Another great day in the life of he great cruise I hosted last year – and looking forward to the new one this year for more details click here.
Day 6 Saturday 12 September 2015
Up bright and early to keep myself honest in the gym before a day trip to Taormina in Sicily. Everything is so enticing on the Celebrity Reflection www.celebritycruises.com so I wanted to stay fit. The Fitness Centre was amazing and at the front of the ship with glass walls, had an unsurpassed view. It was spotless and so well equipped with some machines I had never seen before and rows of treadmills, bikes and cross-trainers. So no excuse not to go there on this trip! Nearby I found a delightful little café away from the crowd, serving beautiful fresh fruit and juices and healthy breakfast choices for a post-gym breakfast. Much better to stay away from the dizzying array of choices in the main dining room.
A couple of hours out we had already passed Mount Strombolione, one of a number of islands close to Sicily that are entirely permanently-active volcanoes and sailed into the port of Messina. At about 8 am, we docked in Messina, the third-largest town in Sicily located in the north-east on the slopes of the Peloritani Mountains. We disembarked and set off by coach for Taormina, about a half-hour drive along a scenic road built right on the slopes of hills which dropped straight to the Ionian Sea. We drove over lots of viaducts and through tunnels with prickly pears dotting the hills and spying terraced gardens and pale coloured private homes.
We had an excellent local tour guide on our trip up the mountain and learned so much. Sicily is the largest region of Italy, with more UNESCO monuments than any other even though Italy has the most in the world. Home of the Mafia, Sicily has played host to many cultures.
Taormina, a picturesque square now bustling with buskers, many churches and a restored 12th century clock tower built upon the ruins of an older building from the 4th century BC. It is a small town on the east coast of the island of Sicily. The area around Taormina was inhabited even before the Greeks arrived on the Sicilian coast in 734 BC. It sits on a 200-metre high rocky outcrop overlooking the Ionian Sea and surveying Mt Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano (about a 45-minute drive away). It is possible to walk on it. Popular beaches with warm waters and high salt on the Ionian Sea are accessible via an aerial tramway.
There is plenty to see and do. There are rarely any cars allowed into Taormina proper, rather you park below the town and get a lift up to walk through the main centre.
It’s not all high end shopping and souvenirs, food lovers are kept happy too with shops filled with regional sweetmeats and pastries. There are also shops specialising in linen and homecrafts, gelateria, lively bars, restaurants, antique shops and plenty of buskers.
The Greek Theatre – Il Teatro Greco
The Ancient Greek Theatre in Taormina was built early in the 7th century BC and remains a stunning site. It has ornamental Corinthian fragments, Roman brickwork yet a Greek design, leading to speculation that it was rebuilt upon the foundations of an older theatre of the Greek period. It is still used for opera, theatre and concerts. Incredible.
Enjoying my time at Ancient Greek Theatre in Taormina
Being so picturesque, Taormina is quite touristy, but I had been there before for a day, and had found somewhere to eat away from the main thoroughfare. I was determined to find it again – and I did – except it was closed. So using the same philosophy, I found another restaurant, La Piazzetta, via Paladini 5. When I asked for a table for five, the owner said “no pizza” so I said great – we’d like to eat here. Wow, were we glad we did.
We just had one course each, as we knew there were four to come for dinner that night on board the ship. It was a beautiful warm, sunny day sitting in the courtyard – the very essence of a Sicilian al freso meal.
Spaghetti with Sea Urchins
I couldn’t resist the Spaghetti al ricci di mari – spaghetti with sea urchins – and only 20 euro. It is a seasonal specialty. The owner could not have been more helpful and one of us not only got a specially made seafood risotto, she managed to entice the recipe from him!
Recipe for seafood risotto
We arrived back to a warm welcome from the ship’s crew, as usual with cool towels and cold drinks before we boarded the ship.
Then our regular “happy hour” (half price drinks!) before another lovely dinner in the Opus Restaurant: 4-course meal, fine food with waiter service.
We were all happy to know that the next day was a day at sea, and we put the clocks forward one hour with Mykonos our next destination. The Captain gave an informative description early each evening over the intercom, advising of the route and the weather. He ensured that all our sailings were smooth. I was looking forward to an opportunity to more fully explore the ship. I was really enjoying my home away from home and the joy of travelling with no packing or un-packing!
To join this year’s cruise go to www.travelrite.com.au/gourmet_cruise16.shtml