On our last day in Catania we decided to get out of town and explore a little bit more of the surrounding area.
Although we had been planning to visit Taormina for quite some time, our day trip seemed timely given a column published in The New York Times a few days before. The column also gave us fairly high expectations, but given our experience in Catania we weren’t holding our breath.
Unfortunately it turns out we were extremely disappointed. Disappointed that it took until our last day in Sicily to find a town as quaint and as beautiful as Taormina.
In fact, if we had visited Taormina on our first day in Catania we probably would have visited every day thereafter.
By living for a month in Catania and seeing what Sicily is really like, Taormina seems as fake and as phony as an Italian movie set, conveniently nestled in the cliffs above the brilliant blue Mediterranean Sea.
But honestly, who cares?
I like this fake, touristy Italy. In fact, I love it. It’s the Italy you read about in the books and see in the movies. It’s the romantic, beautiful, peaceful Italy you dream about one day visiting.
It’s the Italy I wanted to see and I think it’s the Italy that most people do see on their two-week Italian vacation.
Unfortunately it’s not the real Italy. The real Italy is a dirty, lazy place that needs a swift kick in the ass, but as far as I’m concerned Taormina is the Italy I hope most people get to visit and enjoy.
Taormina is about 40 minutes north of Catania. We took the train and arrived at the station at around 11 in the morning. The train station is positioned about 3 kilometers below the town where the cliffs meet the sea.
It’s quiet, tranquil and Mt. Etna looms beautifully in the distance.
From the train station we made the 20-minute walk up hill toward the center of town. Along the way we stopped at the public gardens, which have a tremendous view of the ocean and the coastline below.
From the garden we walked up through the last few winding alleyways before coming to the main pedestrian street that runs through the center of town.
As I said before Taormina is touristy. And when I say touristy, I mean extremely touristy. The main pedestrian street is lined with designer shops, pizzerias and cafes.
But I don’t care, because it was a refreshing escape from dirt and grime of Catania.
We walked down the main street and took part in a little bit of window shopping. Then we participated in a little bit of real shopping and each bought a pair of sandals.
After picking up two sets of non-stinking sandals we made our way back down the main road and stopped at a restaurant for lunch.
By the time we had finished lunch we only had a few hours left before we needed to catch the train back to Catania so we didn’t miss our flight to Pisa that evening.
We decided the best way to spend our last few hours in Sicily was on the beach so we decided to walk back down to the water’s edge.
Of course we had to make a quick pit stop on the way for some gelato and granita.
It took us about 30 minutes to walk all the way down to the beach, but it was more than worth it.
The afternoon sun made the pebbled beach warm under our feet and the water was crystal clear, cool and refreshing.
As usual I lost track of time and we ended up having to sprint all the way from the beach back to the train station.
It was about 3 kilometer foot race that ended up with us arriving at the station drenched in sweat only to find out the train was delayed by 20 minutes.
By the time we made it back to the hostel in Catania we had to quickly pack our bags and say some brief goodbyes before running out the door for the airport.
An amazing day in Taormina was the perfect close to an overall underwhelming experience in Sicily.
Despite the rush we easily caught our flight at 8:50 p.m. and with Catania in the rear view mirror we excitedly turned our attention to the packed week of travel ahead.