Thursday 15 August 2013

Palermo to Taormina by train, Sicily

Messina station
It can take five hours to travel by train from Sicily's capital to the popular resort town of Taormina on the east coast.  From Palermo's central station, you catch one of the air-conditioned inter-city trains towards Rome. It hugs the island's north coast and you get some fine views of both beaches and the surrounding hills as the train moves at a leisurely pace. Better still, you may be in an atmospheric old-fashioned six person compartment, but it can get a bit stuffy. After almost three hours, you alight at the port town of Messina where you might have to wait almost an hour for the Catania train down the east coast, which stops at Taormina-Giardini station. You can't book seats on this one. But you would be well-advised to choose a seat near the doors, as the train can get rammed in the summer, making it tough to get off with luggage. Again, there are enticing views of the Sicilian coast, now supplemented by mainland Italy in the distance. This leg takes an hour as the train stops quite a few times before it reaches Taormina-Giardini's handsome period station. The ticket office, with its elaborately-decorated ceiling and ornate cast-iron chandeliers and screens, conjures up a bygone era of upmarket rail travel. Be warned, it is quite an uphill hike from the station to Taormina's historic heart and you should probably get a bus or a taxi. 6/10

Taormina-Giardini station's historic ticket office