiful little corner of town. She later brought us down a bowl of cherries in ice to enjoy as we sat and painted. We found the local people in Taormina really friendly and extremely helpful.

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136 thoughts on “ON TO SICILY

    • Hi Veronica,
      Thanks for commenting – save up and go, it’s an awesome country with wonderful people.
      John

  1. A year ago my husband and I were in Italy for a month. This year, we are both up to our eyeballs in work. Thanks for this beautiful dispatch which took me right back, even if only for a moment.

  2. wow! what a nice place to visit. I shall take this into account, and this is definitely on my list of places I would like to visit, well I hope someday. Thanks for the virtual tour!
    I love the pictures

  3. Saw you on “Freshly Pressed” and had to see how “Splashed Paint” looks in Italy. The view from here is stunning. 🙂

    Your photos took me back to the eighties when it was “cool” to do a summer of painting in Venice and Sardinia. My friends and I did an impromptu “guerilla” exhibit of our paintings using the gondolas — I sold six paintings straight off the gondola that summer, which paid for my wine, apples and cheese, and also my six floor walk up “studio” for three months.

    Great memories and I want to thank you for taking me along with you to Taormina. 🙂
    Very best wishes,
    Pyrata

    • Hi Pyrata,
      Pleased to bring back some memories.
      Wow … a studio in Venice for three months, that would have been something.
      Thanks for your comments
      John

  4. My husband and I spent 3 weeks in Italy on our honeymoon, including a week in Sicily. The hotel you are at looks so very much like our hotel in Taormina – it was called the Jolly Hotel Dio D’oro back then, but the balconys and the pool – AND THE VIEW – was so remarkably similar. I loved Taormina with all my heart, I’d love to go back someday. Thank you for a wonderful trip down memory lane!

    • Hi Jomaj,
      Glad to bring back some memories.
      The hotel we stayed at was the hotel Diodoro – a beautiful place with amazing views and helpful, friendly staff.
      Thanks for your comments
      John

  5. Ah, Taormina. What a wonderful place! Did you go to Trevelyan Gardens with its funny little treehouses and postcard vista? We smacked our lips on fabulous cannoli and proper coffee there. I’d go back in a heartbeat. It’s such a special town. Thank you for reminding me of some wonderful days there.

    • Hi Epicurienne,
      Thanks for your comments. Yes we did visit the gardens – glad you enjoyed the blog
      John

  6. Wonderful photography! I’ve never had the chance to go to Europe and always wanted to visit Italy and the islands. I especially like the beach at Taormina, I would hit that beach everyday if my house was within an hour, lol.

    • Hi Rhetorical Advocate,
      Thanks for you comments, and I hope one day you’ll find yourself in Sicily.
      Cheers
      John

  7. It’s beautiful. I wish I could get married there. Especially love the photo of the person walking in sunset street.

  8. Lovely blog posts; makes me pine for Italia. It’s been way to long since I visited.
    Would you be interested in sharing any of your posts on our new blog: Travel Between The Pages? It’s completely non-commercial; it’s just a vehicle for writers, artists, photographers and travelers to share ideas, projects, reviews, suggestions, etc. .
    Please take a peek & let us know if you’d be interested. We have a number of novelists,travel bloggers,photographers, etc. who have agreed to post. As well as a few journalists.
    Brian Butler

    • Hi Brian,
      Thanks for commenting. I will have a look at travel between the pages when I get home – very limited internet at the moment.
      Cheers
      John

  9. This is so beautiful. It reminds me of time in Europe…Italy is one little wonder.

    It makes me hum the song…in Italy we do a little dance…mambo gelato..
    awsome lyrics to take Italy with you everywhere you go in the world.

    • Hi David,
      Thanks for your comments. Yes, I did take all the photos – it’s a habit I guess. I like to get up at dawn and walk and take photos. The light is great, everything is quiet, and you discover some interesting things.
      John

  10. Such beautiful photos capturing light and subtle colours.
    A breath of fresh air…gentle and reassuring that places
    still remain that are real.

    Thank you for sharing.

  11. Beautiful photos and a great post. My wife and I just returned from our third trip to Sicily with our children, and it just keeps getting better and better. It’s always nice to see it through someone else’s eyes, too. Thanks!

  12. John, you wild and crazy old man, this is great stuff… just looking at your delicious photos has made me water in the mouth and throw up all next year’s plans… i’m off to sicily, the hell with work. but but but, old fellow, you *will post your paintings from the trip up here, won’t you? please please?

    • Hi sir G,
      Thanks for your comments. Yes I will be posting the paintings of Italy and Sicily soon.
      Cheers,
      John

    • Hi Frank,
      Thanks for commenting. Wow…what a great place to teach English!
      Glad you liked the photos
      Cheers
      John

    • Hi Liv,
      Sorry about the temptation. It is an Island well worth visiting though!
      Thanks for your comment
      Cheers
      John

    • Hi David,
      I did once and it scared hell out of me. We drive on the opposite side of the road sitting on the opposite side of the car in Australia. Unlike the Italians, we drive mindlessly sticking to rules rather than following logic. Venice-Milan-Genoa-Cinque Terre – Florence in peak holiday season. The shiny new Fiat looked like a wreck when I returned it.
      Cheers
      John

  13. Beautiful pictures! I’m hoping to see that area soon so your lovely pictures got me very excited. Thanks for sharing

  14. Ah, brings back many memories. I spent two years stationed at the naval base at Sigonella in the late 1970s. My husband and I had a small apartment in San Gregorio di Catania and we used to ride our motorcycle to Taormina often to spend the day.

    • Hi brick,
      Glad you enjoyed the story.
      The Hotel is called Hotel Diodoro – an amazing place to stay.
      Cheers
      John

  15. I just saw your blog on the main site of wordpress and was intrigued because I saw “Sicily.” I am sicilian and a couple of years ago travelled there for the first time. Isn’t Taormina beautiful? You took some amazing shots, love your work.

  16. John, these pictures are fantastic!! I’ll subscribe to your blog right away! I’ve been studying arts for a lot of time (pencil portrait, actually) and I love any kind of arts.
    enjoy your travel!
    @RolandoPeralta

  17. Wow, this was truly a good post! I like your photos, though I hope you knew the girl who hijacked your painting! I want to go so badly, you’ve given me some good pointers. Do you have a site with which to view your paintings?

    • Hi Jon,
      Thanks for your comments. You can see my paintings on my website I will be adding paintings from Italy and Sicily to the blog as soon as we are back to a reliable fast internet connection.
      Cheers
      John

    • Hi alaskenott,
      Thanks for commenting.
      It’s well worth it,whatever you have to do to get there!
      Cheers
      John

  18. The scenery looks amazing – the people there seem great. Sicily is on my rather large list of places that I intend on traveling to (having family come from there is a contributing factor as to why I’m going) – reading your post makes me want to go even more! Thank you for bumping Sicily up on my list – even if it was already high up there to begin with!

    • Hi jerseygirl832,
      Thanks for your comments.
      Glad you enjoyed the post and hope you get to Sicily soon, you won’t be disappointed!
      Cheers
      John

  19. My parents are from there (few kilometers far from Taormina) but we live in Milan.
    Every year I stay there 2 months. I LOVE that place. Beautiful pics
    Bravo!

    • Hi Annalisa,
      Thanks for commenting. I’d love to spend two months of the year around Taormina. Glad you enjoyed the photos
      John

    • Hi Desertlily24,
      Thanks for commenting. Glad you enjoyed the photos and hope you make it to Sicily some day
      Cheers
      John

  20. Isn’t strange how different people can see things in a different way? My in-laws were on Sicily a few weeks ago and… hated it. I personally think it looks fantastic, according to your pictures anyways. Maybe they didn’t visit the right corner of Sicily, or maybe they just couldn’t open their eyes to its beauty?

    • Hi ermafla,
      Thanks for your comment.
      I guess everyone sees things in a different way. We thought Sicily was fantastic – maybe we visited different areas?
      Cheers
      John

    • Thanks Ivonne,
      Glad you enjoyed the pictures – hope I brought back some memories of Italy for you
      John

  21. wow, Taormina looks amazing.
    and i definitely know what the ‘red carpet for thin people’ meant. haha
    =)

  22. I used to live in Italy and visited many places as well. However never had an opportunity to visit Sicilia. I instead heard always that it is a beautiful place. Maybe there are not only beautiful spots but from your photos I see indeed that there are beautiful places. I feel kind of homesick with your photos.

  23. Ohhh, my God this was such a pleasure to read and look at your wonderful photos! Have you been on a painting tour? Where can we see the paintings you’ve done? I’m also painting but not in Sicily but in my child’s room 😉 Can’t afford a studio 😉

    • Hi belanszky,
      Thanks for your comments – glad you enjoyed the photos.
      I will be putting up the paintings from Italy as soon as we get a better internet connection.
      John

  24. Those photos are beautiful! I have never been to Sicily, but based on these photos- it looks like paradise!!

  25. These are nice pictures. I would love to visit Italy one day. The ancient architecture is very interesting to me, having grown up in the US, where there is virtually no architecture older than a few centuries. Peace.

    • Hi Gregw89,
      Thanks for your comments. We have the same relatively modern architecture here in Australia. It really is an eye opener to visit towns with buildings hundreds of years old and see what has taken place over centuries of history.
      Cheers
      John

    • Hi Amiable Amiable,
      Glad you are enjoying the blog. Sicily really is a beautiful place – I hope your plans come off and you make it there.
      Cheers
      John

  26. Absolutely amazing John! And I am buggered if I know how you fit this blog site into the day, what with all that tuition, travelling and tasting the local beverage. Everytime you post an update, I give myself a kick , wish I had gone with you, and lapse back into reality – lunge for a beer and look forward to the next update.
    Give Di our best, and watch the purity of the water, it can do funny things.

    • Hi Dave,
      Good to hear you have been following the blog. We are both well and have followed your advice about the water. The Italians have worked out a way to purify it by mixing it with a few other ingredients, leaving it sit for a while then putting it in a green bottle with Peroni written on it – improves the taste no end.
      See you soon
      John

  27. Great post, amazing pictures, and love the ceremonial lemons. You really are “living the dream”. Hope there’s more pictures to come 🙂

    • Hi Mahfooz,
      Thanks for your comments. Glad you enjoyed the photos. We are back home in Australia now, so the next lot of pictures will be out of my studio.
      Cheers
      John

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