I was not expecting too much prior to our arrival in Sicily -- it was one of seven stops on our cruise and I was just hoping it would be nice. As stated above, it became my favorite location! It is simply beautiful!
We had arranged for a private tour (our first use of private tours on a trip, by the way) and Alessandro, our guide, was terrific. He picked us up promptly in Naxos, the actual port, in a comfortable MB four door sedan and we headed off to Mt. Etna first.
It's about a 45 minute drive, but we stopped in the beautiful little town of Zeffarana on the way up and we walked around for 30 minutes or so -- very quaint town.
We then made an impromptu stop at a roadside cave that was formed by a gas pocket during one of Etna's recent volcanic activities. It extends underground for about 180 meters -- we went in about 40 meters and it became too dark to go any further, but it was a very cool side stop! Ahhh, the advantage of private tours!
We went on to the actual volcanoes and it was really nice. You get up to about 6500 ft as your starting point, so it gets cool/cold, and the wind can really blow, so wear layers! We walked down to a couple of small volcanoes from the main parking point and back up to a big one (from 2001) and the walk is strenuous, so be prepared. Also, expect loose ground with steep inclines and declines. The views of Catania and the coast in the distance with the contrasting colors in between were beautiful.
After a couple of hours, we headed out to a small winery, Murgo, for about 45 minutes and that was nice. Wineries are beautiful in themselves, but to add to it the background of the sea and Etna just made it all the more spectacular.
Then on to Taormina and that was a whole new level of the tour. The views of the sea and surrounding are spectacular! And the village itself is very pretty -- typical European use of flowers on outside window sills along with colorful fruit and flower displays all along narrow roads! We walked the kilometer or so of the shopping area and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Munched on some incredible pastries at D'Amore just on the outside of the shopping area and enjoyed a cappuccino at another spot as we people watched from the outside seating.
I loved our stop in Taormina and I hope you will, too.