The Antico Caffè San Giorgio

Prospetto dell'Antico Caffè San Giorgio a Castelmola
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The Antico Caffè San Giorgio is one of the historical places of Castelmola, located in Piazza Sant’Antonio, at the entrance of the village. It was here, at the beginning of the 20th century, that the most typical product of the village was born: almond wine. Inside there is also a special collection of autographs of all the famous people who have visited the café.

History of the Antico Caffè San Giorgio

The Antico Caffè San Giorgio is one of the historical places of Castelmola, located in Piazza Sant’Antonio, at the beginning of the village. Founded in the 1700s by monks, initially as a tavern, it evolved during the twentieth century thanks to the insights of its owner – Don Vincenzo Blandano. In the early 1800s, Taormina began to become a popular destination for many foreign tourists, and Don Vincenzo decided to take advantage of this. He added a sign outside the café that read “Caffè San Giorgio” in honor of Castelmola’s patron saint, while inside he decorated the space with a variety of objects, from cartwheels to farm implements. He replaced the tables with barrels, while for the chairs he used scanni, also called fillizzu, typical Sicilian stools made from the dried stem of the ferula communis. Finally, Don Vincenzo had invitations printed and distributed in the most important hotels of Taormina, whose growing fame led to the greater fame of Castelmola and the Antico Caffè San Giorgio.

The birth of the almond wine or “Blandanino”

Today the Antico Caffè San Giorgio is world famous for its almond wine. In fact, Don Vincenzo Blandano loved to experiment, trying to create different types of infusions. Apparently, the first famous person to come to the Antico Caffè San Giorgio was Wilhelm von Gloeden, who took a series of very famous male nudes in Taormina. The German photographer came to the café both to enjoy the splendid view and to taste a special herbal black cherry prepared by the owner. But the most famous invention of Don Vincenzo Blandano remains the almond wine or “Blandanino” as he called it. It is a wine made from Insolia and Catarratto grapes, flavored in infusion with bitter almonds, citrus essences and natural aromas. There are still a few numbered bottles of the original wine on the shelves of the restaurant.

The book of a hundred thousand autographs of the Antico Caffè San Giorgio

In addition to the invention of almond wine, the Antico Caffè San Giorgio in Castelmola is also famous for its “Book of One Hundred Thousand Autographs”. This was another brilliant idea of Don Vincenzo Blandano. He began to ask for autographs from all the famous people who stopped by the cafe to sip almond wine and admire the scenery. And so, over the years, books and books were filled with the initials of princes, bankers, writers and dreamers from all over the world. Among the many signatures are those of Henry Royce, Henry Ford, William Marconi, Winston Churchill, Franz Josef Strauss, John D. Rockefeller, Pope Wojtyla (then a Cardinal), George V of England, Guy de Maupassant, De Amicis, and John Steinbeck. Among the regulars was Roger Peyrefitte, who wrote seventeen of his novels here in the 1950s. The French writer loved to write on the terrace of the bar, and in his book Du Vésuve à l’Etna (South from Naples) he speaks of “a hundred thousand autographs”.

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