Catania and Taormina, Sicily

Apparently, our bus driver believes more in the power of the two images of Virgin Mary and the rosary beads hanging from the rear view mirror than the power of seat belts. Navigating the hair pin turns on the narrow road from the heart of the gorgeous historic town of Taormina in Sicily to the seaside on the way to Catania, the driver casually chats with a colleague who is just hitching a ride and hanging out leaning against the dash board. 

In some ways, life is more casual here on Sicily.  We arrived this morning to a sunny day in the city of Catania.  Although there are some sights to see, including a fountain that features the emblem of the city, an elephant, and of course a “Duomo” like most major Italian cities, we decided to travel to the resort city of Taormina.  Long the choice for vacationing Italians, Taormina features a charming cobble stone street between two historic city gates.  Even the Romans visited Taormina and the city boasts a large amphitheatre.  The streets are now full of shops with knick-knacks, restaurants and gelato stores, and of course groups of tourists diligently following the leader with umbrella or cruise line sign in the air.  But walk a bit further and find little alleys with quaint fountains, beautiful churches and some stunning views over the Mediterranean Sea and the beaches towards Mt. Etna.

We got here quite easily: from the Catania cruise terminal, take a right towards the Catania Centrale train station, about a 15-20 minute walk mainly along the water front.  Connections to Taormina aren’t frequent, and more importantly, keep an eye on the return times so you don’t miss your ship!  But for about EUR 5-9 per person each way depending on the type of train you take, you can make your way to Taormina for considerably less than the cruise lines’ excursions.  Of course you won’t have detailed information provided by a tour guide.  Instead, take a good guide book or use the information provided by the tourist office on platform 1 of the Taormina train station. Note that the Taormina Giardini station is next to the sea.  The city however is uphill and a considerable hike.  From the train station, you’re better off taking a bus ride up to the city for about a EUR 1 instead.  A better option however is to simply travel from Catania to Taormina with one of the big blue buses that leave in front of the train station.  They take you to the main bus station in Taormina for only about EUR 4.50 each way.  Again, keep an eye on the departure times – the bus ride can take up to an hour and you wouldn’t want to be late for your cruise!

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