Giardini Naxos is a beach resort town on Sicily's sun-drenched east coast, between the cities of Catania and Messina. Its neighbouring town of Taormina is more famous — a hilltop town, Taormina is one of the trendiest and most charming tourist destinations in Sicily — however, Giardini is a bit more laid-back, and the prices here are much more reasonable. I spent one night here, before continuing north to Messina.
Taormina wasn't for me, so I came back down the hill, and hung out in Giardini Naxos. Upon my return to Giardini, I was relieved to find that it's a much more relaxed, much more reasonably-priced town than its neighbour up top. I called it an early half-day today, and the afternoon here in Giardini was very easy-going: I checked into a budget B&B (the cheapest one I've found so far); I enjoyed the day's hot choc break; I found some Internet, and went online for a few hours (after waiting for the Sicilian siesta to end — it finished "early" here, at 3pm); and I grabbed some tavola calda (sort-of "fast food") for dinner. Life's easy in Giardini — I don't wanna leave Sicily. Why can't I stay here forever?
When I began my ride today, the destination that I had in mind was the famous town of Taormina. Not a terribly ambitious destination — by 11am I was in Giardini Naxos, and Taormina is at the top of a big hill that overlooks Giardini — but then again, I was feeling pretty relaxed today; and I haven't got much further to ride anyway, until I once again reach Messina. So from Giardini, I slogged up the winding mountain road that takes you up to Taormina; and once I'd conquered this steep but not-overly-long road, I went to see what all the fuss is about, and why Taormina is considered one of the top tourist hotspots in Sicily. Well, Taormina is a gorgeous town: squashed into a tiny hilltop plateau, it's all narrow cobbled streets and fresh mountain air; the architecture is gorgeous, and can be seen in the many churches, palaces and terraced houses in town; and the views of the beaches and bays of Giardini on one side, and of Mazzarò on the other side, are quite breathtaking. However, the place is riddled with tourists — you can't even sneeze without being offered a souvenir handkerchief — and it's also ridiculously expensive. This dangerous combination made Taormina decidedly unappealing to me, particularly as a place to spend the night.