One of the iconic sights of Taormina is Isola Bella, a little island that sits right off the beach. It is probably the most photographed scene here and seems very mysterious.
In the late 1800s, it was purchased by an English woman, who built beautiful gardens and a villa hidden into the rock with stone and non-native trees brought in- it must have been quite a feat.
This lady was pretty interesting herself. I wrote about her last year, so you may remember. Her name was Florence Trevelyan. As the story goes, she was orphaned at a young age and taken in by Queen Victoria to live at Balmoral, the Royal Family’s castle in Scotland (I have read that they were distantly related). She was reportedly beautiful and (so the rumor goes) had an affair with Victoria’s son, Edward, who was heir apparent to be king. Apparently it got out of hand, and the Queen gave Florence 48 hours to leave the country, along with a sizeable travel allowance. So she embarked on a round-the-world tour – and fell in love with Taormina. She never returned to England. She ended up marrying the Mayor of Taormina and purchasing Isola Bella on which to build a sea villa. And after Queen Victoria died, it is well-established that old King Edward made a number of visits.
The little island was (and still is) only accessible by boat, unless it is low tide and not too rough, when you can wade across. We were lucky that the seas were calm and waded over.
They only let 15 people on the island at a time to preserve it, so you can really get a sense of the peacefulness there.
We got to explore secret gardens and pathways winding around the pool, various levels of open-air verandas, and finally to the villa itself, which was three stories built into the rock. We could just imagine what it must have been like back in the day.
Florence is one of my favorite characters of Taormina. She is buried in one of her other favorite spots (and ours), high in the mountains overlooking Taormina and Isola Bella – Castemola (from our post yesterday).