Sicily inside out: Part 3: Taormina

After an early morning breakfast, with a breathtaking view of the sea around Cefalu, we headed to Taormina. From Cefalu to Taormina it’s 200 km through Messina. Messina is the city that’s closest to mainland Italy, and they are right now working on the bridge connecting it to the mainland. If finished, this 3.3 km bridge would be the largest suspension bridge in the world!

Since we didn’t want to drive just the highways, though, and see hardly anything from inland Sicily, we decided to take a more direct but very curvy road passing just next to Etna, and thus reach Taormina.

Passing through inland Sicily offers much different sights than what we saw the first day. Green valleys, awesome mountain views, small and not so luxury villages, ruined houses, roads under construction (including ours 😉 . It’s obvious that Sicily is working hard to become a comfortable and shiny touristic destination – but I’m glad we saw it before that 🙂

Since Taormina and Catania are closest to Etna, this inland trip was supposed to make up our mind whether or not we’ll spend a full day visiting Etna (3,369 m height). We had read that there’s a cable car up until 2,500 meters, and then you can take off-road minibuses until 2,919 meters. After that you could get closer to Etna volcano summit only with guides. After seeing the enormous Etna park though, and checking the time and expense (~ 90 EUR per person) it will take to reach close enough to the summit – we decided to give it a try some other time, maybe when the volcano is erupting 🙂 And this other time it might be better to stay at a hotel just at the departure point of the cable car, to make sure we make the most of our daily visit.

Taormina turned to be a really cute city. It’s quite small (11,000 population), but it’s the most visited city in Sicily. Why? First I would presume, because of it’s spectacular position on a hill, offering amazing views to Sicily island.

Awesome view from Taormina city to the seaside

Awesome view from Taormina city to the seaside and surroundings

Next, because of the concentration of sights – an amazing Cathedral, the Greek-roman amphitheater, the garden hosting all kinds of strange plants and others.

Teatro Greco-romano

Teatro Greco-romano

The public garden hosted buildings and plants characteristics of different cultures and geo locations

The public garden hosted buildings and plants characteristics of different cultures and geo locations

The city streets are tiny and really picturesque, with a whole restaurant street, a fruit street, the usual shopping/souvenir street. All streets however ended with a marvelous view..

Taormina's 'Restaurant street'

Taormina’s ‘Restaurant street’

From the city there is a cable car to Taormina Mare (Mazzraro) – the beach part of Taormina. It’s also called Isola Bella, and is present at most Taormina cards. We couldn’t visit the beach that day (it was cloudy, and we didn’t have enough time) – but check it out if you decide to go, they say the water is crystal clear there, and the bay is well-protected.

Another thing that surely contributes to the popularity of Taormina is the vivid presence of many different cultures in this place. Over the years, it has been under Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Norman, Swabian, French and Spanish rule. And you can see small bits of this historical heritage everywhere – in the historical sites, in the public garden, in the external and internal decoration of houses and cafes.

Flower pots shaped as Arab heads

Flower pots shaped as Arab heads could be seen on most terraces

And, one final fact, which perhaps adds a flavor to Taormina, is that D.H. Lawrence’s book ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’, considered the most erotic novel of its times, was inspired by the experiences of an English woman in Taormina (the beginning of 20th century Taormina was inhabited by en emigrant population of sophisticated and eccentric Brits).

This was definitely a city with a specific charm! Give it more time in your vacation, and enjoy it thoroughly, including the two other famous sites nearby – the Naxos gardens (touristic resort 6 km of Taormina famous for its beaches) and the Chiesa dei Cappuccini (24 km from Taormina, mummified corpses can be seen there). We left those for our next Sicily visit 🙂

Early afternoon on that day, and we were off to Catania – the first big city in our Sicily adventure. More on that in my next post 🙂

Credit for all amazing photos: Nelly Korsakova

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