Here is the gossip behind the republican President Donald Trump’s visit to Taormina, Sicily as he attends the G7 Conference.
Note: I did spend a few days in Taormina, Sicily in May 2016, and it is stunningly gorgeous with its hilly topography, views of the Ionian Sea blue calm waters, the cascading flowers and lovely fragrant gardens, ancient ruins and rows of shops on a street with no traffic. The details below describe Taormino as a hot spot for jet setters but I promise you that you can can enjoy all that Taormina offers, on a budget.
Here is the rest of the story…
On May 25, 2017, Jason Horowitz of the New York Times penned the following report, “In Taormina, a Playground for the Jet Set, Trump’s Worlds Will Collide.”
“President Trump should enjoy some respite from the rigors of his recent travels on Friday when he gazes out of his luxury suite and takes in the view of Taormina, an iridescent pearl of the Ionian Sea.”
“Despite the town’s temporary transformation into a police state in paradise for the Group of 7 summit meeting attended by Mr. Trump and other world leaders, Taormina’s postcard panoramas, its exaggerated Epcot Italian-ness and its reputation as the sun-drenched pleasure dome for reality TV stars, aging playboys and affluent Russians remain intact.”
“It is a spot that is both exclusive and a little hokey, where those with jet-setter schedules, gilded tastes and an appreciation for luxury, models and discretion come together.”
“That’s the room Trump will stay in,” said Dino Papale, a 69-year-old Sicilian lawyer, promoter and all around bon vivant, as he leaned around his courtyard’s wall and pointed at the adjacent Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo.”
“Mr. Papale, who pulled a red “Make America Great Again” cap over his wavy gray hair, said he met Mr. Trump several years ago and was invited to his inauguration. “I’m the president of Trump’s Sicilian fan club,” said Mr. Papale, who is also first among the many Taormina types for whom the president is a kindred spirit.”
“Days after Mr. Trump’s election in November, Mr. Papale was quoted at length in the local paper, La Sicilia, recounting that Mr. Trump had visited Taormina at his invitation in June 2013 and secretly stayed for three days at the Atlantis Bay Hotel.”
“But at other points he was less definitive, saying: “It could be that it happened, because everything can be true, right? I don’t remember”; “If a friend says, ‘I’m coming to Taormina but no one can know,’ what do you do?”; and, most mischievously, “Taormina is a very discreet place” where “Americans and Russians often meet.”
“This week (5/35/17), at least, there is no mystery about Mr. Trump’s arrival. And local residents with a taste for the finer things in life eagerly awaited their international standard-bearer.
“I see myself as Trump,” said Vittorio Sabato, known locally as “the Silvio Berlusconi of Taormina” as much for his short stature, age-defying black hair and open-collar panache as for his success as a businessman and politician.”
“He drove up the town’s winding roads apologizing for his BMW (“I have a Maserati and a Porsche”) and pointed out landmarks, including the hotel where he heard Mr. Trump had stayed.”
“While Mr. Trump, his family and advisers have expressed especially warm feelings toward Italy — “Great people, love Italy,” Mr. Trump said repeatedly in a recent meeting with the Italian prime minister in the White House, according to a person in attendance — the president’s actual experience in Italy seems limited.”
“In 1998, he and a business associate and modeling agency impresario, went to Milan to scout potential properties, Mr. Zampolli said in an interview this week.”
“During the trip, Mr. Trump stopped by Fashion Week events and took in a Gianfranco Ferre show, where he sat up front with Eartha Kitt, and then sat at the runway entrance for the Donatella Versace show, during which he was near Courtney Love and was caught by paparazzi staring at Kate Moss’s pink hair.”
“When Melania Trump started modeling in her native Slovenia, her father often drove her west to Milan, where Mr. Zampolli discovered her in the mid-1990s and eventually introduced her to Mr. Trump.”
“Mr. Trump’s first wife, Ivana, “loves Italian men,” said Rossano Rubicondi, who was her fourth husband. Twenty-three years her junior, he parlayed their brief 2008 marriage into a spot on the Italian version of the reality show “Celebrity Island.”
Mr. Rubicondi is still happy to trade in on his tenuous Trump relationship. He is working on a new reality show about opening a pizza place near the president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida. But other Trump associates in Italy have apparently made the calculation that his friendship is no longer good for business.
“Flavio Briatore, the Italian entrepreneur behind the Billionaire nightclub chain — he is also a convicted card cheat, a businessman banned from Formula One races for life for race fixing and the father of Heidi Klum’s child — is now perhaps best known for starring in the Italian version of “The Apprentice.”
“There was only one person that I wanted, and that was Flavio,” Mr. Trump said in a promo for the Italian show.”
“In May 2016 Mr. Briatore boasted to La Stampa, a newspaper based in Turin, about his weekend with Mr. Trump at Fashion Week in Paris in the 1990s. “I think I’m the first to bring him to Europe,” he told the paper. La Repubblica, a daily newspaper in Rome, identified him as “Trump’s best Italian friend.”
“But now Mr. Briatore, through a spokeswoman, said he had never seen Mr. Trump in Italy, that they just ran into each other in Paris and that their relationship essentially amounted to a publicity stunt.”
By contrast, Mr. Papale’s loyalty has not wavered.
“Mr. Papale walked to a table where he keeps his most prized possessions. There was a medal awarded to him by the Russian government. There, too, was a brochure for Trump Grande condominiums, a favorite destination of wealthy Russians in Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., and, because of his efforts, the twin city of Taormina.”
He said he was introduced to Mr. Trump there by his “dear friend” Elena Baronoff, a Soviet émigré who worked as Mr. Trump’s exclusive sales agent, helping sell at least $100 million worth of apartments to Russians.
“Ms. Baronoff, who died in 2015, was a close friend of many Russian power brokers, including the foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, according to Mr. Papale, recalling the time she told him that Mr. Lavrov was arriving by yacht from Sardinia.”
“Despite the earlier press report here, he insisted that it was not Mr. Trump who had visited Taormina in the past, but rather Michael Dezer, the wildly wealthy developer of many of Mr. Trump’s Florida properties.”
“In 2012, Mr. Papale bestowed on Mr. Dezer his Wolfgang Goethe Taormina Media Award, which is usually reserved for writers who write nice things about the town. “
“He added proudly that Mr. Dezer had stood on a stage in front of his palazzo along with Ms. Baronoff and Russia’s general consul, who, on another occasion, read a message of thanks to Mr. Papale from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for his work in advancing the country’s image in Taormina.”