Oh what diversity: Taormina, Isola Bella and Castelmora, all within a couple of hours walk, offer beautiful waters, a picturesque island, old town charm and fabulous mountain walks. What unforgettable experiences!
Taormina is a city on the eastern Sicilian coast that lies on a terrace against a backdrop of orchards and surrounding hills. Nearby is the beautiful ‘Pearl of the Ionian Sea’, Isola Bella. Over Taormina’s shoulder lies the mountain town of Castelmora. In the distance lays the towering monarch, Mt Etna.
Having been inhabited for more than 2500 years, Taormina has been called home by the Arabs, Greeks and Italians. It has a rich history and in more recent days, is popular for its grottos, beaches and water activities.
Catching the bus from the Aurora Campsite in Giardini-Naxos into Taormina was the easiest and quickest way to get the show on the road. We parted with a few euros each for return tickets and were on our way.
Arriving in Taormina, we walked down a pathway leading to Isola Bella. This is a small island and nature reserve connected to the mainland by a narrow sandbar. Privately owned until the 1990s, the island is now under the administration of the World Wide Fund for Nature.
We noticed a boat pull up on the beach close by and went over for a chat. The driver offered us a trip to the Blue Grotto on the island of Capri and its surrounds for €25 each with a promise of about 45 minutes of boat sightseeing time. Deal!
The Blue Grotto is a sea cave, which has sunlight that passes through an underwater cavity. This creates a brilliant blue reflection that illuminates the water and cavern. I’ll let the photo do the talking!
We passed by a rocky outcrop with cactus growing up over it. That cactus can grow anywhere!
Arriving at another smaller grotto, the driver nudged the bow of the boat into the cave and we enjoyed more of the brilliant, shimmering blues and greens. This one also contained some multi-coloured formations. Truly a magical sight!
With the boat trip complete, we set our sights on the nearby mountain town of Castelmola and set off. There was only one way to go from the beach – and that was up!
Having made it about half way into the town with a couple of kilometres to go, one of the earlier boat tour guides drove past and offered us a free ride to Castelmola. We weren’t about to say no. A big shout out to David, a friendly, chatty Sicilian who also runs the local stand up paddle board / windsurf / kite board school.
We were dropped off at the summit of Castelmola. The views were absolutely fantastic with Mt Etna seemingly an arm’s length away however the cold wind gusts accounted for about a five degree drop in temperature. She was nippy!
A recommendation from David, was to walk the down hill pathway towards Taormina to the next hill, Monte Tauro and visit the Santuario Madonna della Rocca church. Carved into the rock in 1640, this church overlooks Taormina.
The steep descent from the church into Taormina treated us to magical views of the coast and nearby islands, including the Ancient Greek theatre of Taormina.
We covered a lot of territory and loved every minute of it. This place holds such diversity: the beautiful waters, quaint islands, an old town charm and fabulous mountain walks. Any visitor would be spoilt for choice. What an unforgettable experience!
Being an Australian boy brought up in the country, I learnt at an early age to enjoy the freedom and beauty of nature. Leaving Australia at the age of 20, although I didn’t know it then, would be the beginning of a life of adventure. So join me here on our travels and see the world through my eyes.