Giardini Naxos (tours to Taormina), Sicily cruises

The port of Giardini Naxos is on Sicily’s east coast, facing the Italian mainland. This and nearby Taormina sit in some of Sicily’s most scenic areas, and are just miles from the striking Mount Etna.

From Giardini, you can explore Etna’s stark hills and plains, its ancient lava flows, and the craters formed in the 1982 eruption. Stop at the San Michele winery to sample its famous Murdo.

The Greeks founded Taormina in the fourth century BC and it later flourished under Roman rule. After the Normans conquered it a thousand years ago, it was lost to foreign visitors until the 18th century. DH Lawrence lived here between 1920 and 1923, and a string of celebrity fans have since been drawn to its undoubted charms.

Chic and compact, Taormina is ideal for exploring. Its pedestrianized Corso Umberto is the main street, from which picturesque lanes extend, revealing numerous shops, bars and restaurants. Scenic walks lead up into the hills or down to the coast. Its main draw is, of course, the Teatro Greco, the ancient Greek amphitheater with stunning views over the shore and across to Mount Etna.

You could stay within Giardini Naxos itself, with its beaches and boutiques. Beyond Giardini Naxos and indeed Taormina, you could venture through orange and lemon groves on a wider Sicily discovery. Film enthusiasts, for instance, could step into real-life sets, as they take a tour to locations used in The Godfather trilogy.

Up on the northeastern corner of the island, Messina is the closest point to the mainland, where you’ll find a smattering of fountains and Norman churches including the Duomo, with an astronomical clock tower. You may also be drawn to Catania, Sicily’s second city, rebuilt after an earthquake from Etna’s lava. The result is a series of photogenic baroque piazzas and churches, adorned with three ancient amphitheaters, as well as the city’s bustling fish market.