After a good ten hours of sleep, we felt a lot more energised this morning than we did last night Our plan for today was to visit a town called Taormina, which is located about 30 miles north of Catania. While you can take a train directly to Taormina from Catania, it's not a very good idea; the station is at sea level, but Taormina itself is a hilltop town situated around 200 metres above that. Our plan was therefore to travel by bus, which takes just over an hour and costs €8.50 return.
The guidebook had warned that the bus station was a bit confusing, and indeed it was. The ticket office isn't located within the bus station itself but on a separate street around the corner, which is a bit odd. Tim got directions from a taxi driver and we found it in the end, just on time to catch the 10am bus. Sadly, the 10am bus itself wasn't on time. We waited in the bus station while numerous other buses came and went and an increasingly large horde of people began to congregate, all of whom seemingly also wanted to go to Taormina. It was around 10.25 by the time it eventually showed up and we managed to battle our way on to get seats.
The delay setting off, combined with traffic on the way, meant that it was getting close to midday by the time we got off the bus in Taormina. The bus station seemed to be on the outskirts of the town and there were no obvious signs pointing to the town centre, so we walked uphill in what we hoped was the correct general direction, and soon had this confirmed when we arrived outside what looked like an old town gate.
We passed through the gate and onto a narrow street.
As you can see, it was quite busy.
The main attraction in Taormina is an ancient theatre, so we started following signs towards that.
As we got closer, we walked down a street with the most amazing purple flowers.
They looked like some sort of creeper. Whatever they were they had completely taken over the trees they were growing on.
It costs €10 each to go into the theatre, which I'd included in my holiday budget, only to forget to add the extra money to the pile which we were taking out today. I was just lamenting this fact when we walked through the entrance of the theatre and found that it was free to get in today Not sure whether it was because it was a Sunday (or maybe because it was the first Sunday of the month?) but it was very good timing
The theatre is slightly confusingly described as being Greek, although it's actually Roman Apparently the style and plan of it is Greek, but the fact that it's mostly built of brick means that it's Roman in origin, although it may have been built by the Romans on the foundations of an older Greek theatre.
It was really huge anyway
As we climbed higher up around it we had some brilliant views of Mount Etna in the distance...
...and of the sea
We came around the corner to another view point, where we could see down towards a coastline that looked quite rocky.
This way we were looking northwards rather than south towards Etna.
We were level with the top of the theatre now and walking around the outer edge.
From here you could really appreciate how enormous the theatre was.
And how enormous Etna is!
The theatre was so high that I was too scared to walk around the top steps (it was quite a steep drop!!), but Tim did and took some photos of the amazing views
From here we could also see what seemed to be a castle on one of the hills above Taormina, but it was far too hot today to consider exploring it any further.
Instead, we climbed back down to the bottom of the theatre...
...went back past the purple flowers...
...and started to explore the town a bit more.
In the distance we soon caught sight of a clock tower.
This was located in Piazza IX Aprile, which is Taormina's main square.
It was a lovely square, with views down towards the sea...
...and trees with beautiful pink flowers.
Given how hot and dry Sicily is, the flowers are really exceeding my expectations!
We continued further along the main street...
...before emerging in another square.
This was Piazza Duomo.
The church is Taormina's cathedral, originally built in the thirteenth century but reconstructed several times since then.
We found a restaurant by the side of the square where the prices seemed surprisingly reasonable and sat down for our first proper Italian meal of the holiday We both had pizza diavola, which was absolutely beautiful, and some local wine.
Then it was back through the town, in the direction of the bus station.
We took a diversion to some signposted gardens, which were free to enter.
They were really beautiful
We had views up towards the castle on the hill above the town...
...as well as down towards the sea...
...and we could still see Etna looming in the distance.
There were some pretty amazing cactuses too
We got to the bus station on time to elbow our way onto the 15.45 bus and were soon on our way back towards Catania.
So far Sicily has been amazing