Italy – Day Eighteen


Day Eighteen – 20 April 2016

Weather: 22, sunny

Steps: 15,771

The weather for the whole three weeks has been awesome. Watching the BBC everyday, I could watch the weathers systems and for pretty well the whole month there was a system circulating off the coasts of Spain, France and the U.K. and it was drawing water into all three countries but blocking any weather from crossing Italy. For that reason, we were relatively dry the whole time.

But anyone traveling in the other three countries would have had miserable weather.

I can sleep in a bit today and have time for cream croissants and eggs before catching the HOHO bus at the stop up the street just before nine. It goes along the coast to Taormina and then climbs to Castelmola which is five hundred metres above sea level.

P4200431Taormina is around the lower hills to the right and Castelmola is the peak to the left with all the buildings around it.

P4200256I find my way to the remains of the castle at the very top.

P4200331It offers an outstanding three hundred and sixty degree view of Etna…

P4200342Giardini Naxos


P4200499And Letojanni as well as the Italian coast in the distance.

P4200396The off-season HOHO schedule means a bus only comes every two hours so one needs to be certain of the timing or you’ll end up taking a taxi to your next stop.

I take the two hours to wander the small town and say hello to some residents.

P4200366The bus stop is the main square.

P4200316I take it down to Taormina. The town was founded by Greek refugees from Naxos in 358 BCE and was called Tauromenion. The Greeks built it following their own traditions such as building an acropolis on Mount Tauro.

P4200414 (2)With the arrival of the Romans, the Greek architecture was renovated to reflect the Roman forms but evidence of the town’s Greek origins still exists.

P4200483After the fall of the Romans, the town saw good times under the Byzantines, destruction under the Arabs, restoration under the Normans and stagnant growth under the Spanish. When the Spanish were expelled in the 18th century, the town was under control of several small powers until Italian unification. The town attracted a lot of artists in the early 20th century and its beaches are a big tourist draw. It has a population just over eleven thousand.

P4200478The bus dropped me off at one of two possible stops in the town and this is where the timing confusion comes in. Since one bus stop in Taormina is on the way to Castelmola and the other for the bus on the way down from Castelmola, you have to check to see if you want the time that takes you up to Castelmola or the one that takes you down to the shore and back to Giardini Naxos. I made the mistake of asking the girl at the stop and she gave me the Castelmola time. As a result, I essentially missed the bus I wanted and had to add two hours to my stay.

Not that it was a big deal. There’s a lot to do in the town.

My first stop was the ancient Greek/Roman theatre. The theatre was built in the 3rd century BCE and is the second largest in Sicily.

P4200415It is well preserved and boasts an amazing view.

P4200436Its brick construction points to Roman origin but the design is Greek and its possible the current theatre was built on the ruins of an original Greek theatre.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe site is still used for concerts and operas.

P4200446The view of Etna shows the smoke moving to the east.

P4200353With the shift in the wind, those doing the Etna tour today get a nice sulfur smell at no extra cost.

P4200311From here I wandered the town, picking up last minute gifts and discovering hidden treasures in the back streets like the Odeon.

P4200491Further up the street is the Piazza IX Aprile which is surrounded by a number of structures including the Church of Sant’Agostino and the Church of San Giuseppe.

P4200476The piazza was named for the day (9 April 1860) the residents falsely learned that Garibaldi had landed to liberate them from the Bourbons. (He wouldn’t show up for another month).

P4200475I picked up one last gelato and wandered until the bus showed up. To save me time, I took it as it was going up to Castelmola (since it’s the same bus that shows up a half hour later at the other stop). I wasn’t complaining. One can’t get sick of that view.

P4200376The bus heads down to Letojanni and then takes the coast back to Giardini Naxos, passing Isola Bella on the way.

P4200514I get back before six and pick up another ham and cheese at my favorite café before heading back to my room to pack for a long travel day tomorrow.



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