While staying in the lovely resort town of Taormina, on Sicily’s east coast, my travel mates and I had yet realized two of our ambitions for that particular leg of the trip — see Etna erupt and visit a quirky little bar in the hills. To get up the mountain (though the guide books suggest you walk up its curvy, vertiginous switchbacks — no sidewalks of course) — we drove. And drove. As the man behind the wheel commented, “I think those were our tail lights I just saw.” Finally, we arrive.

We were in quest of a particular bar. I’ll let my friend Victoria’s description set the scene:

…go up the hill to the tiny town of Castelmola and walk around for a spectacular view of Etna, Taormina, etc. But the real reason to go there is to have a glass of Almond Wine…at the Bar Turrisi, which is a creaky old 3-story joint decorated COMPLETELY in over 3000 penises. Seriously.

Upon arriving in Castelmola, we discovered the village was decked out with lighted arches and booths selling gaudy trinkets for the children, hot vats of oil bubbling with balls of zeppoles, and small whirling barrel ovens roasting dried chickpeas. The citizenry was also decked out. It was like happening upon Mott Street during the San Gennaro festival.

It was a festa for some saint. Whole families gathered. We really think it was the entire town. It was like stumbling upon a village of Hobbits — not that they were small — though the grannies and the kids were. You got the feeling that if Etna went off and destroyed all of Sicily, this town would survive.

We did visit the land of 3000 penises. We think there are fewer ones since my friend visited, though we didn’t count them. We couldn’t rouse the bartender away from the festa to serve us the Almond wine.

BTW, the volcano apparently burped during the night while we were sleeping, because we woke up our last morning in Taormina to see a blanket of tiny gravels of black ash. Everyone was out sweeping, like it was no big deal.

We’ll save the Almondswine for next time!