For the fourth Italian port, the cruise was heading off of mainland Italy for the island of Sicily. Sicily is the largest of the islands in the Mediterranean, covering over 25,000 square km, with a population in excess of 5 million. The port of call we made on Sicily was in the port town of Catania, located on the eastern coast of the island, at the foot of Mt Etna.
I had chosen to take a tour today, which meant that I would not actually be seeing much of Catania itself. There was a small glimpse of some area’s as we passed through in the bus on route to Taormina, which is located on the coast about 37km north of Catania. Once you are outside the city it is a really beautiful drive, however Mt Etna (still an active volcano) is ever present, not far away.
Taormina itself while located on the coast is actually at around 200 metres. While this does not seem like a lot when you see the surrounding countryside, it is easy to understand why this town was built here. The countryside provides really excellent protection from any attack that may come from the sea, or land. However all of this was a much bigger concern hundreds of years ago, and today it is much easier to access, if you don’t mind some rather tight twisting and turning roads to get here.
As the tour bus pulled into the parking area at Taormina, it was clear that this was going to be a day with plenty of people around. There were at least a dozen other buses, so even getting from the parking area to the town was problematic as the parking was at the bottom of a seven story car park and the town of Taormina was at the top. No matter the wait to get to the top the views are well worth it.
The main sight we were to visit in Taormina was the Roman Greco Theatre, to reach this though we had to walk from one side of the town to the other. However as you can see from the view above the walk was well and truly worth it. Inside the Theatre was quite amazing at just how much was still in a ways resembled what it may have looked like in the distant past when it was created.
The return journey through town was given to us as free time, to shop, eat or just see the town. I took this opportunity to buy a small local treat, and properly take a look at some of the things that interested me on the walk through. The first was just how little people explored away from the main street. A pity really as there were some really nice little things just off the well used main street.
Most of the lane ways off the main street were empty, however when you are working with a town such as Taormina, there is in many ways a need to be creative with how you use space. At 200m elevation, on the top of a hill, with limited space, you cannot just extend out, you need to make use of the space available to you. This is just what some cafes chose to do.
The final stop before I made my way back to the bus was at one of the few churches around the town. Located on the side of a square near the entrance to the town, this was a nice older building. Inside was rather dark and a little plain, however that is one thing I have come to appreciate about churches, although they are generally dedicated to the same purpose, they all do so in very different ways.
It was great getting to see a little bit different side of Italy, in the form of the older town of Taormina, however with an early departure today, this meant not seeing any of Catania. This just means I will need to return one day I suppose.