Testimonials - Magiccruiser - Oakdale, CA

I just returned from a 9 day cruise on the Carnival Magic and our day out of the port of Messina was our absolute favorite! I know that sounds crazy after visiting Rome and Florence on the same trip, but the day in Sicily was the most fun, relaxing day we had. We used a local tour guide named Mario Astone (you can google him) and his brother for 2 eight passenger vans to go to Taomina and Castelmola. The price was only 45 Euro per person, much less than the average 87 Euro per person we spent with Rome in Limo for 3 other tours, and way less than Carnival was charging. I can't say enough praise for both the brothers! They were fun, knowledgeable, and professional and planned a great day for us. They met us at the terminal at 8:00 and drove us quickly to Taormina providing history and suggestions of what to do there along the way. Then my favorite part was they left us ALONE with a highlighted map to explore Taormina for 2 and a half hours before lunch. After being led all over Pisa, Florence, Rome, Pompeii, and the Amalfi coast the days before, it was just what we wanted! Mario showed us the best gelateria and recommended the pistachio gelato....nothing like I've ever tasted commercially... sweet and salty at the same time. We walked through the Greek Theatre and took in the beautiful views, and then spent the rest of our time wandering the quaint streets and shopping. Yes, it's touristy, but it has gorgeous views and beautiful balconies everywhere dripping with flowers! Mario met us around noon and then drove us even higher in the mountains, about 3 miles, to the village of Castelmola about 1800 feet above sea level. Talk about views! The large tour buses can't even get to Castelmola because of the small, winding roads. It is much quieter and less touristy than Taormina, so it's a perfect place to have lunch. Mario provided us with compmentary cold drinks and wonderful sweets from a local shop as we arrived. He took us for a short walk through the town and told us its history from 350 BC! Mario had arranged for our group to have a relaxing lunch at an outdoor hillside cafe under umbrellas with a view of the Mediterranean. I absolutely loved the Sicilian grandma who greeted us like family into her restaurant. We didn't even have a chance to order before she plopped down huge plates of bruchetta and caraffes of wine! I ordered a personal pizza and it was the size of my steering wheel! After lunch she brought complimentary glasses of their sweet almond wine which the area is known for (you can buy some in the shops there...very inexpensive). We ended up sitting and chatting with our Cruise Critic friends for a 2 hour lunch, and the Astone brothers never made us feel like we needed to rush to go anywhere. They had told us the tour would be about 6 hours, but they saw we were having such a good time that they added a couple of hours at no charge. On the way back to the ship, they stopped for several photo opportunities and then showed us the highlights of Messina including the astronomical clock and the Duomo. After discussing our day with our fellow travelors, we all agreed that if we could come back to only one place from our trip, this would be it! There are lots of other small villages to explore in the area as well. I hope you have a great time and consider the Astone brothers if you are looking for an easy relaxed day!