We arrive in Taormina, Sicily on sunset. A well-known tourist town, it hangs off the steep eastern coast, a cable car connecting it to the seafront below at an angle of nearly 65 degrees. The town is still busy, despite it being close to the end of the season. Restaurants are full, bars are filling, and a warm breeze blows. In the piazza, views all the way down the eastern coast can be seen from a lookout some 250 metres above sea level. In the dark, the coastline can be mapped via the illumination along it, and we can trace the next three or four days in the lights below us.
We wander off, away from the tourist path, into the darker, back streets. Hunger begins to overtake, and a search for food becomes an increasing concern.
We find a small pizzeria about one block off the tourist route through the town, but a world away from the tourist traps. Here we eat our first Sicilian pizza and arancini, drink a Birra Messina and are diverted by the flow of customers. The volume of pizza and foot-traffic constant, every customer a local. They look at us inquisitively, I suspect we are a novelty. We watch the owners as they cook, serve, clean. Their food is simple, fresh and wonderful.
My eye is caught by the intensity of activity as the owner works in the heat of the pizza ovens – creating, cooking, slicing. He wields mastery, and I love to watch people control, evolve and make efficient their artistry.
We finish and clean up, stepping out into the dark street, into the night.
And now I can’t remember exactly where it was.
I could probably find it on a map, but rather than direct you there you should look for yourself. It’s away from the centre, off the main streets, down a back alley or two. It’s dark, and you might be a wee bit scared, but bear with it. You’ll find locals eating there, spilling out onto the street in front of it, bathed in a pool of light. All waiting to take their package of food home, or eating just where they sit on the kerbside.
Or else, in your meandering, you may just find somewhere else of your own, some treasure that I don’t know about.
They’re the best ones.