HIGH SO­CI­ETY

Why Taormina still lures the great and the good (and the G7).

Esquire (Malaysia) - - CUL­TURE - WORDS BY JOHNNY DAVIS

Perched on the side of a moun­tain, 250m above the sea, Taormina is a Si­cil­ian gem that oc­cu­pies a rocky bluff on the is­land’s east coast, over­look­ing the beaches and the an­cient bay of Giar­dini Naxos. In fact, you are guar­an­teed post­card panora­mas from al­most any­where here. Once de­scribed by Ernest Hem­ing­way as be­ing so pretty “it hurts to look” at, Taormina counted fans such as Ava Gardner, Os­car Wilde and DH Lawrence (who lived here), as well as Tru­man Capote, who threw par­ties that stag­gered on long into the night.

The chi-chi des­ti­na­tion has been pop­u­lar with hol­i­day­ing high-rollers ever since, and last year this “pearl of the Io­nian Sea” achieved a more weighted dis­tinc­tion when it was un­ex­pect­edly cho­sen to host the G7 sum­mit, bring­ing in world lead­ers in­clud­ing Em­manuel Macron and Don­ald Trump, who sat at the run­way en­trance for a Ver­sace fash­ion show, where the pa­parazzi pho­tographed him star­ing at Kate Moss’s pink hair.

Stay at the 29-room Villa Car­lotta, built around a hair­pin bend into a cliff-face, with views of main­land Italy to the left and Mount Etna to the right. Dine at Tis­chi Toschi, the two-storey trat­to­ria serv­ing mod­ern Si­cil­ian dishes, de­scribed by Yo­tam Ot­tolenghi (on In­sta­gram, every­thing is em­i­nently In­sta­gram­able) as “su­perb”. Stop in for a night­cap at the bar at the Bel­mond Grand Ho­tel Timeo—next to Teatro An­tico di Taormina, the an­cient Greco-ro­man am­phithe­atre still used to­day—where the his­tor­i­cal Rus­sian vodka col­lec­tion and sun­downer drinks trol­ley are too good to let pass by. The town is also be­com­ing noted for its wine of­fer­ing, with vint­ners fi­nally tak­ing ad­van­tage of Etna’s vol­canic soil and en­vi­able cli­mate to cul­ti­vate grapes with in­tense minerality and flavours. Taormina can even boast its own cable car, which will ferry you from ex­pan­sive beach to se­cluded cove. “The next step will be start­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion process to be­come a Unesco World Her­itage Site,” says Mari­arita Sgar­lata, of the Univer­sity of Cata­nia.

For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about this hid­den gem, the sec­ond-best source is blog­taormina.it, an on­line news­pa­per. The first, how­ever, is to speak to the re­tired lo­cal boys who oc­cupy Taormina’s main square ev­ery morn­ing, and know every­thing about ev­ery­one, past and present. But for that, of course, you will have to go there.

is­land in the sun: Taormina on Si­cily boasts some of the Mediter­ranean Sea’s most beau­ti­ful beaches— this one is for pri­vate use by the Capotaormina Ho­tel’s guests

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