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Day 8 Messina (Sicily), Italy

The entrance to Messina harbour, with the Italian mainland in the background

The entrance to Messina harbour, with the Italian mainland in the background

By Sunday 11th September, the end of our cruise was in sight, so we were determined to make the most of our visit to Messina in Sicily. Like Mykonos, this beautiful island captured both our hearts and imagination.Having the benefit of Google Earth helped us make our decisions about booking excursions or finding our own way round the ports of call. But Messina was our one uncertainty. Should we wander round and investigate the town on our own, or go on an organised tour?

MV Coral offered a choice of two excursions from Messina:

  • Mount Etna
  • Taormina

While seeing the active Mount Etna would be interesting, the prospect of a two hour coach drive each way was less appealing. So Taormina or Messina? Which to choose?

One of the benefits of cruising is having an experienced crew at your disposal. Alex and Anna Maria on the Coral’s reception desk recommended the trip to Taormina. Messina, they said, is a large place, the docks are not centrally located and we would be arriving during the siesta time. In addition it was Sunday, so there would be little to do. It was sound advice – and Taormina was our chosen destination.

A 'side street' in Taormina

A 'side street' in Taormina

Sicily is rugged and incredibly beautiful. We had the chance to see some of the countryside on our 45 minute drive to Taormina. The town of Taormina is some 500ft above sea level, and the steep climb to the town was only really appreciated on the drive back. A curving road, a feat of engineering, led up to the town and called for some careful negotiation by the coach driver. The streets of central Taormina are pedestrian only, which makes them perfect for the wandering tourist. Our coach parked in a multi-storey car park with lift access to the town itself.

The town has a wealth of notable architecture and its history dates back to Greek and Roman times. Our guided walk through the town ended at the Greek Theatre, which was built in the 3rd century BC. Today, the theatre is still in use with performances held throughout the summer months. On our walk back through the town we saw many young musicians struggling with instruments on their way to their evening performance. Attending the performance would have been a rare treat, but sadly we had a coach and a ship to catch.

Taormina’s atmosphere was electric. The town was vibrant with an array of interesting cafés and shops. Delicatessens with mouth-watering sweets and pastries were as much a visual treat as a culinary one. The local hand-painted pottery and ceramics were exquisite, although very expensive.

One of the benefits of cruising is the opportunity to sample the delights of different places. It’s almost a ‘try before you buy’ experience. There is no doubt Taormina is now high on our list of places to go and we’re keen to have the opportunity to explore it further one day.