After a leisurely breakfast of Parma ham and buffalo mozzarella on freshly baked bread we set off for Catania Centrale station, a lengthy walk from our apartment. On arrival we purchased return tickets from Catania to Taormina (€9 each standard return). Tickets are valid on any regional trains but need to be validated in the small machines located in either the booking hall or on the platform, prior to departure.
Our train departed on time at 10.15 a.m. and arrived in Giardini Naxos at 11.00 a.m. Taormina shares its station with Giardini Naxos with passengers able to take a bus up to the resort from outside the station. The service is operated by Interbus with return tickets costing €3. It’s necessary to buy tickets before boarding and these are available from a kiosk located in the car park to the right of the station as you come outdoors.
Buses are scheduled to operate at 20 minute intervals but we had to wait 35 minutes for one to arrive and as it was almost full, only 7 passengers were allowed to board and as we were 9th and 10th in the queue we had to take the next service which the driver assured us was following shortly. This was sort of true, but it was at least another 10 minutes before it arrived and we finally set off. The journey took only ten minutes winding its way along steep, narrow roads to the hilltop town of Taormina.
The bus terminates about a ten minute walk from the town’s northerly city gate (Porta Messina) into the small town. Just inside the city gate stands the Palazzo Corvaja which houses the art museum and tourist office from where we picked up a useful map to help us plan our visit.
The town centre is pedestrianised making it perfect for a gentle stroll along its main thoroughfare, Corso Umberto which is lined with stylish boutiques and attractive flower decked cafes. It’s a very popular resort but despite being crowded, it seems to have retained its charm without becoming too touristy.
About half way along Corso Umberto the road leads into a large square built as a terrace with stunning views over the Ionian Sea from the stone railings at the far side. Taormina sits in a marvellous position perched on top of a hill and has gorgeous views down to the rocky coast below.
A female dance troupe dressed in flowing orange dresses were performing on the terrace so we paused awhile to watch them. Their stage couldn’t have been a more beautiful setting for extremely well choreographed dancing. A stone balustraded staircase on the edge of the square leads to the small 12th century Sicilian Baroque Church of San Giuseppe which was very ornate inside.
Continuing a short distance we passed through a stone arch leading to the Piazza del Duomo at the far end of the town and after admiring the cathedral we retraced our steps along Corso Umberto to find a little cafe for some lunch. It didn’t take us long to find the ideal spot, a shady outdoor terrace with excellent views where we sat back and relaxed over a long, lazy lunch.
It was then time for some window shopping followed by a visit to the Villa Comunale public gardens which are located on the edge of town, stretching out along the coast towards Giardini and Riposto. The gardens were created by a Scottish noblewoman, Lady Florence Trevelyan who came to live in Taormina in the 1870’s. She acquired the plot of land and transformed it into a park filled with rare and exotic plants. After her death the park finally became the property of the municipality for everyone to enjoy.
The terraced park overlooks the sea and we enjoyed a pleasant stroll along its promenade keeping cool under the shade of fragrant Oleander and Bougainvillea trees. Located around the gardens are a number of decorative small buildings and in the centre is a circular pool with a feature fountain.
It was then a steep uphill walk back to the town centre and on reaching the top we called in a gelateria for cooling ice creams and then continued on to the bus station for the return service to Giardini Naxos station. Unlike the outward journey the bus left on time with plenty of seats for everyone wishing to travel.
On arrival at the station the departure board indicated that the Catania train was ready for boarding on platform 1 so we hopped on board after remembering to validate our return tickets. The board was indicating a five minute delay which grew to 20 minutes. Following an announcement in Italian which we were unable to understand, passengers started to gather their belongings together and get off the train so we decided to do the same. After finding a young girl who could speak English we learnt that there had been a track side fire and passengers were being transferred to a rail replacement bus service which was waiting outside on the station forecourt. By the time we boarded the older style coach the only remaining seats were on the back row but at least we found somewhere to sit and eventually arrived back in Catania over an hour later than expected.
After a rest back in our apartment we headed out for somewhere to eat. There was a really nice atmosphere as everyone seemed to be out enjoying a Saturday evening in the centre of Catania. A three day festival ‘Festival Siciliano Della Famiglia” was taking place in the University square and as it was a free event, we found some vacant seats and watched the live entertainment for awhile.
It was quite late by the time we returned to our accommodation and after such a busy day out in the heat we were soon tucked up in bed, fast asleep.
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