I don’t know if Horace Greeley ever sailed across the Ionian Sea, but he was right about heading west. We left Greece late at night and sailed to lovely Taormina, Sicily, “the Jewel of the Ionian Coast.” Taormina was made famous by Jay and the Americans, who sang about the place back in 1965. Of course, I might be confusing the Taormina with “Cara Mia,” but you get the point. (OK, that was a bit of a stretch!) Anyway, the town is quite charming, and it attracts many celebrities. (I got Sicily Tyson’s autograph.)
The town is right beside Mt. Etna, Europe’s highest volcano, which is still quite active. (I will skip the jokes about “Lava lamps” and “going with the flow.”) The observant German writer, Goethe, once said, “To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything.” Rather a bold statement, but mostly true.
The area was actually settled way back in 4,000 B.C., but none of the original inhabitants are still alive. Once pasta was perfected, the place was invaded by the Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, and Saracens. (Hey, what the hell happened to the Venetians? They finally missed a place!) In recent history, 1860 to be exact, Garibaldi established the island’s alliance with mainland Italy. Most historians (myself included) peg the founding of Taormina in 358 B.C. Everything was relatively peaceful (if you liked your relatives) until 902 A.D., which is when those damn Saracens invaded and leveled the existing town. (They had anger issues, and too much free time.)
Nowadays, Taormina attracts the equally destructive cruise ship crowd, but is still home to a number of well-known writers and artists. I’ve never lived there, but a guy named D. H. Lawrence spent 3 years in the town. (1920-1923) The best part of the town is the incredible view (hundreds of feet above sea level) which overlooks the Ionian Sea and the ancient village of Naxos. (A Greek enclave that has some impressive ruins.) During our visit, we rented some beach chairs and umbrellas and spent the afternoon swimming, eating, and drinking. (What else is new?) All in all a great stop, and very intoxicating, if you know what I mean!
So what else is new? Well, my lecture and book-signing in Dripping Springs was quite pleasant and well-attended. I held court at the Treaty Oak Distilling Company (Another “intoxicating” place!) which produces some very good adult beverages. The distillery occupies about 30 acres of the Texas Hill Country, and they give tours (and sell samples) of their products. (Bourbon, whiskey, gin, and vodka!)
Just up the road is another complex that produces alcoholic cider, which is definitely an acquired taste. (Cider does not “appeal” to me, which might be the “core” of the problem.) All right, enough apple jokes. In case you’re interested, I was peddling my two history books, THE SECOND MOURNING and TURBULENT TIMES. Sales were brisk, and so was the weather. Next time we go indoors!
Well, my friends, I must leave you now. I am off to a barbecue and beer festival in Bastrop, Texas. (Just outside of Austin) I hope you have a wonderful and happy week, and we shall meet again next Sunday….. in Sorrento!
Love to all,
These chapters are so fantastic—thank you for memoralizing your travels. Very interesting! 😀