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To board a train on Sicily's Ionian Coast

Posted by Suzanne on 05 Sep 2014

There is a railway station on Sicily’s Ionian Coast where the tracks run parallel to the sea and the elegant Art Nouveau façade fronts the coast road, the SS114. The station nestles beneath Monte Tauro and Taormina and, trains still pull in alongside the long platforms. 

I have passed it many times and decided to stop one warm spring day in May this year. That day, people were waiting to take a train: a group of four, possibly young Tunisian traders lounged in the once designated, third  class waiting area and others sat back on benches looking out to the sea.

I pulled up opposite the Taormina Giardini railway station in front of a boarded up, two storied building: Albergo Moderno; Art Nouveau in style with balconies decorated with stylised botanicals: fruits, leaves and buds.

The now bolted doors of Albergo Moderno would have once welcomed adventurous travellers, arriving and departing from Taormina’s railway station: a building evocative of Taormina’s halcyon days in the early 20th century when it was the preferred winter resort of writers such as D.H Lawrence.

Just across the SS114, the imposing façade of the station - designed by one of the 'heroes' of Stile Liberty (Italy’s version of Art Nouveau) Palermo born, Ernesto Basile - has lost none of Basile’s dashing and ‘elegantly linear Art Nouveau architecture’ (

The tall entry doors, in intricate perforated iron, are set in blind arcading, and sit beneath an iron awning slung with large link chains and hung with round lights. With a touch of Gothic: high pointed arches, parapets, crenellations and towers, the outside is simple and 'linear'.

Inside the high ceilinged foyer, the exotic wooden ticket counters have walls of elaborate iron and copper work stretching high (they are now shuttered; machines on the main platform now dispense tickets) and the gloriously painted ceilings depict: hunting scenes, flowing botanical forms and, sensuous hybrid creatures of mythology: a parrot with a curvaceous tail of a fish and long lapin feet topped with the head of an exotic bird.

The entire painted ceiling, mosaic like and oriental, is finished  in classic muted Art Nouveau colours of: sage green, peacock blue, violet, lilac brown, purple and mustard. It captures all that Art Nouveau is: the enjoyment of 'organic' beauty in all its sensuality and form and to offer retreat from the constraints of Neo Classicism. And also a little more, the mosaic like artwork echoes Sicily's orientalism; Ernesto Basile captured a Sicilian essence.

The crests of Italian cities from Sicily and the mainland run along the wide cornice and hint at places to travel: Venezia, Milano, Roma, Palermo, Messina, Siracusa, Caltanisetta, Ragusa, Agrigento, Catania, and Trapani.

To depart from here, with the vastness of the sea by your side and ride slow trains across Sicily or to travel north crossing the fabled Straits of Messina to the mainland would be the start of some perfect Sicilian train travel.

When I am next in Sicily I will board the train from Basile’s railway station by the blue Ionian Sea for Palermo. To arrive at Palermo’s Central Station and to walk the streets to rediscover and discover more of Ernesto Basile’s Art Nouveau masterpieces would make for a great couple of days in the capital.





Edited 26/8/2015 & 30/8/15  The reference to the quote in the original blog "elegantly linear Art Nouveau architecture'' is from The name of the reference did not appear in the original blog. Suzanne


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