Sicily in a day

We have just one day in Messina, Italy to see what we can. The plan is basically the same as our last stop of Dubrovnik, Croatia on what we call our “sampling of the Med” tour that started in Venice, Italy and will end nine days later in Barcelona. We know we can’t see everything and would rather spend some quality time with something or someone of interest. Here the plan was to go to Taormina perched high above on Mount Tauro, which dates back to the 3rd century B.C. Again, flexible plans allow for a rich travel experience.

You could accurately say that Messina in the Sicily region of Italy is barely 100 years old. A massive earthquake pretty much leveled the place in 1908. That’s a sharp contrast from Dubrovnik which I will remember as the place that built a wall around it to keep away enemies, a veritable fortress against harm. Messina opens up right out to the ocean with few visible relics of a time when oceanfront defenses were a necessity.

To make the 45 minute drive we took a shore excursion offered by Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Magic that we are sailing on and reporting from this week. The excursion is basically a prepaid bus ride that will be sure you make it back to the ship on time. That’s important because ships leave at a pre-determined time, with or without you. Recent news of a pending strike by a transportation-related union in Italy caused concern. The cruise line had done its homework though and assured us that strike or no strike, their drivers would be operating.

Once there, the tour group headed off to see the impressive Greek Theater and we headed the opposite direction to whatever might lie ahead. At this point we had about two hours before the tour group would make it back to the rendezvous point so off we went.

Granted, two hours is not a lot of time but it is amazing how immersed one can get in a culture just parking at a busy intersection of any given town. Such was the case for us today in Taormina.

Tourists who came off of three different cruise ships dominated the town square but local residents went about their business as they might any other day. Old ladies met for a glass of wine like they may have for years. Merchants chatted with customers in their stores and cursed those outside taking photos then moving on. (Apparently that is frowned upon) Neighbors, an occasional car, dogs and visitors came and went while we sat at the Mocambo Bar, drinking it all in.

The short amount of time we had did not allow any extensive adventures but our time was well spent as we looked out across the beautiful vistas that surrounded the area. The drive back to the Carnival Magic took us into Messina and a different kind of action, that of a modern world with all the noise, honking, and organized chaos of a modern city.

Back on the ship it took me a while to get it, what we had just seen up in the mountains. We had just walked on streets that has been there for hundreds of years, saw and talked to people who’s ancestors had walked those streets and sat watching it all happen much the way it might have back then.

As I looked back at Messina from the balcony of our cruise ship cabin and snapped a few last photos, I realized that the images I was taking were from an angle and elevation not possible when this city was first built. Ten-story-high cruise ships did not stop by back then.

But between volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and the sometimes angry weather that being by an ocean brings, here was an area that survived all that to flourish in today’s world. There’s got to be some lessons there, ones I hope to explore as we continue sampling ports of the Mediterranean.

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Chris is being sponsored by Carnival Cruise Lines on a nine-night Mediterranean cruise and is free to report anything he experiences on the journey without bias