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Lugano to Catania – Day 5

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Finally, a decent night’s sleep on the sofa-bed here at the apartment. I got up at 6:45, feeling a bit lazy, and decided what to do. I’d thought about the possibility of taking a trip to Mount Etna, or at least to the immediate area, and there was a bus leaving at 8:15 in the morning from Catania central station, and returning at around 4pm. However, I’d also found out that you could take a train from one of the metro stations further north at any time of day. I decided to rest a bit more, spend the morning seeing a few places in Catania, visit the market for a bit of shopping, then head to Mount Etna in the afternoon.

Looking at the map, I realised I’d been taking a very long route to the centre of town. How silly. Getting to the Piazza del Duomo again, I headed to see Castello Ursino, Palazzo Biscari, and the Teatro Bellini. Afterwards, I went to the market again and picked up a few things for dinner. After dropping off my shopping back at the apartment, I thought about what to do. I’d been looking at the list of sights to see I’d prepared for my trip and one of the items was the ‘nearby’ town of Taormina. Deciding my footwear wasn’t really made for volcano-climbing, I decided to take a day trip to Taormina, which was supposed to be a medieval hill town.

I thought the journey would be very short, since I remember seeing the overnight train stopping at Taormina shortly before it arrived at Catania. However, it turned out to be around roughly an hour. It was the least of my problems, however, because when I arrived at Taormina, I saw that the station was way outside the actual town. Makes sense, in a way, since the town itself is on a hill and it would have been easier to build the station at the bottom. There was a bus stop and a taxi rank outside. It was early afternoon now, and very hot. Deciding I didn’t want to hang around waiting for the bus (which never arrive, of course), I took a taxi to the centre of town, which cost around €15.

Taormina, oh my. It’s absolutely beautiful, and almost reminded me of Portofino in its charm, though it is much bigger than the Ligurian town. There is a long road called Via Umberto I, almost a kilometre in length, along which there are shops selling different types of local merchandise as well as the usual mix of souvenir items. The real charm is in the buildings though. Going off from Via Umberto are several narrow streets that go up or down the hill.

There were many more tourists here than in Catania, both Italian and foreign. One thing I really like, both at Taormina and in Catania, are the public fountains with drinking water. They are such a relief on extremely hot days like today. I saw quite a few people, mainly African immigrants, selling random items on the streets. I often wonder how on earth they can make a living. Who would want to buy their overpriced trinkets? How must they be feeling having to stand there in the heat for hours on the off chance they might make a few euros? Is there something I’m missing? I feel even sorrier for the people who go around begging in such heat, though I know there are sometimes scams involved here and they’re not really destitute.

The time flew and I realised, yet again, that I was going to miss my return train trip. This is so becoming a habit. For some reason, my outgoing ticket from Catania had been printed without a reservation, so I could have left at any time today. However, the return trip was reserved for a particular time, so if I missed it I’d have to buy another ticket. I decided to enjoy an extra hour or two in Taormina and buy another ticket back. It was only €3.50 so not a great loss. I sat down to have one of those brioches filled with ice cream that everyone in Catania and Taormina seem to be having. Clearly a Sicilian favourite.

I’m really glad I decided to go to Taormina today–it was an absolutely beautiful place and I would definitely like to return for a longer stay.

Tomorrow, I’ll be spending the morning doing some food shopping to take home (biscuits and sweets for colleagues at work), then head towards the seafront. In the afternoon, I’ll take a final stroll before heading to the airport and home.

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