Unsurprisingly the best time to see Taormina is first thing when the light is soft and all the tourists are still in bed. We discovered this fact when walking through the town at 7:30 am this morning on our way to the bus terminal. There wasn’t a soul in sight.
We were at the bus terminal in order to catch a bus that would take us to Mount Etna. As it turned out there would be three buses followed by what was described as a Jeep but was more like an all terrain bus. The journey took a lot longer than I had expected as we wound our way through the pretty Sicilian countryside going ever higher as we made our way to our destination.
The countryside changed rapidly from one of greenery to something that looked like the landscape of the moon as the lava from the most recent eruption in 2002 had done its worst.
The “Jeep” took us from the desolate car park up to 2000 metres which was our first stop. As we went up our guide pointed out interesting things such as “on your right you can see the roof the the hotel that stood there before being buried in 2002”! At the stop we were able to walk down into a crater (actually slip down would be more accurate) where steam was escaping from between the rocks. We could also scramble over the multi coloured lava and explore, sadly none of the lava was molten.
The Jeep then took us up another thousand metres and here the weather quickly changed. At 2000m it had been bright and pretty sunny. By the time we had reached our next and final stop there had been a recent snow fall. From here we were able to finally see the very top of the mountain some 300 metres further up. It was beautiful to see the snow covered hills and rather odd in September.
After just under a couple of hours exploring on the slopes of the volcano we came back down having really enjoyed the experience. We had been lucky with the weather as when we were leaving the clouds were coming down making visibility almost nil.
It was then back on the bus for the return trip to Taormina.