Last September, the Ellie & Co investigative team of two spent a couple of weeks eating and drinking our way around northern Sicily. When we weren’t stuffing our faces with pizza and red wine, we were stumbling on bizarre local treasures, like this curious café with a cheeky surprise…
It’s called Bar Turrisi and you’ll find it hidden in a hilltop town called Castelmola, an invigorating uphill walk a couple of kilometres from the romantic seaside town of Taormina, known for its turquoise beaches, quaint shops, and views of Mount Etna.
Dazzled by the café-bar’s perfect setting in the town square, and the promise of a balcony seat for people watching, we innocently wandered inside – completely oblivious to our surroundings.
Moments after I relaxed into my balcony seat, checked out the view of Mount Etna, I started seeing them… “Wait, is that a penis on the floor?” I said to Dan. “Yes, think you’re right. Looks like there’s one on the lamp over there, too,” he replied casually. “OMG the menu!” I almost shouted. “It’s a penis, too!”
I turned my head and sure enough, there they were. Penises, everywhere! Clearly we’d stumbled on a penis-themed bar – who knew? Male genitalia of all shapes and sizes were stuffed into every nook and cranny (no pun etc) of the place. Resisting the instant reaction to behave prudishly (I am British after all), I took decisive action, got up to look around and take photos. They say you should face your fears…
From statues to sculptures, candleholders, to floor tiles, ashtrays, mirrors, lamps, chair arms… penises! The bannister I’d (man)handled as I walked up the stairs? Decorated with penises! Bottles of wine lining the bar. Guess what? Penis-shaped! Head to the loo and there are phallic taps to play with: turn the testicles and *ta-da!* the water comes out the end of the penis! Then there are the countless penis door handles to push and pull…
Despite my excitement I must admit, I breathed a sigh of relief when our coffee came in regular cups… Also, no other customers sniggered or looked shocked so we kept our cool, acting as though being surrounded by giant willies was a completely regular occurrence.
Spot the penis!
Apparently when Bar Turrisi opened in 1947, it was more of a post-war bazaar, a souvenir shop-cum-cafe, where customers were served almond wine, traditional to this part of Sicily. It was then passed down the generations when one family member in 1975 decided to refurbish the bar with his wife. Having no real defining characteristic, the couple thought of what represented them most – their five sons – and so, just like that, the penis became the defining symbol of Bar Turrisi. The symbolism of the penis together with art of nude men, and classic Sicilian crafts actually became a unique and positive representation of local culture.
Private parts aren’t Bar Turrisi’s only speciality; it’s also well-known for its almond wine. Had we arrived later in the day, we would have sampled it. Instead, we make do with buying some to take home, in a penis-shaped bottle, of course.
Will you add Bar Turrisi to your off-beat travel bucket list?