I was in Italy ( Taormina , Giardini naxos ) in a year 2009 and stayed there for a while . This is where i fell in love with Italy . Amore , Amore , Amore .... And few things from this amazing time stayed in my memory very strongly , here is the list of top things to do in Sicily - Taormina , Giardini naxos , Calatabiano and Mazzaro .
ISOLA BELLA !!
That`s the first i want to share . Isola bella is a little island between 2 beaches . Around it is a little island where are stunning dive sites ( Marine park area ) and the same time while on the boat already , you can see a blue caves near by .
Ways to see Isola Bella are are by walk or by boat . Walk can be very nice , just steep and hot .And many hackers will try to sell you stuff on the way . Maybe bit annoying , but if you have headphone ...
By boat , highly recommend and its cheap too . Just go to Mazzaro bay and get boat from there . They will bring you to the Isola bella to snorkel and drive inside the blue cave . By the way , its an amazing diving into those caves.
More about Isola Bella in :http://www.gotaormina.com/en/beaches/isola_bella.html
Mount Etna - Largest active vulcano in Europe .
I can' t believe i have never visited Mount Etna . I have heard amazing stories and seen many , many photos ,ad still NOT . You can see it from anywhere in Taormina . As far as i know you can go with a jeep or by normal bus up to Etna and see it quite close . But to enjoy full power of vulcano , you will have to pay much more to get closer .
Ps .- vulcano is erupting constantly .
Tour prices :
33euro - 40 Euro : 4 hour tour , that brings you to the Riugio Sapienza . And you can independently explore . Walk up to the Silvestri craters .
75 euro tour and more : going much higher with jeep to craters and at the end of the tour still stops in Riugio Sapienza for a bit , so you get best of the both worlds .
Read more about mount Etna in Nat. Geo : http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/parks/etna-italy/
Castelmola - penis bar
Castelmola is a little village high up from Taormina . its so high that i thought that car will brake down and start rolling backward and fall of the cliff . It even stopped for few seconds . This little village is magical . Little tiny alleys , cafes , bars .. But all local . This place is touristic , but in its own strange way . Best attraction would be Penis bar - Turrisi bar . And a dinner on a cliff would do the trick for the romantic evening in full power.
Read more about Castelmola i :
Read about most famous bar in Castelmola :http://www.parrotfishjourney.com/latest-post/penis-bar-turrisi-castelmola-sicily-italy
Taormina little streets .
Taormina is amazing . i remember when i arrived . i arrived by train in late evening and when i stepped out of a train station i seen a huge cliff in front of me .. i didn`t realize that all town is on top of the hill . Ended up taking bus to the top for about 50 minutes , but in map it looked like 5 ( straight line ) .
Taormina is very touristic , but there are some interesting galleries and restaurant in between Taormina and Castelmola . Many artists offer to make an drawing for you . I liked Taormina , but would not go there more than one day .. Too many tourists .
Try Taormina specialty dish UNI PASTA .in other words called sea urchin pasta ! If you dont like sea urchin - no worries .. Carbonara is always on offer .
Read more about Taormina in : http://www.independenttraveler.com/trip-reviews/tantalizing-taormina-sicily
Taormina greek Amphitheater between sea and air .Of course everyone needs a bit of a history . Well Taormina theater is great and it is the most dramatically situated greek theater in the world . Built in 3 d century . Just imagine how much have it seen . Italians and greeks walking on those old brown steps .
Read more about Greek Amphitheaterand see when are events : http://www.teatrogrecotaormina.com/concerts/events.html
Stop in a gelateria in giardini naxos and so much ice cream , !that you cant walk anymore . Obviously!
Look for anything tha`ts full with italians .
Best ice cream in in Giardini naxos . You wonder why ? There are no tourists and ice cream is made for real Italians , that would not accept a good ice cream . They will need the best of the best !! and i got to try that "THE BEST " . Amazing .
Find out where :
Go in the mountains . There are so many activties in Taormina and surrounding towns , and i dont know why hiking in mountains , does not seem to be one of them .Even 20 minutes drive in-land will show you huge mountains with lots of trails to expore , and on the way can stop by in vineries , pick oranges from trees and feel like in Motorcycle diaries .
Hiking tours :http://www.hotelvillaschuler.com/walking_and_hiking_around_taormina_24en1944en.htm
Visit Calatabiano - Is there mafia ? And see Castello Calatabiano .
I leave this for the last , because im still confused about this village . One day i rented a bike and decided to explore surrounding areas . I ended p in Calatabiano . Village had this relaxing vibe , so i stopped and had coffee . Village was filled with a lot of older people , all smoking cigars and having expreso.I had a chat with few of them about village , life , families ... From there i went touring around to the hill ( Calatabiano castello -). and went back to Giardini Naxos to meet my Italian friends . When i arrived i showed photos from my day and they all stopped at one photo and started talking Italian .
: Where did you take this photo ?" they asked ..
of course i took it n Calatabiano .
They started laughing when i answered question .. Turns out there are rumors that its a mafia village , where tourist pass by VERY rarely .
So add this on your list ... And about that mafia thing .. There are mixed opinions , so ... make you own choice ( believe or not )
More on Calatabiano : http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Tourism-g672076-Calatabiano_Province_of_Catania_Sicily-Vacations.html
Photographer for all photos in this post is Marta Sluja .