Par Christiane Calonne
Out of season, Sicily is even more beautiful. At the wheel of a vintage Fiat 500, this legendary car typical of happy Italy, discovering this volcanic island is an adventure in its own right. A privileged moment during which one gets lost with delight on the small winding roads, from Taormina to the villages of Savoca or Forza d’Agro, in the footsteps of the Godfather – alias Don Vito Corleone – mythical icon of any amateur cinephile or more diligent. On the way to the Dolce Vita in Sicilian version!
“A man would only have to spend one day in Sicily and ask me: – What is there to see? – I would answer him without hesitation: Taormina “said Maupassant when he returned from one of his trips at the end of the 19th century. “It is nothing but a landscape,” he continued, “but a landscape in which one finds everything that seems made on earth to appeal to the eyes, the mind and the imagination. At that time, we knew how to take the time. To discover Sicily – the largest island in the Mediterranean – the means of transport were once limited. Only horse-drawn carts crisscrossed the steep little roads of the tortured landscapes around Etna. What would dear Maupassant have said if, during his stay in Taormina, he had been offered, for a change, to drive in a small vintage Fiat 500?
Discover the beauties of Sicily behind the wheel of a small vintage racing car…
The Grand Hotel Timeo, on the heights of the city, and the Villa Sant Andrea, nestled in its adorable little bay – both members of the prestigious Belmond hotel chain – indeed offer their customers a fun getaway aboard a small Legendary “machina” from the 1950s. In the past, Italians took advantage of their weekend on the coast aboard their legendary Fiat 500, ideal for slipping on the roads and in small alleys. Synonymous with escape and relaxation, taking a ride in this small vintage car is the unique opportunity to appropriate the sublime landscapes of sea and mountain, taking the time to stop when necessary during small cultural, gastronomic or artistic breaks. Appealing to real enthusiasts, to incredible collectors, the small cars are always in perfect working order given their great age, providing passengers with a delicious source of pleasure and adrenaline … , we will come back!
The sun rises very early in eastern Sicily, gently waking up Villa Sant Andréa. In this charming hotel, breakfast would tend to monopolize the morning sweets lover for a little too long … but don’t delay. Giovanni, a smile on his face from early in the morning, is already waiting in front of the reception with his vehicle shining on all sides: a superb little Fiat 500 all red that one would believe had come out of the factory that very morning, and which nevertheless saw the day in 1969! If from the outside it looks tiny, inside, finally, it is easy to fit three people without problem: the driver, the co-pilot and a passenger in the back seat, not so badly seated. She really looks great this little one! This charming Sicilian, part of the “Fiat Cinque Cento” club, has no less than 5, and his club no less than 40.
Discovering Forza d´Agro and Savoca, the villages of Corleone…
The adventure is going to be very interesting, Giovanni speaks neither French nor English… So let’s go for Italian! The choice of the day’s getaway was based on the theme of the “Godfather”, the two others proposed by the hotels interested in the “Viticultural Routes of Etna” and the “Montalbano Tower”, inevitable for the followers. from the Italian detective series. Francis Ford Coppola, director of the legendary three-part film, had set up his cameras a stone’s throw from Taormina, choosing two very beautiful villages as a backdrop: Forza d’Agro and Savoca. Before climbing towards these authentic villages, the road winds along the sea which, at times, plays with deep blues or very crystalline turquoise.
Suddenly the coast recedes. The ascent will come at an unusual pace. From 70 km / h on level ground, the speedometer needle slowly descends to allow the vehicle to tackle steep climbs and hairpin turns with ease. What a joy to “roam” at this new cruising pace! We immediately forget the rhythm of the 21st century to take the time to observe everything that is happening around. Even though the sun is beating down hard enough on the little red “yoghurt pot” which gradually nibbles the bitumen, nature is curiously green and shrubs dot the landscape with a thousand bright colors, from fuchsia bougainvillea to bright broom. At the bend of a bend, a church, firmly planted on its hill, announces the arrival in Savoca. In the small village square, everything looks peaceful, from another time. On the one hand, the view is magnificent over the valley which rushes at full speed towards the sea, while on the other side, Bar Vitelli lets out, from its arbor, a few very recognizable notes: “Speak lower, because could well hear us… ”Who does not know the soundtrack of the“ Godfather ”? In the village square, the bar has not changed since the filming of the first part of this film, almost 50 years ago! This is where the scenes of Michael Corleone’s wedding to the beautiful Apollonia took place. In the film, the father of the bride is the owner of the Vitelli bar. The “real one” from today hung a picture of his meeting with “Il Padrino” on the wall. How not to dream a little on the terrace with good “pastas” and a “sambuca” or quite simply while tasting a good Sicilian granita with lemon while watching the people of the village evolve at their own pace, that of the sun and the air of the time.
Not far from there, Forza d´Agro is also part of the getaway, Coppola found again interesting places for the continuation of his feature film. Arriving at the foot of the church – perhaps it was a coincidence – Gounod’s Ave Maria greeted the little vintage crew in great flight. Nap time has arrived, or will soon be. The houses close their doors, the shutters open and the noises in the alleys gradually fade away, leaving only the gentle heat of the sun inevitably blocked on the zenith. Sneaking through alleys just wide enough for her, where no one other than Giovanni would dare to venture, here is our Fiat 500 quite happy to reach Taormina, this time the heart of the historic village on the heights, to drop off its passengers at the Grand Hotel Timeo.
Dolce lives in Taormina, facing Etna…
Ideally located, the Timéo opens its terraces widely to the sea, facing Etna. On the east coast of Sicily, roughly halfway between Messina and Catania, on Mount Tauro offering a breathtaking panorama, with its exceptional historical, cultural and archaeological heritage, its first-rate health resort enjoying ‘a microclimate, Taormina could only be a popular destination for lovers of Italy and the Mediterranean. Dominated by its fortress, it is often referred to as “Sicilian Saint-Tropez”. In the city center, the main street is pedestrianized and in all the medieval alleys which escape from it, one discovers splendid points of view or vestiges of the ancient city, like the Greek theater, all in an intense atmosphere of calm and serenity. From this little paradise, it is very easy to venture to the neighboring tourist sites: the incredible Al Cantara gorges, the charming medieval village of Castelmola, the Isola Bella reserve, the caves of Capo Sant Andrea and many more. of course Mount Etna, the highest volcano in Europe, and more than ever one of the most active in the world. Sicily has not finished telling us all its secrets!