Why go to Taormina (Messina)?
Taormina is a one-stop destination with its lively atmosphere, beaches, shops and historic sites
Many shops and attractions close daily between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. for siesta
This port can be a bit overrun with tourists at times, but it’s a lovely way to experience Sicily in a single day
Taormina (Messina) Cruise Port Facilities?
Giardini Naxos is a tender port, and there's nothing there in the way of cruise terminal facilities -- just a small tented area where cruise lines provide seating and cold drinks for passengers. But Giardini Naxos is also an attractive seaside town set on a pretty bay lined with beaches that offer water sports and some jolly local restaurants, gelaterias and cafes. So, if you've previously been to Taormina and fancy a day by the sea, the coastal area at Giardini Naxos will provide it.
You'll also find ancient artifacts and chronicles of the history of Naxos (which was the first Greek settlement in Sicily) at the Museo di Naxos, which is located near the cruise tender dock. (+39 0942 51001; open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in winter, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in summer)
Of the other two ports, Messina is marginally closer to Taormina, while Catania lies about 34 miles away in the foothills of Mount Etna. Tours to Etna run from all three ports, most meandering up to Rifugio Sapienza, a hotel on Etna's north side, which acts as "base camp" for various hikes around the impressive Silvestri craters.
Good to Know?
Hidden charges if you choose to have a refreshing gelato while sitting on a cafe terrace, however humble. (This added 2 euros to the bill for two ice creams.)
Uphill walking and -- at the amphitheater -- some steps and uneven ground. Wear sensible shoes and take a walking stick if necessary.
Crowded streets -- especially in the peak summer months.
Siesta time, generally from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., when many shops close. If you're set on a serious shopping fest, head to Taormina in the morning. That said, this is a tourist town and tourist-oriented stores -- particularly along the Via Teatro Greco -- typically stay open at busy times.
From Giardini Naxos, a taxi up the hill to Taormina can cost between 12 euros and 20 euros one-way -- so travel with three pals or take a bus from Taormina-Giardini railway station (at sea level) for around 2 euros each way. Buses and taxis stop at a car park below the main town and you ride up to street level in a lift (press the button for Level 7).
Taking a taxi in from Messina or Catania costs an even heftier 150 euros to 200 euros (though that's round-trip and should include a couple of hours' waiting time, so it can still work out cheaper than a ship's "Go As You Please" tour if you can travel as a party of four). Be sure to negotiate the fare and waiting time in advance.
Alternatively, you can catch a train to Taormina from Messina Centrale station (about 15 minutes' walk left, right and left again from the port) for 3.50 euros each way.
A train ride to Taormina-Giardini from Catania costs 4 euros each way, and you'll find the station in Piazza Giovanni XXII, less than a mile from the port.
Check return times, though; allow yourself plenty of time to get back to your ship, and don't even consider this if your ship calls at Sicily on a Sunday because train service then is very erratic.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money?
The official currency is the euro. For the latest exchange rates, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com.
You'll find plenty of ATMs and exchange bureaus along Taormina's main street -- this is a town that wants you to spend your money.
Tourism is Taormina's main business, so most people will speak at least a smattering of English. However, they will warm to any visitor at least attempting to speak Italian. In an emergency, dial 112 from any phone to summon police, ambulance or fire services.
Where You're Docked?
Smaller ships anchor in the large bay of Giardini Naxos and transport passengers to and from a small outdoor dock on tenders. A bus journey from Giardini Naxos to Taormina takes about 25 minutes. Larger ships go to Messina or Catania -- about 30 miles from Taormina -- and passengers travel to Taormina from there.