Messina (Taormina), Italy
Taormina is a beautiful village tucked into a hillside on the northeast coast of Sicily. After your ship arrives at the cruise port in Messina, you can take a bus or train to the village, where you'll find yourself walking amid remnants of the town's medieval, Greek, and Roman eras — all while daily life bustles at restaurants in public squares, in delightful shops, and on shiny stone streets.
What We Love
Ancient Theater: A centerpiece of the town is its Greek theater, carved into Mount Tauro. The ruins remain incredibly intact, and the site is still used for performances, with seats encircling a hillside looking down to the stage and the Ionian Sea beyond.
Cannolis: Sicily is the birthplace of the decadent dessert, and the sweet ricotta-filled pastries are bigger and better here.
Isola Bella Beach: Ride a cable car down to this nature reserve and spend time on two crescent-shaped beaches lapped by the clear, blue waters of the Ionian Sea.
Best Known For
Mount Etna: The nearly 11,000-foot-high volcano is about an hour from Taormina, and buses navigate winding switchbacks, past old hardened lava flows, toward the summit and visitors center. You can then scramble up the black lava sand to reach new heights, or take a cable car to the area just below the main crater.
Corso Umberto: The pedestrian shopping area is lined with historic buildings and inviting shops and bars. It's your spot to pick up treasured souvenirs or just settle in for a drink and some people-watching.
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Who It's Best For
Fans of Ancient Times: Gorgeous town squares, cathedrals, the Greek theater ruins, Piazza del Duomo, and numerous other ancient structures are packed into the village.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
It's Tight Quarters: Taormina is a tiny town and gets crowded during the day when a cruise ship docks (especially on Corso Umberto). You also have a 45-minute ride to get to Taormina from the cruise pier.
John Roberts is a New Jersey-based writer for ShermansCruise who worked at The Virginian-Pilot.