We are in Comiso, one of the capitals of Sicilian Baroque. Here it is the nice Natural History Museum.
by Giovanni Vallone
Taormina, pearl of Sicily known throughout the world.
In this place passion, love and mysteries have lived together for thousands of years, since its foundation, around the VIII century BC .
In Taormina there is a Greek Theater, a medieval castle, city walls, Gothic arches and various wonders.
The magic of Taormina is a mix of colors, prickly pears, sea, stone, alleys and panoramas.
But we could also say very well: a mix of sunsets, women, playboys, gays, artists and beaches.
A vicious concentrate of Sicily and Beauty with a capital b.
Who arrives in Taormina, stops here and is kidnapped.
In a Sicily of ancient traditions that die hard, men with the coppola and women with mustaches, Taormina at the end of the 1800s is a kind of paradise for homosexuals, intellectuals, nobility and the concept of carefree life and enjoyment in general.
More than scecchi!
Under Taormina there is Isola Bella, a tiny paradise of land tied to the land by a strip of sand.
Above Taormina there is another pearl: the beautiful Castelmola.
In Castelmola there is a bar that has become famous all over the world for a sort of permanent exposure of penises, as if to underline the eternal transgression of this area of Sicily.
There is also a footpath from Isola Bella to Taormina and then up to Castelmola and then further up to the summit of Monte Veneretta.
A dream staircase, the main character of the story we are about to tell you: Isolabella, Taormina, Castelmola, Cafe Monte Venere, Monte Veneretta!
In this coming and going of travelers, in Taormina and Castelmola, two ladies of great charm also arrived.
The first was Honorable Florence Trevelyan Trevelyan (picture below on the left), English, who arrived in Taormina around 1880.
(from a photo of the private collection of Daniele Giuseppe Carlo Maria Chirico)
The second was Frieda Lawrence, German, who arrived in Taormina in 1919, wife of the writer Herbert Lawrence (both below), or according to the people of Taormina: the real Lady Chatterley.
The two never met, because Florence, who had recently married the mayor of Taormina, died in 1907 twelve years before Frieda Lawrence arrived.
But both women shared a double passion: art, expressed as the beauty of nature for Florence and poetry for Frieda; and men, certainly for Frieda.
But let’s proceed calmly, one lady at a time!
Florence Trevelvan Trevelyan was born in England from a noble family in 1852.
Wallington (from a photo of the private collection of Daniele Giuseppe Carlo Maria Chirico)
Here is the place where she lived: lucky her!
About her was developed a story probably started by gossip.
We’ll tell you about it, along with the results of historical research.
The gossipy story says that Florence, at the age 25, had an affair with Edoardo soon to be future king of England and a passionate lover of an indefinite number of often embarrassing women.
Discovered then the affair with the future King Edward, at that point Florence was asked to get out of the royal court, of which she was a part, behind the payment of a high pension.
The non gossipy story, but based on historical facts collected by Florence’s greatest devotee of all time, the historian Daniele Giuseppe Carlo Maria Chirico, which is a bit like saying Honorable Florence Trevelyan Trevelyan, says that there was no relationship with Edward and who was never, therefore, exiled.
(Catherine Ann Forster Florence’s mother)
But it was the death of her mother that gave her the emotional thrust of the long departure.
The fact is that, in any case, she became one of the first real great female travelers in history.
(Florence on the left and Harriet on the right)
(Florence ad Alassio, third from the right)
She traveled far and wide, together with her cousin Harriet and eventually landed in Taormina, around 1880.
(Taormina in 1896)
(Taormina at the beginning of the 20th century)
She was stunned by the beauty, swearing she would never go away from this place .
She was rich and resourceful.
According to gossip, she took advantage of her feminine qualities, a bit of lipstick here, powder puff there… And she married a famous local, the doctor and future mayor of Taormina Mr. Cacciola.
(Florence and Salvatore Cacciola; Isola bella in 1905)
Instead, we all agree that she married Salvatore Cacciola and bought one of the most beautiful places in the world: Isola Bella.
And that transformed Taormina into the first garden city of Europe.
She created another paradise: a wonderful green corner in the center of Taormina, today the public garden, with immense aviaries between Etna and the Ionian Sea.
The unusual constructions, nicknamed ‘victorian follies’, are a mixture of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles and are produced with simple materials such as colored bricks, pieces of stone and lava, fabric, tiles, wooden trunks and pipes of all sizes together with other recovery building materials, found during the excavation and cleaning of the hillside.
A pearl inside a pearl.
Florence used to walk with her beloved dogs.
There she is in an extraordinary photo of 1898 in which Florence is surrounded by her dogs and in the company of her faithful housekeepers.
You’re right, Florence: better a dog for a friend than a dog friend!
She was a woman in sight and created many good deeds.
She was loved by all the people of Taormina.
She also had the pleasure of hosting King Edward VII in the company of his wife, a real or presumed lover
Florence loved to spend many days on her estate in the countryside, near Castelmola, just behind Monte Venere.
Let’s go too, then.
We meet a lady who picks wild vegetables of which Sicily is a very fertile land.
She: We like vegetables, you eat any? Wild fennel. Good with pasta with sardines, boiled, with garlic … I’m from 1937.
Who knows how many times Florence took this road with her mule driver!
Nar: All right Mrs. Angela we’re going
She: Don’t look at me that I’m run down
The road, without barriers and often precipitous over the void, rises towards the top flanked by a pedestrian path that climbs even higher up to the summit of Monte Veneretta.
It is a triumph of panoramas and of Sicily.
On her property in Monte Venere, Florence, cultivates her great love for nature and birds.
She is a sad woman, for the loss of her unborn child.
Here, the gossip says that she made her famous baths with sea water that her colonists brought her.
The answer of her historian Daniele Giuseppe etc. etc. is the following: Absolutely NO. This is another invention: Florence was not allowed to take any sea water to bathe, it is the usual village lie invented by gossip.
Here she decides to be buried when she dies.
And that’s how it was
Today her land belongs, go and understand how, Mrs. Maria Sterrantino who walks the paths that one day were taken care of by the noble Florence.
A splendid place dominated by the panorama of Etna and the sea.
Today Maria breeds animals and cultivates all that she can.
Nar: Mrs. Mariaaaaa!
But Florence’s grave is still where she wanted it to be.
It bears the date of 1907 when Florence was only 55 years old.
Her coffin was escorted by a court of shepherds who played the Sicilian bagpipes so dear to her, and hundreds of women, shepherds and fishermen whom she had helped economically spread flowers in her passage.
Basically all of Taormina and all of Castelmola escorted her for the last time.
The flowers have been put by Mrs. Maria for over 50 years and her historian Daniele Giuseppe Carlo Maria Chirico.
Always Chirico, every morning on October 4th, commemorates Florence by having posters published at his own expense in the Taormina area and in its surroundings and inviting people to lay flowers at the bust of Florence located in the Taormina Municipal Villa.
Life is strange, isn’t it?
As stated by the historian of Florence, from February 19 2019, the Taormina Public Garden, was finally named “Parco Florence Trevelyan”.
And we pass to our second woman: she was a German, noble, and her name was Frida.
She was born in 1879.
She was married, she moved to England to follow her husband a professor and fell in love with her husbands student : Herbert Lawrence, who soon became one of the most successful writers of all time.
Lawrence was sick with tuberculosis and was told that Taormina was a great place to cure it.
The air was the best and at the time we often relied on the goodness of nature rather than on medicines.
She arrived in Taormina in 1919 when Florence had been dead for 12 years but her name still shone in the skies.
Herbert and his wife Frida lived in the center of the village, where they also dedicated a street to him.
Frida had to go for a lot of walks in the public garden that Florence had given to the village as long as her beloved birds were cared for and looked after.
Our Frida, often without the sickly Lawrence, was also delighted to go up towards Monte Veneretta, where her friend lived and until a few years earlier even Florence Trevelyan Trevelyan.
To go there she passed from a magical place ,a meeting point of all the Taormina social life: the Monte Venere cafe, suspended between the clouds and the sea.
A bar tucked into nothing with the sea to act as a spectacular backdrop, in the background.
Let’s go find it, putting ourself in a winding road that starts from the outskirts of Castelmola.
Here we are at the Café Monte Venere: all abandoned and destroyed, but the charm is equally strong.
Imagine Frida sitting in here drinking a cup of tea as a good English, or a beer as a good German or an orange juice, from an adopted Sicilian.
Then Frida gets up, smiles at the owner, winks at her mule-driver, and goes by her friend Betty, a few kilometers above.
And by Lady Betty, the cheeky Frida, goes there with a local mule driver: a certain Peppino d ‘Allura
Abstract taken from the “Frida and Peppino d’Allura”, Italian Radio Public Network, 2010. A program by Giovanni Vallone (President of Splendid Sicily) Directed by: Daria Corrias Edited by: Fabiana Carambolante
He: One day in August a storm surprised them. The mule-driver along the road ran to the shelter entering a cottage that was nearby, just halfway between Taormina and the Café Monte Venere. I got her some towels but Frida came out naked running under the water.
And here came the most famous intercourse of history of primordial pornography.
According to a reconstruction made by a Sicilian journalist, Gaetano Saglimbeni, the mule driver in question was, as mentioned, the indigenous Peppino d’Allura.
Him: In Taormina it was normal for peasants sons to go to bed with foreigners.
Peppino and Frida: the most daring couple in history!
He: He was 24 and Mrs Frieda 41. It was the Belle Epoque period.
And someone claims that it was the one down there the house of the scandal
He: Ah! How I like to touch you, he said as he ran his fingers over the delicate skin.
History has it that Frida told her husband about everything.
Who in turn told the whole world in his famous book that came out a few years later, in 1928: Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
He: I was 32 and I had 3 sisters and I read the book secretly in the bathroom
We told you two stories of Taormina, this incredible place where everything is different.
Diversity, here I found : diversity, this perpe tual motion of beauty.
Diversity, generating continuous emotions.
If you want to be kidnapped by the siren of vice, beauty and seduction: welcome to Taormina!
But the final question is the following: If you are women, you prefer to be the rich and traveler Florence but who died little more than fifty, or the transgressive and long-lived Frieda passed to history with a book?
And if you are a man, do you prefer to be the fiery and womanish Peppino or the cheated but eternally immortalized in the story Herbert Lawrence?
Make your choice and let us know!