What I Did on My Summer Vacation (Part Four)
Apparently lots of rich people have summer homes on Panarea. A lot of them are tucked away but you can see them as you sail by. Here’s a hillside house that we called "The Playboy Mansion."
We didn't meet anyone, although I think that the guy I kept seeing in the best restaurant, Da Pina, was probably the Parisian art dealer Thaddaeus Ropac. He was wearing a Richard Prince T-shirt by Marni. Da Pina is the best restaurant on Panarea, with amazing fish carpaccios, spaghetti con sarde, fabulous concoctions of shrimp, mussels, clams, and oysters, and the best tuna and swordfish on the planet.
It would have been difficult to simply re-enter New York life directly from the ancient calm that is the Aeolian Islands, home of the god of the winds. So before re-entry we decided to visit the beautiful ancient city of Taormina on the East coast of Sicily. Like many ancient towns this one is on a high hilltop (or is it a mountaintop?). Once this location repelled invaders. Today it attracts tourists. But even at the height of the season this is a delightful place. We stayed at the Grand Hotel Timeo, about as lovely a hotel in about as beautiful a location as any in the world. From our room we would see lava flowing from Mount Etna under the moonlight.
The Timeo, which opened in 1873, is located next to the famous Greek theater, an ancient venue that is still in use today. One night we could hardly approach the hotel for the crowds queuing up for a performance. Well, not queuing exactly. Italians don’t form lines, they swarm. It sounded like they were there to see Yanni. Here’s the view from my room at the Timeo.
And here's the bar.
Taormina puts things in perspective. It’s a perfect marriage of architecture and nature, art and cooking, tourism and mysticism. At the Timeo you could imagine yourself going back to the 19th century. We didn’t eat at the hotel. Having had a $100 tank of gas before I left New York, I was not about to have a $50 hamburger, but we did have numerous highlights at local restaurants like Granduca, which makes the best “al sarde” sauce I’ve ever had, with sardines and wild fennel. And here, as elsewhere, we drank only Sicilian wines, which hold their own with any in the world. On a hot day there’s nothing like a cold glass of Etna-grown Inzolia to make the time pass.
Sicily has a way of putting things in perspective. It gets you back to the important things in life, like the sun, the sea, lunch, viniculture, boat design, the way you wear your hat… After two weeks I found myself absolutely rejuvenated. Eric even got me out in a national park, driving for kilometer after kilometer, looking through a river for a rare Sicilian turtle. And after that, to please our young amateur vulcanologist, we drove as far up Mount Etna as a regular car could go. As we rose we passed from micro-climate to micro-climate until the treeline was in sight. And there was one of Mount Etna’s ski resorts. Buried under black lava. Imagine powder on a black lava base. It was chilling, in a good way.