His company has gotten so popular that he actually asked his brother, Ignazio, to help him with the tours.We were lucky enough to have Ignazio take us around all day to visit Messina, Taormina and Castelmola for only 45 Euro ($63) a person.
Off all of our days in Italy, this one felt the most Italian—it was a leisurely stroll amongst family and friends.
Since both Taormina and Castelmola are small towns and one of the few attractions in Sicily, Mario suggested that we start our tour at 8am.When we got off the ship, Ignazio introduced himself and welcomed us into his van.
We then started the 45 minute journey to Taormina.Ignazio spent the whole ride giving us a history lesson about the island and its inhabitants.You could tell that he really has a passion for it.
He dropped us off right at the gate to Taormina at the beginning of Corso Umberto.We had 2 hours to explore this tiny cliffside town on our own.
Corso Umberto is a pedestrian street filled with shops and restaurants.
Everywhere we turned there was beautiful landscaping and secret coves.
Since we arrived so early, we didn’t have to contend with the crowd but most of the shops were closed (Europeans don’t start moving until 10-ish—if you are lucky).
We didn’t mind since we aren’t souvenir-y tourists.We would much rather spend our time exploring.
Since Taormina is a cliff town, there were tons of hidden staircases and lots of climbing.
The town was also filled with of Ancient relics, including many buildings like the one above that were built up to 1000 years ago.
Eventually, we made it to the Piazza IX Aprile on the other side of town.This Piazza contains amazing ocean views and of course a cathedral (because what’s a European Piazza without a cathedral).
After walking down the length of Corso Umberto, we walked to the town’s southern edge to get a better look of the Ionian Sea.
Can you tell that Taormina is a cliff town?
Be careful walking along this stretch (Via Roma).There are several sharp turns and the only thing keeping you from tumbling down the Cliffside are the thigh high barrier walls.
For your bravery, you will be rewarded with some amazing scenery.
We hiked back to the town’s gate to meet up with our tour van to ascend a 1,000 plus feet to Castelmola.
Once we arrived, Ignazio showed us a scenic overlook that featured Toarmina.It was crazy to see how far up we had traveled.
Ignazio then proceeded to walk us through this teeny tiny town.It was so remote and quiet we didn’t even see another tour group, which was a nice change of pace from our other ports.
Ignazio led us up some winding roads to a palace turned cathedral constructed in 350 AD.
After climbing to the top of the town, we stopped for lunch at Gallo Cedrone, a quaint, quiet local family restaurant.
We ate an amazing locally grown Italian meal served by the sweetest Mother and Daughter team in all of Italy.I can still remember the sweetness of the tomatoes and the freshness of the mozzarella from my caprese salad.
We had the most relaxing beautiful meal of our entire trip sitting in this hillside restaurant overlooking the rest of Sicily.
When lunch came to a close 2 hours later, we headed back to the van and down to another scenic overlook.
I definitely want to see one of these beaches up close one day.
We then headed back into Messina to visit some of its historic sites.
First, we went to an overlook of the Messina Harbor.From the picture above, you can see the statue of Madonna della Lettera, the port’s protectress.
Next up was the Cathedral of Messina, which holds one of the world’s largest astronomical clocks, built in 1933.
Everyday at noon, the clock comes alive, illustrating events from civil and religious history.
The Piazza in front of the Cathedral also holds a beautiful fountain.
After touring the Cathedral, Ignazio droves us back to ship.It was sad to see him go.He was such a sweet guy.
I highly recommend Mario and his brother if you decide to tour Sicily.Ignazio was the friendliest, most enthusiastic tour guide we had.Everywhere we went he introduced us to friends.He always had an amazing story to share and he was willing to do anything we asked.I loved that he never operated on a time frame.Lunch went on for hours without any interruption from Ignazio.He just wanted us to have a good time.
Mr. A and I were both pleasantly surprised by Messina and Sicily.We didn’t think that this small island could compete with the likes of Rome and Florence.But it honestly was a beautiful place.So many people in our tour group kept commenting about how they would love to come visit Sicily for a week (and this was after visiting Rome and Florence).So I guess you can say Sicily definitely gets our seal of approval.
After we finished exploring Pompeii, we hopped back in our Rome in Limo van to head off to our day’s second stop, Sorrento.
Sorrento is located southeast of Pompeii on the Sorrentine Peninsula overlooking the Bay of Naples. It was 40 minute ride to Sorrento from Pompeii.
Along the way, our driver pulled over at a scenic overlook so we could get some amazing pictures of the Mt. Vesuvius with the Bay of Naples in the foreground.
The vibrant bright homes fit so well next to the deep blue ocean. Truly one of the more beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen.
Even 30 miles away the sleeping beast was still lurking in the background.
From here, the road became a little treacherous as we started the descent to Sorrento.
When we arrived in Sorrento, our driver dropped us off in front of this overlook onto an Ancient building called the Deep Valley of the Mills. Looking at this picture still makes me a little queasy. Boy was that a far drop.
We had about 2 hours free time so with our tummies growling we headed straight to the center of town to find lunch.
We passed right through the main square, Piazza Tasso.
We decided to head down one of the major streets Corsa Italia to look for a street side café.
Along the way of course, Mr. A took about a zillion pictures.
Eventually, we found a small sandwich stop and ate a quick pizza.
Then it was back to sightseeing. First up of course was the cathedral.
Next to the cathedral we found this beautiful hidden courtyard. It was like something out of a magazine.
Further past the cathedral was an overlook to the bay. Again, I posed for a picture with Mt. Vesuvius. It just never really seems to go away.
The harbor view was gorgeous and the breeze coming from the ocean took the edge off the heat.
We then headed back to the heart of town to take some more pictures.
This one is one of my favorites. I love how this city looks like it’s carved out of the side of a mountain.
Another famous sighting in this southern Mediterranean area is arches covered with growing vines. They made my heart swoon.
We also went to the major shopping/market area on Via San Cesareo. Since Sorrento is known for their limoncello, everywhere we looked we saw gigantic lemons.
Having successfully avoided buying something, we headed back to our tour van so we could drive over to our final stop, Positano.
The drive from Sorrento to Positano runs along the Amalfi coast on the famous Amalfi Drive, which is carved out of the side of the coastal cliffs.
This drive is notorious difficult because of the small width of the road and its abrupt hairpin turns. Since the drive runs right along the coast, there’s only a tiny guard rail between your car and the Cliffside. If you are scared of heights, I would not suggest looking down. The drop is terrifying.
Instead, just look straight ahead. The landscape is like something out of a dream.
Like he did before Sorrento, our driver pulled over at a scenic overlook so we could get an overhead view of Positano.
I couldn’t wait to get down there.
When we arrived in Positano, our driver dropped us off at the top of the town and told us to follow the road down to the ocean.
There is only one road that goes through town and larger vehicles cannot fit so we were on our own.
We followed the Via Del Mulini through it’s twists and turns admiring all the beautiful sweeping vines.
Along the way, the street was littered with shops and restaurants.
We made a quick stop at the church in town, Santa Maria Assunta. The church contains a mysterious 13th century Byzantine icon of a black Madonna. Legend has it that the icon landed on Positano’s shore because some sailors were facing a terrible storm in the Mediterranean while in transporting the icon. The sailors heard a voice from above telling them to put down the icon. The sailors diverted to the closest town, Positano, and unloaded the icon and the storm abated. The icon has not left Positano since then.
From here, I could hear the ocean waves beckoning me and we ran the rest of the way to the ocean.
It was quite a sight to behold the huge hill we had just descended.
We stood around taking about a thousand pictures. It was one of the most unique cities I’ve ever seen with houses jutting out of the Cliffside.
We loitered around at the beach until we knew we had to start the crazy climb by up the cliff to meet our tour group in time.
I really didn’t want to leave. After all the hustle and bustle of Florence and Rome, there was something so soothing about the sound of crashing waves. It was so peaceful and quiet and quaint. I just wanted to stand there forever.
But alas, we had to leave. And thus began the climbing. I’m not going to lie. We totally took a break half way up. Going straight up hill is not joke.
We made it back into our van and settled in for the hour trip back to the cruise ship in Naples. We made a promise one day that we would visit Positano again and the rest of the Amalfi Coast that lies beyond it. It’s the kind of place you could lose yourself completely in and feel good about it.
Follow our newlywed journey through love, laughter and happily ever after. I'm Mr. Adam's best friend, a wedding fanatic, a health food nut, a yoga fiend, an arts & crafts-ers, a DIY-er, a wannabe world traveller, a pinterest addict and a Jesus lover. I hope you enjoy our wedding/newlywed/travel/food/healthy living/crafting adventures.