Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cruising the Mediterranean - Part 3 Sicily



On Monday morning, we arrived in the Port of Messina at 10am.  It's the 3rd largest city in Sicily and was largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1908.  So, the architecture is more modern than you see elsewhere in the area.

Based on recommendations from others on CruiseCritic.com, we had pre-booked a private tour through Sicily with Mario.  Everything was handled via email and they were helpful and quick to respond.  We were joined by another couple that we met on the Roll Call and the four of us were quickly off with our Sicilian driver, Marcello. 




He showed us a few of the sights of Messina which is a vibrant port city. 


At noon, each day the clock tower chimes and all of the moving parts perform.  It's supposed to be quite special, but we didn't stay to see the performance.  We were heading along the coastline in an air-conditioned van to the picturesque town of Taormina.  It was about an hour drive.



Along the way, Marcello stopped at a beautiful overlook so that we could take some pictures.  He brought out some ice cold water and some lovely little pastries for us.  He was so sweet and took such good care.  He was a quiet man, but pointed out all of the important details and answered all of our questions.  


Taormina is a gorgeous little town on the Southern coast of Sicily.  Beautiful beaches, mountains, and ruins are nestled along the Ionian Sea.  Photographers, writers, and artists flocked to the area in the 19th century and made it a popular tourist destination.  Goethe and Capote both came to the area to write. 


Our driver took us up to the central area and dropped us off.  He made plans to meet us after an hour and a half of exploring.  We visited the Teatro Greco which was set up for a Film Festival.  We shopped for some pottery and stopped for a lemoncello gelato.  It was so good as the day was getting hotter. 


The streets are beautiful and dotted with plenty of cafes and shops.  We took our time exploring and taking pictures. 



The Sicilian pottery is spectacular!  All of the shopkeepers were friendly and helpful.  I wanted all of it!  I just love pottery.  I wish I could create something so beautiful.  We picked up a few small pieces created by a local artist. 





The crowds were starting to increase as the busloads from the ship started to arrive to the little village.  We stopped for a refreshing glass of local wine and Italian beer and then met up with our driver. 


We then zigzagged our way further up the mountain to the smaller town of Castelmola.  It's only about 10 minutes further up the mountain, but a lot quieter since the buses don't typically go up that far. 


We parked at the top and were treated to 360 degree views that were just breathtaking.  (Especially if you're afraid of heights.)


We explored just a little.  Most of the stores were already closed for siesta.  Marcello led us to a local restaurant for lunch. 



We ate out on the back balcony with a clear view of Mt. Etna which is one of the the most active volcanoes in the world.  It was sending up little puffs the whole time we were there.


The other couple with us was from Norway.  We had a terrific time getting to know them and after hearing them talk about Norway, we know it will be a future destination for us. 


I had my first taste of Spaghetti Carbonara.  It was so fresh and simple.  I had to pinch myself.  Here I was sitting on the side of a mountain in Sicily having this fantastic lunch with terrific company.  I had a moment. 



It was definitely a hot day with temperatures of almost 100F (38C).  July is probably not the most ideal time to visit the Mediterranean.  Be sure to wear light clothing and take plenty of water. 


That's one of the reasons we were glad we booked a small private tour.  We could set the pace and tweak the itinerary is we wanted.  And we were quick out of the gates to avoid the larger crowds.



The local kitties were all sprawled out napping on the stones, trying to keep cool. Several of us might have had a cat nap on the way back to Messina.  Full bellies and air-conditioning... you can't really blame us. 


Marcello dropped us off at Messina.  We paid him cash directly in Euros.  It was a very reasonable rate for a great day.  We made a quick stop for an authentic cannoli.  And after a few minutes walk we were back on the ship.  


Sicily was the perfect way to start off the adventure.  It's definitely on the Return for an Extended Stay List (but not in July).



Thanks again for following along.  I know it's probably more information than you want unless you are planning on taking the same cruise.  If so, I hope it helps you plan your trip.  Our next stop is Athens, Greece!

xoxo
Selena



This is not a sponsored post.  All photographs are ours. 

13 comments:

  1. Wow, what an incredible post and stunning photos. I can see that this is definitely a place I need to visit one day. I don't think it was too much information at all, I thought it was just enough. The vast majority of my travel comes from recommendations like this.

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  2. Thank you for this - I loved reading all 3 parts! I'd certainly love to hear more...

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  3. The picture you took of the Spaghetti Carbonara is gorgeous. Yum Yum Yum. The pottery was stunning. Reminds me of what my parents got on the Amalfi Coast!

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  4. The one place in Europe my wife is dying to go is Italy & Sicily. She has a crazy obsession with it even though I don't think she has any Italian heritage! These pictures are mouthwatering, especially the Spaghetti Carbonara which just tastes all the more authentic in the right setting, eh? lol

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  5. Looks like a fun time. We booked a private tour when we went to Tuscany and it was worth every Euro!

    Cindy Bee

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  6. You look like you are having a FAB time! Jealous!!!

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  7. I've wanted to visit Taormina for ages and now I must add Castelmola to the list, so thanks for the reminder to add Sicily to our list of 'must visit' places! It really looks like a wonderful time, and I'm enjoying hearing about the different people you met through the cruise and tours!

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  8. Thankyou Selena for such a wonderful post. We're doing the same tour this year leaving 23rd Sept so it should be much cooler. Wonderful photos! I'm starting to get very excited about my cruise!!

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