Overnight we travelled the 143 nautical miles from Malta to Sicily. Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and an autonomous region of Italy since 1861. The Sicilians are proud of their rich heritage and, if asked, will tell you they’re Sicilian. They even have their own language, which has Arabic, Hebrew, Bizantine and Norman roots.
The ship was supposed to dock in Catania, but we weren’t able to; instead we docked in Siracusa (Syracuse), about an hour south by road. Since we were heading to north to Taormina, it meant our drive was longer. Fortunately the captain gave us an extra 2 hours in port, so it all worked out. Our guide & driver, Roberto, was waiting for us once we tendered ashore and we were off on yet another great adventure.
Our first stop was the small seaside community of Giardini Naxos where we had lovely views of Taormina and Castlemola across the bay.
This crazy little town perched on the hilltop is Castlemola.
Looking north up the Sicilian coast, you can see the tip of Italy’s boot in the distance.
Isola Bella (the small island bottom right) was once owned by a member of British nobility, Lady Trevelyan. She built a house and imported some exotic plants and the island became home to sea birds and lizards. Her will dictated that no trees could be cut down and no birds could be killed. Today Isola Bella is owned by the Sicilian goverment and is a nature preserve.
According to Roberto, there are more 5 star hotels in Taormina than any where else in Sicily.
Taormina is beautiful – very lush, green and scenic.
The Greek amphitheatre was built in the 3rd century BC; it was used by the Greeks for plays and performances and later by the Romans for the gladiators to battle.
Looking up at the Castello di Taormina from the Chiesa Madonna della Rocca (Madonna Church of the Fortress)
Looking up at Castelmola from the high point of Taormina
Corso Umberto is the main street in old Taormina. It follows the route of the main thoroughfare from the original Greek and Roman settlements. Today it is lined with bakeries, gelato shops, jewelry stores and art galleries.
Here the buildings are very well maintained and cared for.
Halfway between the two main gates is Piazza IX Aprile, the main square. The square is open to the Ionian Sea on the front with the hill rising up behind it.
Even the stairs here are adorned with artwork – beautiful and colourful!
An inviting table for 2 at one of the Gelateria’s.
Outside of the town gate a vendor sells fresh fruits and vegetables.
Looking through the town gate back in to the old city.
Anyone like to buy a loveseat or chair? Maybe some paper towel?
Water bowls and a sign that translates to “water for our furry friends”. The quote at the top translates to “the civilization of a people is measured by the way it treats animals” – how true is that?
Next stop was the public gardens (giardini di Villa Comunale), where the trees seemed to be reaching towards the sea. Villa Comunale was also once owned by Lady Trevelyan; since 1922 the gardens have been owned by the city.
These structures that resemble pagodas were built for Lady Trevelyan to observe the birds that she obviously loved. These are small ones…
Unfortunately they aren’t in good enough condition to actually go in them.
From Taormina we headed west into the hills and up the slopes of Mount Etna where we visited Gambino Vini. The family winery has been growing grapes and making wine on the eastern slope of Mount Etna since 1978.
The vineyards of Gambino Vini look towards the sea. It was a beautiful location, a delicious wine tasting and a wonderful end to our day in Sicily.