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Giardini Naxos: Introduction

5km (3 miles) S of Taormina, 47km (29 miles) N of Catania, 54km (34 miles) S of Messina

Many first-time visitors to Taormina are disappointed when they find they have to commute from its hotels to the beach. At Giardini-Naxos, however, you can walk from your hotel room to the sands in short order. You can reach this resort by the sea in just 30 minutes by taking the Giardini-Naxos bus from the hilltop of Taormina.

The beach here opens onto the bay, lying between Capo (Cape) Taormina in the northwest and Capo Schisɂ in the south. Its point formed by an ancient lava flow from Mount Etna, Capo Schisɂ was the natural landfall for mariners rounding the toe of Italy on their way from eastern Mediterranean ports.

Thucydides tells us that Naxos was founded in 735 B.C. by Chalcidians under the leadership of the Athenian Thucles, who was the first Greek to land on Sicilian soil. From their base at Naxos, the Greeks branched out to take over more parts of Sicily. The colony at Naxos thrived until Dionysius of Syracuse destroyed it in 403 B.C. Even if you're staying in Taormina, you should set aside some time to visit the archaeological garden that remains here .

Over the years, beach development at Giardini-Naxos has been so great that the resort now competes with Taormina for visitors, although it lacks the older resort's medieval charm. Since the 1960s, it's been catering mainly to package-tour operators from the north of Europe. (As a local said, "Taormina has the class, we have the sands.") Indeed, all the trappings of tourism are evident in this once-tranquil fishing village, with its many sports facilities and amusement parks, handicraft shops, antiques stores, hotels, trattorie, and beachside bars.

Much of the resort continues to function even during the short winter, when the winds can blow cold. Europeans from the frigid north will find Giardini-Naxos's weather balmy almost any time of year.

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