When one hears the word Sicily, thoughts of The Godfather trilogy come to mind and the word “Mafia” swirls around one’s head. In reality, nothing can be further from the truth. Recently, the delegation from the City of Sunny Isles Beach visited the City of Taormina, a beautiful beach resort at the footsteps of Mount Aetna on the southeastern tip of Sicily. The mission was to cement the sisterhood between Sunny Isles Beach and this gem of a city, and boy did the delegation experience an unforgettable week. Aside from the quasi majestic welcoming by the City of Taormina Mayor and Counsel, the people of Taormina went out of their way to make us feel welcome and part of their family. From the constant salute by passing police officers, to the warm gestures by ordinary people in the streets, we couldn’t help but feel that we were in the company of very wonderful Sicilian people.
Whether we strolled and stopped for ice cream, sat for a drink, or entered a retail store, the warmth and kindness were always there. One interesting fact is that the Taorminians are very in tune with nature. For example, the little flower pots outside their homes are always blooming and the prickly cactus which is their natural, main flora, is left undisturbed even if it curbs the vista from a home window. So next time I hear the word Sicily, I will not think of Don Vito Corleone but of a warm people whom one feels at home with.
Even if Taormina is 2747 years old and Sunny Isles Beach only 15, the two sister cities have a lot to offer to each other and I for one, believe that this union will thrive in the economic, cultural and social areas.