Our next port of call was Giardini-Naxos in Sicily where the ship had to anchor outside of the harbour, so we had to go to the town by Tender.

2 Tenders which are the lifeboats of the ship

The organised excursion was to the beautiful and very interesting town of Taormina which we visited in June 2022. We chose not to join the excursion but to walk around the town of Giardini-Naxos instead. We were not sorry as it, too, proved to have some surprising things to see.

The main street of Taormina

Sicily was created through volcanic eruption and wherever we went that was very clear. One of the first things we saw was a large area covered in black volcanic rock. Many things within the town were made from volcanic rock, including paving stones, walls and roads.

Molten volcanic rock

Giardini-Naxos, in the north-eastern part of Sicily, was originally settled by Greeks in 734BC and was the first Greek colony in Sicily. It descended from the Greek island of Naxos. This was confirmed by the discovery of a stele, a wooden or stone slab usually taller than its width and erected as a monument, from the 7th century BC with an inscription of dedication to that island. It was a fishing village and never a major town, but it had a temple that protected all of the Greek deities. It was captured by Hippocrates, Tyrant of Gela, in 494BC, and then by Dionysius in 403BC. Today, it is an independent and very popular tourist destination. There were 3 structures near the harbour which fascinated us. One very ordinary and the other beautiful. The first one was erected on the occasion of the twinning of the Greek island of Naxos and Giardini-Naxos in October 2000. It is in the shape of a door symbolising the entrance to the town and an opening to the exchange among people and their cultures. Standing on one side of the door, the 2nd structure was perfectly framed even though a distance away.

The second structure copies the famous “2000-Winged Victory” in the Louvre, Paris. It is situated at the Bay of Giardini-Naxos and protects the harbour that the Greeks sailed into thousands of years ago. When we first saw it, we called it the Flying Angel, but its actual name is the Nike Kalkis. It is made of bronze, was erected in 1965 and represents the goddess bringing the news of victories from across the seas.

The Nike Kalkis

The 3rd structure is called the Altar for the Olympic torch which passed through this town in 1960 when the Olympics were held in Rome. The torch passed through here on 18 August 1960 as Giardini-Naxos was considered a very important connection between the two poles of civilisation, Athens and Rome. A ceremony was held to remember Tysandros, a Boxer who participated in all four Olympics from 572-560BC. On the pediment are two epigraphs to remember: 1) the importance of the Olympic victory and 2) the athlete and a third epigraph of the dates of the foundation and destruction of Naxos.

Altar for the Olympic torch

We first walked to the far end of the town but found little of interest as it was the area for hotels and holiday homes. We turned around and walked to the other end and found two very important places, Schiso Castle and the Archaeological Museum Park. The castle was built on a relief created by prehistoric lava flow. It was a military building whose purpose was to control entry to the harbour. It was renovated in 1500 and this time it included a processing plant for sugar cane. In 2018 it became part of the Archaeological Museum Park.

Schiso Castle

In the Archaeological Museum Park there is a road called the Maximum Road Axis from the 5th Century BC and along this road are the remains of many 8th century BC dwellings, most of which are rectangular and one a complete house. Also visible are the partially complete fortifications and the temple dedicated to either Aphrodite or Hera. There was a small museum building with a wonderful selection of excavated vessels, vases and other household items.

We walked to the end of the town where it was amazing to see houses built high on the mountains created by the volcanic eruption all those thousands of years ago. Giardini-Naxos was not, to us, the most exciting place but it did provide an interesting morning walk.

Houses on the mountains