My experiences in Taormina, Sicily have always been less than positive. The first time I went to Taormina, I was studying in Ortigia and decided to take a train up to Taormina for the day. I found the town to be touristy and overpriced. I had the worst gelato of my life that day. I never throw away gelato but this caffé tasted like banana. Some things, like bad gelato, are just inexcusable in my book.
The second time I visited Taormina, I decided I was going to study abroad in the town. Having a less than positive experience the first time, I was hesitant. As I entered my apartment for the first time, I walked in with the landlord as she showed me around the apartment. I asked if my only other roommate Meghan was here. She responded that I would have a total of 5 roommates, una ragazza (A girl) and ragazzi (guys). I quickly thought I misheard her and dismissed the comment. She then showed me to my room, or closet rather. All of the other rooms in this apartment where giant palaces compared to this. I think I just found my prison cell.
After meeting my roommate Meghan, I decided it was time to wash away over 24 hours spent on an airplane. I got out of the shower and started to walk down the hallway adorned with only a towel. I then bumped into my other unknown roommates, teenage Italian boys. These guys were punky, greasy, Italian teenagers. They could have been cast in a movie for all I know to play the part. They settled in with their cigarettes and Pink CD. They were not friendly by any means, never talking to us, leaving the main door wide open at midnight. After several days of negotiating with our school, they left, but Taormina could never redeem herself for me. Well, not until I had three positive experiences in the town that settled my negativity.
One of which came by way of a dessert bearing man. Unknowingly one rainy cold night, Meghan and I walked into BamBar. BamBar in Taormina is famous for several reasons. The main reason without question is the granita. Basically an Italian version of the slushy, BamBar claims to serve the best granita. We sat down to have a hot chocolate, not knowing granita was the specialty here. The owner took down our order and then quickly came back with a chocolate granita along with two hot chocolates. We thanked him for the free granita, and he began telling us he served the best granita in the world. He had one of those digital picture frames on the wall.. He proudly showed me all the celebrities that have sampled granita here, anyone from Michael Douglas to Antonio Banderas.
You could tell this man was so proud of what he had accomplished. The who’s who of Hollywood had passed through his doors, but it was the granita I think he was most proud of in his life. As I lapped up the last few bites of granita, I thought, in some heavenly way this man knew I had the worst dessert of my life in Taormina just one year ago. He wanted to make sure Taormina got a second try for this skeptic. I must have had that look of disappoint slapped across my face when I walked through his doors.
On one of my last few days in Taormina, , my roommate and I decided to end our experience of highs and lows with the highs and lows of Taormina. Taormina rests on a mountain, with a rocky beach below. To reach the beach, you must either hop on a cable car down or climb by foot. Isola Bella loomed in the distance as I made the hike down via countless steps. It truly was a beautiful sight, set against turquoise water, reminding me Taormina wasn’t so bad. There was this man gliding around on his grotto tour boat, enticing Meghan and I to join a tour with Rhianna’s latest hit blaring from his sound system. Instead, we decided to climb to the very top of Taormina.
A path guides by way of switchbacks to the very top of Taormina. You can see the entire town from this vantage point including the impressive Greek-Roman Theater. As we both reached the top, a little man approached us. He couldn’t have been more than 4 feet 11 inches tall if that. He started talking to us about Taormina, gabbing in Italian through his yellow crooked teeth. Both Meghan and I began to feel somewhat uneasy. This may have been due to the fact that he got uncomfortably close to us as he was speaking. Finally I told him we must go despite him trying to get us to follow him into the nearby village of Castelmola. He insisted on giving us both that double kiss goodbye. I naturally shy away from this move, always suspect and not wanting some stranger’s face so close to mine. I got away unscathed, but Meghan did not. He planted a big wet kiss on her cheek and went on his way.
Meghan later went home and religiously washed her face. I couldn’t help but think that yes, Taormina redeemed herself by way of a delicious granita, the vision that is Isola Bella, and truly hitting a low point in the town at its highest vantage point with a sloppy, wet kiss.