Monte Tauro

Viewpoint in Taormina

Image by Ingolf Pompe Getty Images

The short 20-minute climb to the top of Monte Tauro (378m) is not exactly Himalayan, but it is steep and the final steps are quite hard work. Your reward is a breathtaking panoramic view over Taormina's rooftops, the Teatro Greco and, beyond, to the coast.

From Via Circonvallazione, a signposted path leads up past the tiny Santuario Madonna della Rocca. Founded by the abbot Francesco Raineri in around 1640, the church is built inside a grotto. According to legend, the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus appeared to a young shepherd who had taken refuge in the grotto during a sudden storm. The lofty panorama from the church's terrace is almost as heavenly, taking in Taormina and the deep-blue Ionian Sea beyond. Further up the mountain lie the windswept ruins of a Saracen castello (castle), once the site of Taormina's ancient Greek acropolis. You can't actually get to the castle – a locked gate blocks the path – but it's the views, rather than the sights, that are the real attraction.