Posted by: travelrat | July 1, 2021


On a cruise around the Eastern Mediterranean, we called at the Sicilian port of Messina. One of the first things we noticed about it were the posters saying ‘No to the Bridge’ … in Italian of course! It seemed that plans were well advanced to link Sicily with the mainland, and it seemed that most Sicilians wanted none of it. Since our visit in 2006, the idea has been abandoned, then resuscitated at least once; I’m not sure what the current situation is.

We didn’t stay in Messina very long. We were told that, because of a succession of earthquakes, most of what is to be seen there is fairly modern. A hike to the summit of Mount Etna was on offer, but the top was covered in cloud and those who took the trip later pronounced themselves disappointed.

We went instead to Taormina, a hillside town overlooking the sea, founded about 750 BC by the Ancient Greeks. Our bus dropped us in a multi-storey car park, the supporting pillars of which bore distinct ‘scars of battle’ from its users, and we made our way to the roof … from where we would climb uphill to the town itself. I did say it was a hillside town! And, I’ve got to say … that’s the best view from the roof of a multi-storey car park I’ve ever seen! A winding road led up the hill; giving a sight of red roofed villas and a glinting azure bay.

Most of what’s to be seen lies in the main street, between the Messina Gate and the Syracuse Gate. In this largely pedestrianised street souvenir shops rub shoulders with boutiques and more traditional shops … there are even ‘if you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it’ clothes shops. But, they didn’t see any need to rip the heart out of the place in the search for ‘modernity’. The shutters and elaborate signs remain, and many buildings are still finished in the slightly peeling coloured stucco which almost shouts ‘Italy’

Glancing landwards, narrow alleys and steep steps lead dramatically uphill, while, mainly outside the churches, the street opens out into a piazza, with views of the sea. There’s usually a café or two here, too.

Just outside the town, there’s the ‘Greek Theatre’ … although the Romans adapted it later to suit their style of theatre. It’s not quite right to call it ‘ruined’, though, for it’s still used for the occasional performance. And, if you get bored with the production, there’s a stunning view of Mount Etna … or there would have been, if it wasn’t for the haze!

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