Sicily is filled to the brim with bustling cities, old school markets, and unimaginably beautiful panoramic views. Even though we used Catania as our overnight base in Sicily, we made sure to explore more of what the football at the end of Italy's "boot" had to offer. Today I'll tell you about two day trips we went on from Catania, although both cities are also easily accessible from other parts of the island as well! This is going to be an extremely photo-heavy post because... well, you'll see why!
The views from this little slice of Sicilian paradise are absolutely unreal. Although this small commune is an extremely popular tourist destination, as it is a common stop for many cruises, it is still 100% worth it to go! The historic center of the town might be crazy touristy and filled to the gills with people, but with Mount Etna in the distance, an impressive (and still-functioning) Greek amphitheater to explore, and an elevated view of the Ionian Sea, I can not more highly recommend adding Taormina to your must-see list in Sicily.
- Visit the Teatro Greco. By day, you can explore the 7th CE amphitheater, the second largest in Sicily after Siracusa. By night, you might just be able to catch an opera performance or play under the stars if you're lucky!
- Climb up to the Castello di Taormina, which is now sadly abandoned and locked up tight. But no fear, that million step climb uphill is totally worth it for the view you'll have of the city of Taormina, the Ionian Sea, and the Teatro Greco! Follow signs in the town to get to the bottom of the stairs-only path that takes you to the top. It also might be called Castello Saraceno.
- Wander into any of the numerous cathedrals and churches scattered around the city. They are all extremely old!
- Take in the view of Mount Etna from the main piazza, Piazza IX Aprile.
- Frequent Interbus buses run from Palermo, Catania, and Messina. Taormina is also easily accessible by Tren Italia, although you will have to take a cab or a bus up the tiny switchback road from the train station.
We went to Siracusa with grand plans to spend all day exploring really awesome Greek ruins, but we accidentally only saw one ruin. We realized as we were on the bus ride back home that we should have spent more time in the "modern" section of town instead of heading straight to Ortigia, the "historical" heart of the town. Oops. Nevertheless, we had a lovely walk around town, and enjoyed a stunning coastal view of the Ionian Sea once again. Fun fact about Siracusa: Its people defeated Athens in 413, which then made it the most important city of Magna Grecia. It is also the birthplace of the famous ancient mathematician, Archimedes.
- Il Duomo di Siracusa is really, really cool. From the outside, it looks like a normal cathedral in the middle of a gorgeous marble-floor plaza. But once you enter the front doors you soon learn its biggest secret. The cathedral surrounds an ancient Greek temple! All of the original ancient columns of the Greek temple are in great condition still, and blend seamlessly into the cathedral's architecture.
- Fontana di Diana is a gorgeous fountain in a quiet square on Ortigia island. I loved the detail of the sculptures on the fountain. All of the faces were so expressive. I felt like I was reading a story as I was looking it.
- Explore the modern part of the city. I can't really talk much about what is there because we just walked straight through it from the bus station to Ortigia island, but there is an ancient Greek amphitheater there, among other important Greek ruins.
So.... who's going halvsies on a house in Sicily with me?!