April 27-28, 2014 – From Bari to Taormina by way of Cosenza

We have decided to take two driving days to reach Sicily. The driving here is pretty stressful and since our rental car has a manual transmission John has to do all the driving. In order to make the trip more enjoyable I have chosen something interesting to see each day.

We are making our way on the 27th to Cosenza in Calabria. Along the way there is a hilltop town which was a Saracen hold out due to its very remote and inaccessible location. I have read on the internet that there is a church there with a 14th century triptych painted by Giotto’s studio. We definitely need to see this! So up the winding roads John drives until we reach the tiny town and we don’t think we can fit the car up any of the streets. Disembarking we walk up very, very steep streets until we reach the little church. The sign on the door says that it is open between 10 AM and 12:30 PM and then again at 4 PM. Hurrah, it is 11:30 AM so it should be open.

Hill town of Rabatana
Hill town of Rabatana

But, no. I read that it is manned by an elderly nun. We find someone to ask. They say that the nun has gone to Tursi for the day and will be back for the later opening. Unfortunately, we will not be here for the 4 PM opening. Sadly we turn the car around and continue on to Consenza.

Our Lady of the Locked Church
Our Lady of the Locked Church

Once in Cosenza we do some shopping at a nearby mall and find somewhere to have dinner. Monday is usually a day when most restaurants are closed. What they think travelers do between Sunday lunch and Tuesday breakfast, I do not know. Maybe fast? Anyway the hotel knows of a place that is open and we have pizza and a bottle of wine from a grape we have never heard of. We chat with the waiter. It’s a pleasant dinner.

Yay, pizza!
Yay, pizza!

In the morning we are back on the road to Sicily. We catch the 11:20 AM ferry and cross the Strait of Messina.
Crossing the Strait of Messina
Crossing the Strait of Messina

My fun plan for today is to stop in Messina and see the cathedral and then have lunch before heading to Taormina. I am hoping that it turns out better than yesterday’s good idea. All goes smoothly getting off the ship and we find the cathedral with no problem. However, parking is a problem. John finds an inventive parking space which is obviously not a real parking space but others are parked here so, why not?
Our parking spot at the top of a flight of stairs
Our parking spot at the top of a flight of stairs

The Messina cathedral has been largely rebuilt since an earthquake at the beginning of the 20th century and allied bombing in 1943 destroyed much of it. It has some very nice reconstructed 14th century mosaics and a large astronomical clock on its bell tower.
Main apse mosaic in Messina duomo
Main apse mosaic in Messina duomo

We find some lunch and then are on our way to Villa Ducale in Taormina. This will be the third time we have stayed at Villa Ducale and we are greeted like old friends. The B & B has 17 rooms, an unbelievably beautiful view from their porch, exceptional service, and is rated #1 on Tripadvisor. There is complimentary tea at 5 PM, cocktail hour at 7 PM and then you can have dinner al fresco as well. It is a really nice place. Sarah is charmed.
The view from Villa Ducale enjoyed with a welcoming glass of prosecco
The view from Villa Ducale enjoyed with a welcoming glass of prosecco

Our room
Our room
The view from our room's balcony
The view from our room’s balcony

Tea time treats
Tea time treats

We pretty much camp out on their porch from 7 PM until we retire.

Tomorrow, Sarah has a cooking lesson with the hotel manager’s father!

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