Castelmola is a small town located near Taormina. It’s literally perched on the top of a mountain at an elevation of 529 m (1,736 ft) and it was the destination that led to one of the most terrifying bus rides of my life.
Let’s start at the beginning.
When I was researching Taormina I came across a mention of Castelmola and how it offered amazing views. I did no further reading, I made a vague mental note and carried on with my research, focusing mainly on delicious Italian food. Clearly, I did not do my due diligence.
So, when we arrived in Taormina and I saw signs for Castelmola, it jogged my memory. Well, as much of a memory one can have when they read one line one time. But, the tour bus went there, so I took it as a sign that we should totally visit. I mean, despite my well-documented fear of heights, I love me a bird’s eye view!
Again, had I done one iota of research I would have immediately realised this wasn’t a destination for a scaredy Kate like me. But I didn’t.
I have no one to blame but myself.
Our first morning in Taormina, the rain was falling so we opted to take the hop on bus tour, which conveniently stopped in Castelmola. It was perfect, I was so pleased that we’d be able to take in bird’s eye views of this pretty spectacular place.
And then I looked at the map and noted that Castelmola was located ABOVE Taormina on the map. Taormina was already sitting pretty far above the ocean, so did not bode well for me.
We hopped on the bus and before I knew it we were climbing our way up to Taormina. The road was winding and the bus felt like it was whipping around the extremely tight turns, but at least we were on the side of a hill and I could see land not that far below us.
Now, to be honest, I wasn’t particularly enjoying this portion of the drive — I much preferred the walk — so, knowing that we were going even higher, I was nervous. And, little did I know, it was going to get worse.
With a sharp left-turn onto a road I wasn’t sure our bus was meant for, we left Taormina and began climbing our way to Castelmola. At first it wasn’t so bad as both sides of the road were lined with buildings. But, little by little the houses and shops became few and far between, leaving us with only with hills on either side. And then slowly but surely, the hills gave way to a cliff.
Twisting and turning the bus hurtled us along the side of the cliff, on a road I’m not sure was meant to accommodate commercial vehicles. I buckled up my seatbelt and held on for dear life, already dreading that I would have to make the same trip back DOWN from the top. As we approached each turn I hoped it would be our last, but it wasn’t.
Seriously, this journey — which I could only assume would be my last — just wouldn’t end. I was starting to get panicky, so I decided it was best for me to not look ahead (oh, that’s right I forgot to mention that we were in the front seat of the bus, so I had terrifying views both beside and ahead of me) I decided to look down and to my horror I noticed a rather large window looking STRAIGHT DOWN THE SIDE OF THE CLIFF.
I *guess* some people would enjoy this, but I was definitely not one of those people.
I clenched my fists, stared at my lap and prayed to every god, deity, higher force/power I could think of to make the ride stop.
But it just kept on going.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, we made it to the top. Well, almost to the top – that day, the final part of the journey was closed due to…WHO CARES, I was just so glad it was over.
As the bus full of seniors unloaded I looked at Dave and told him I wouldn’t be getting off the bus. I didn’t care about the views or the fact we had a coupon for a free wine tasting, there was no way in hell I was going to be getting off the bus, hanging around on the top of the cliff for an hour, waiting for the journey-of-doom-part-two.
Maybe it was the fear in my voice or the fact that I had stopped blinking, but Dave agreed. We stayed on the bus (switching seats so I could distance myself from the vomit-inducing cliff window of terror), I strapped myself in, closed my eyes and prepared for our descent.
The trip down was much more pleasant all due to the fact that I refused to open my eyes. This was one of those rare times in my life where I didn’t care what anyone thought, I had to do what I had to do. And, at that moment, I had to fuse my eyes shut.
And I stayed that way, for a full five minutes. I was impressed. I don’t think I’ve ever kept my eyes closed for that long (other than sleeping), I mean, even in yoga I peek.
After five minutes, I could feel the twists and turns decrease. I timidly opened my eyes and saw we were out of the worst of it. I’d survived the cliff drive and we were now safely navigating our way down the mountain on a road lined with houses.
It still wasn’t great; our not-so-large bus felt way too big for the road and with each turn I felt like we were being whipped around the corner, but the more we drove the closer I got to terra firma.
The closer we got, the more I relaxed. I unclenched my fists, I dropped my shoulders from my ears and finally, I started to feel calm.
And then, as soon as we reached the bus stop in Taormina I grabbed my bag, booked it to the doors and got off of that bus as fast as I could, and I didn’t look back.
Even though it was raining we walked all 700+ steps back down to Isola Bella. My legs burned a little by the time we reached the bottom, but I can’t lie, I regret nothing.
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