The Fourth Italian port of call for the cruise is the city of Catania on the island of Sicily. Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, covering some 25,000 square kilometres with a population of over 5 million. Catania is located on the eastern coast of Sicily at the foot of Mount Etna and is the second largest city on the island.
Today I choose to take a tour and as such did not see much of Catania itself. The tour was to visit the city of Taormina, which is located around 37km north of Catania. I did get to see some of the city as the tour bus passed through. However, it is the beautiful countryside dominated by Mt Etna that caught my attention the most.
Taormina is located on the coast of Sicily and sits at 200metres elevation above sea level. Many years ago when this city was founded the position had a commanding location in the countryside. It was the perfect location to protect from potential attack via both land and sea. Access to Taormina is much better now, but still not that easy for a tour bus with some tight switchbacks.
It quickly became apparent Taormina would be busy today. The tour bus pulled into the parking lot alongside a dozen other tour buses, and it was still early. Due to the popularity of the town, there is a large parking structure with the buses needing to park at the bottom level. Access to the Taormina is from the top level of the carpark. Thankfully even though there was a wait to get up, the views from the top are well worth the wait.
Roman Greco Theatre
The tour started with a visit to the ruins of a Roman Greco Theatre. There was some walking involved to get here as it is located on the opposite side of Taormina. But as you can see the views like above make the walk very pleasing.
While these are ruins in some ways, they are still in good condition. You could get a sense of what is what and how the theatre may have looked like in the Roman days.
On the return journey to the tour bus, there was some free time to explore a little more around Taormina. During the walk through town before there were a couple of spots that had caught my eye and I took this opportunity to check them out.
It was surprising how few people took this opportunity to explore. Taormina offers some amazing sights and places to explore, with most not that far from the main street.
Although there were many empty laneways, there were also some rather creative uses of space as well. Being in the location Taormina is, it is not always possible to just expand the area you have. There is a need just like this cafe below, to make use of whatever space is available.
Before rejoining the tour to head back to the bus, I made a stop at one of a few churches in Taormina. Located just off the square near the entrance to the town it is a lovely older building. Inside was very dark and a little plain. It is one thing that I have come to appreciate about churches; they are all different. Although they are all in a way dedicated to the same purpose, they all do so in a variety of ways.
I enjoyed the day seeing a different side of Italy, in the form of an older small town. However, due to an earlier departure time for the ship today, and a little longer tour, there was no time to explore Catania at all. It could just mean that I might need to revisit the area one day in the future.
If you would like to read more about my day in Taormina, you can visit the post “Port Call – Explore Catania and Taormina, Italy“.