Friday, January 3, 2014

2nd January – We meet Giuseppe our Taormina Airbnb host and Mum Nellie

Early start this morning to fly to Sicily. We get to Palermo airport to pick up our hire car. “You have no International drivers licence!...we cannot rent you the car”. I last had an international drivers license 30 years ago and didn’t need it. I’ve hired cars all over Europe over that time without the need for an International Licence. I just so happen to get the only ‘customer service’ agent in the last 30 years, who wants to enforce this rule! Well I lose part of the hire cost by cancelling but just go next door to the local dealer Maggiore “no problems…we have a car for you”.

We are driving to Taormina via a hill top town Enno. I have to get used to driving on the other side of the road again, the very narrow streets and Italian drivers. In one small town one driver decides to cut across in front of me to grab a park facing the wrong way. Our side mirrors clash. Thank goodness for collapsing side mirrors. Just had to spring it out again. I never ‘got’ these folding in side mirrors until driving in Crete several years ago. We committed a faux pas by not folding ours in when we parked. You can create a whole traffic jam in Crete if you don’t fold in your side mirrors for that extra few centimetres of space!

We get lost a bit off course and end up in this other hilltop town called Calascibetta,
Roads were desinged for one man chariots.
which is a densely built hilltop town that reminded me of Matera in the lower part of Italy that I had visited for a conference several years ago. I should have known better than to try and drive in. It was a nightmare….even with the side windows folded in! On one wrong turn (the GPS had given up long ago) Julie had to get out and guide me as I reversed out. We gingerly followed a goat track back down the hill and into Enna…which in comparison had roads that felt like a 6 lane highway.

Arriving in Taormina after again a drive up some tortuous narrow and winding roads we meet Giuseppe and his Mum Nellie at our Airbnb place, appropriately called Nellie’s guest house. Giuseppe has to back our car into his driveway …. They are experts in close quarter driving. Like our other hosts Giuseppe and his mother are life time locals. Giuseppe tells us how his father used to tell stories about empty beaches here. Apparently in August it is crazy here. His mum Nellie doesn't speak a word of English, but Italians can speak with their hands, so not a problem.

Side Bar – Italian holidaying habits.

I can never understand why the Italians insist on all going on Holidays in the same month, August. Open Knowledge actually closes the doors for the whole of August. It means the holiday period is compressed into a single month, whereas in other months places can be deserted. Apparently February is that month in Taormina. I recall accidently booking a hotel in Rome in August for what seemed a great price. I had meant to book for September. When I changed the booking the price was double! They explained to me that no-one stays in Rome in August. It is just too hot and everyone goes to the seaside.

Taormina is the ‘Positano’ of Sicily. We had a lovely evening promenade down a buzzy main street, which apparently closes down next weekend when the Italians go back to work.
Our first viewing of Etna...many more to come!

Views from Enna are spectacular

A "Buzzy" Taormina street an night

Social Network Update

New connections

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