travel //

Dis­cover a fam­ily-friendly city in NZ’s south

Life & Style Weekend - - WELCOME // INSIDE TODAY - with Ann Rickard

WRIT­ING about the glam­orous re­sort town of Taormina in Si­cily re­cently, and wish­ing I was there right now (oh, the charm of the place) re­minded me of an­other un­for­get­table town that sits high above Taormina.

You couldn’t even call it a town, a vil­lage is more ap­pro­pri­ate, it is very tiny, and most visi­tors to Taormina don’t bother with it.

We would not have made the ef­fort to as­cend the hill to Castel­mola if we had not had in­sider in­tel­li­gence from our driver who picked us up from the air­port.

“You must visit the Bar Tur­risi in Castel­mola,” he said. “You will have to go up the steep hill, you could take a bus, but you re­ally have to see the cafe. The owner has a col­lec­tion of – how can I say it – male things.”

Well, the mind bog­gled, didn’t it? Our driver would not elab­o­rate but our cu­rios­ity had grasped the gist.

We could see Castel­mola from down in Taormina. It looked like a lit­tle vil­lage in the sky cling­ing for dear life to the very top of a stu­pen­dous moun­tain. We wisely took the bus up, for it turned out to be 550m above sea level. The hair­pin bends with sheer drops made for an ex­cit­ing if not ter­ri­fy­ing jour­ney.

Well, how can I de­scribe the Bar Tur­risi to you while keep­ing my­self nice and sav­ing you blushes? I’ll have a go.

This de­light­ful nar­row cafe on five rick­ety lev­els held what I could only guess was the largest pri­vate col­lec­tion in the world of “male things”. Apart from the ob­vi­ous large stat­ues and wooden carved fig­ures with their phal­lic in­cli­na­tions, there were cabi­nets full of plas­tic pe­nis ob­jects, from drink­ing straws (don’t dwell) to can­dles and wa­ter jugs with pe­nis han­dles.

The phal­lic ob­ject d’art was ev­ery­where: on coun­ters and shelves, in paint­ings and plaques, on the walls, carved into the backs of chairs, twisted into iron stair­case rails, in ev­ery nook in the wall and ev­ery small cor­ner of this ex­tra­or­di­nary cafe.

We ex­plored all of the five lev­els, sit­ting on pe­nis chairs (don’t think too long) sip­ping our cof­fee from pe­nis cups, look­ing out over the small bal­conies on each level to the nar­row and charm­ing streets be­low. When we thought we’d spot­ted ev­ery pe­nis in the place we found more: a rooftop foun­tain with a de­light­ful ar­range­ment of willies stacked around a rear­ing cen­tre­piece spurt­ing wa­ter (I know, I know).

Then yet more of the male things: painted on the mo­saic tiles on the table­tops, stand­ing dec­o­ra­tively around a punch bowl, form­ing the bases of lamp­shades and then, the piece de re­sis­tance, a mon­strous wooden one, the size of a can­non, sit­ting ar­ro­gantly along the length of a long wooden ta­ble in a large al­cove. Hun­dreds of peo­ple had carved their names in this big beauty. Give you an idea of its grand size?

We sat on the rooftop ter­race with our cof­fee sur­rounded by pe­nis-shaped pots with pink gera­ni­ums grow­ing fes­tively from their tops, and looked over rooftops to the mag­nif­i­cent bell tower so close across the chasm of the street we could al­most touch it. Com­ing back down the café’s nar­row stair­case we had to duck down, limbo-style, be­neath a long wooden pe­nis reach­ing across the stair­well. Even in the bath­room the taps con­tin­ued the mas­cu­line theme. Bar Tur­risi is quite the travel ex­pe­ri­ence, but there is more to this his­toric cafe than the male things. It has a mar­vel­lous his­tory, which you can read in the pe­nis-shaped visi­tors’ book, and is also fa­mous for its al­mond wine, an an­cient recipe be­long­ing to the Tur­risi fam­ily. The dry white wine is sweet, aro­matic with al­monds which leave an af­ter taste. Per­fect with a dessert from the ex­cel­lent menu. (You ac­tu­ally visit Bar Tur­risi to eat and drink as well as gasp at the male things.)

Castel­mola vil­lage is de­light­ful, so high you look down to the glit­ter­ing blue of the Mediter­ranean from wide van­tage points and catch glimpses of it be­tween the clus­ters of multi-level houses and build­ings. Cas­tle ru­ins en­cour­age you to ex­plore, cy­press trees and olive groves en­chant. It is quiet and hazy up there in a sum­mer’s af­ter­noon and the steep walk down takes you back to those heady de­lights in Taormina.

PHOTOS: THINKSTOCK

Castel­mola, close to Taormina, is worth the climb just to see the sights at Bar Tur­risi.

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