Our stay in Milazzo was awesome and we were sad to leave but excited to be heading to the famed tourist area of Taormina, Sicily. We decided to stay in the nearby town of Pozzillo, tucked away from the tourist zones it is a picturesque fishing village surrounding a small harbor with stunning views of the coastline from Taormina to Catania.
Our Airbnb apartment here was fantastic, it was clean, spacious, comfortable and in a small gated condominium complex perched on a cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea where we stayed for 8 nights. From our back patio we were directly under the shadow of Mount Etna, it loomed over us with a constant plume of smoke rising from its cone to remind us that this giant was always active.
The complex had a strong sense of community and felt like a microcosm of everyday Sicilian life. It was resort living with a large sun-deck at the back of the complex where the residents would gather in the evening to visit with their neighbors and to go for a swim. After work and on the weekends the whole complex would don their speedos and bikinis to head down to the sun-deck, it was a great place to take in the sun with sweeping views of the coastline. When it got too hot you’d walk down a steep set of stairs that lead straight into the deep waters of the sea for a dip and then back to visit with the neighbors watching from above.
In the evenings all the neighbors would be out on their side by side patios either having dinner or a glass of wine with friends that stopped by to visit or play cards. The community was so lively and had such a great vibe, I loved it here. A two-minute walk out the gate and you were at the towns harbor, locals would gather here on the tiny beach to swim and lounge. A few street side cafes were always busy as the gathering places for a beverage and chit chat. The promenade that surrounded the bay was a popular spot for newlyweds to have their pictures done and often there were a few couples surrounded by multiple photographers and drones snapping from above as they posed for photos.
Walking up the street from the harbor was a great little family owned pizzeria where we celebrated Janet’s birthday, a casual but absolutely, delicious meal on the patio. Across the street was a beautiful church that would regularly serenade the village with its ringing bells and occasionally we could hear the choir practicing from our apartment. I sat one afternoon for hours at the beach-side café, sipping a granita and taking in the richness of life that was happening all around me, it was a magical place!
Our home base was so enchanting that it was hard to tear ourselves away and go out to see what the surrounding area had to offer which was extensive. We forced ourselves to make a day of visiting the chi-chi resort town of Taormina known as a popular summer destination for well-heeled Sicilians and visiting Europeans alike.
The town is perched high up on a mountain accessed on a steep drive up a narrow street and parking is difficult to find. In our search for a spot to park we ended up driving past Taormina and all the way up to the town of Castelmola that looms above Taormina and the coast below. High up we decided to turn around and continue our search closer to Taormina and managed to find the last parking spot in a small lot. Try punching these addresses into your GPS to find parking which can be particularly difficult in high season;
- Corso Umberto 805, Taormina
- Viale S. Pancrazio 26
- Via Mario e Nicole Garipoli
- Via Crocefisso
The historical center of Taormina is tucked behind the main road that leads up to the town, a portico leads you into the old center where all the shops, bars, restaurants, theaters, piazza and tourist sites can be found.
Plan to spend a whole day here to wander it streets, visit the old churches, the Ancient Theater, Porta Catania, Palazzo Ciampoli, Taormina Castle, Piazza Aprile, Palazzo Corvaja, Piazza Ciampoli… There are some fantastic view points from the upper village and great photo ops here so have your camera ready and enjoy your stroll through Taormina.
There is also a cable car that leaves from the upper town and will swiftly transport you down to the waterfront and some of the best beaches in the area. Don’t miss Isola Bella, Giardini Naxos or Mazzaro, some of the best beaches in Sicily are here but be prepared for some crowds. Below is a video of our visit to Taormina and the surrounding area, just click on the photo to open;
One afternoon we spent visiting the Baroque town of Acireale, its small historical center is spectacular with a series of awe inspiring churches, great cafes, wonderful shops and a lovely park. We loved this town and had such an enjoyable visit, don’t forget to stop at one of the great outdoor cafes (we recommend Cafe Cipriani) for a brioche and granita one of the local specialties. We found a great parking lot with lots of space and super cheap, a rarity in Italy and it was perfectly situated for a short walk into the old center. GPS/Park at Via Galatea 193, Acireale, CT. There are also the Acireale Thermal Baths here that are well renowned for those looking for a more relaxing option. Here is a video of our visit to Acireale:
A whole day could also be spent in the city of Catania wondering its wide central square, visiting the Piazza del Duomo and the Fontana dell’Elefante or the ornate Catania Cathedral. We were short on time and decided to see other things instead, avoiding the chaos of the big city but its at the top of our list when we return again.
A highlight of our stay was a day spent on top of Mount Etna (click on the photo above to see our video at Etna). From Pozzillo it was almost an hour drive to the Piazzale Rifugio Sapienza where tourists park at the base lodge to begin their adventures to the volcano. You can walk, take a cable car and then guided transport to the closest allowed point at the heart of the volcano. Its very touristy here and very expensive; $30 euros per person for the short gondola ride and then another $30 euros if you want to take the trams up to the top of the mountain. Its an outer worldly place here at the top of the mountain with numerous craters pocking the terrain from previous eruptions, large boulders spewn from the volcano, steaming vents, old lava flows and fields of ash. Just be conscious as the volcano did erupt twice this past year and a BBC crew was almost killed while filming at the top of the volcano. Here is a link to all our Sicily photo gallery- Mount Etna, Pozzillo,Taormina….