If with a single glance you can see both the Ionian coast, the monumental Etna, the Bay of Giardini-Naxos, the Cape of S.Alessio, the strait of Messina and the Calabrian coast, either you are on Google Maps or you are in Castelmola.

This small village above Taormina is a real genuine natural terrace built around the ruins of a Norman castle that, over time has assumed a concave and smooth shape, similar to that of a millstone (grindstone). Therefore, it is easy to guess the origin of the name. It is an instant contraction of “Castle” and “Mola”.

The Norman walls are all that remain of the fortress. A plaque from the tenth century with Greek-Byzantine engravings placed on the façade of the cathedral states: “This castle was built under Costantino, patrician and strategist of Sicily“.

S. Antonino square, Auditorium and ancient city gate. ph. Mia Giacinta

S. Antonino square, Auditorium and ancient city gate. ph. Mia Giacinta

It is probably referring to Costantino Caramalo, who in the ninth century defended the bastion, city and territory from attacks by the Arabs. The centrality of the castle of Mola is historically proved not only in the Middle Ages, but also in the wars between the French and Spanish. Once you entered the village through a gate carved into the rock right at the base of a stairway made from white lavastone. Today, after moving the gate in front of the castle in 1927, the entrance to the village is marked by an ancient arch on top of a staircase of limestone, a medieval testimony, which remained isolated, now dominates the piazza S. Antonino.

Tavoli in piazza a Castelmola - Marco Ossino

Tavoli in piazza a Castelmola – Marco Ossino

The square is a mosaic of white lava stone, bordered by tree-lined and shady pavements that open up onto the lookout which you can see Taormina from. In general, the urban design is very nice, the street names, the street numbers and signs are almost always in stone and wrought iron. The doors and windows of the houses are framed in Taormina stone and the houses are covered in light colours ranging from a delicate yellow to antique rose. The Sicilian style roof tiles are still on the roofs and, excluding some questionable buildings from the 60s to 70s, everything is as you would expect from a Sicilian village.

Overlooking the village square is the church of S. Antonino, now used as a municipal auditorium, but with much older origins. Just a few steps from the church you can admire the wonderful portal of the Casa Sterrantino.

Also on the square overlooking the historic Caffè S. Giorgio, founded by monks in 1700. The special feature of this building used as a tavern, in addition to the album that collects the signatures of famous people who have passed through Castelmola since 1907, is the authorship of one of the most distinctive products of the village. In fact, it is known that Don Vincenzo Blandano, the historical owner of the café, used to offer the vino alla mandorla (almond wine) as a sign of welcome to the guests arrived in the village. This drink, made with almonds and orange essence, is therefore in all likelihood his invention.

If you head down, descending through Via De Gasperi, the main street of the village, running along shops selling lace, embroidery and souvenirs, you pass the Bar Turrisi which, with the same ease, exhibits phalluses of wood, clay and ceramic, as a sign of abundance and good omen as per the Hellenic tradition. In a very common dichotomy in the land of Sicily, from the profane we pass to the sacred and you arrive in Piazza Duomo, in front of the Mother Church. From its entrance, located on the side of the square you can see Mount Etna and the bay of Naxos. Entering the church you perceive the layers of various historical periods. In many cases more contemporary forms are hinted at on sections ranging from Romanesque to Gothic. The church has four marble altars, a beautiful pulpit and a wooden statue of Mary Magdalene, school of Bagnasco.

Campanile della Chiesa madre di Castelmola - Marco Ossino

Campanile della Chiesa madre di Castelmola – Marco Ossino

Always standing out on a charming landscape is also the small church of San Biagio, perhaps the oldest in the city, founded after the arrival of San Pancrazio in Taormina for his evangelising mission.,

The eighteenth-century fresco in the church is remarkable. Certainly not to be missed are also the tanks for the water of 367 BC and the ancient Saraceni Gate.

Before leaving, taste the mandorle (almonds) agghiazzati with sugar, mostarda di fichi e i fichi d’india.