Sea Cloud set the hook in calm, serene blue waters just off the coast of Giardini Naxos this morning. The ship’s crew organized our shuttle arrangements of a single tender and Zodiac to take us to shore. Our rides to land were accompanied by silky-smooth seas and glittering reflections from the clear bright sky above.

Taormina local guides greeted us at the dock where we boarded two coach buses for a brief and scenic drive to Taormina. Curious eyes gazed out the windows, taking in spectacular views of Mt. Etna in the distance clouded by smoke at its peak. We wandered along the luscious, turquoise blue coastline and weaved through the narrow streets of Sicily that were intertwined with flowers, bursting with vibrant pinks and purples as well.

Eager to explore and begin our day, we followed our guide into the beautiful architectural mix of buildings that line Taormina’s main pedestrian (and motor vehicle) street, Corso Umberto I. Fashion, food, and art caught the attention of everyone. Store windows included items patterned with Taormina culture—for example, prickly pear cactus, the Sicilian flag symbol, lemons, and pinecones. These items are commonly seen throughout the streets in various forms of art. Pinecone statues were especially noted outside some buildings, as our guide told us they are a Sicilian “symbol of wellness.”

Beyond the bustling street of Corso Umberto I was the grand theatre—the Teatro Antico di Taormina, or the Ancient Theatre of Taormina. The amphitheater boasts breathtaking views of Mt. Etna and the Bay of Naxos. Guests took photos of ruins, explored Roman history, and suggested we come back for a concert experience of our own.

After the tour, there was some time for supporting local businesses and vendors in Taormina, and soon after we made it to our lunch destination— Castello degli Schiavi.

As we began to enter the courtyard of Castello degli Schiavi, all of us sensed something familiar about the place, something almost cinematic—The Godfather! Our lunch was in fact hosted on site of the 18th century villa used for several scenes in The Godfather! How cool is that?!

Champagne and hors d’oeuvres were enjoyed in the legendary courtyard with traditional Italian accordion, flute, and tambourine musicians playing alongside. Then we were brought inside a stone building to a small watch party, where we viewed some scenes from The Godfather that were shot onsite.

After a brief tour of artifacts and the intricate history of Castello degli Schiavi, our traditional four-course Italian meal awaited us in a medieval-esque cellar. Wine was sipped, food was eaten, and more wine was sipped as we filled ourselves full of “chef’s kiss” Italia cuisine.

Siesta time was much needed for all of us afterwards. Thankfully, our bus venture back to Sea Cloud was an hour’s drive to Messina, where the ship had relocated to a dock for our convenience.

We cast off the dock and began our golden hour passage through the legendary Straits of Messina. Our sendoff wouldn’t have been complete without the special accompaniment of a large pod of dolphins. We gathered on the outside decks to inhale the beauty of nature while we took in our last sights of Sicily.

While we all sat and enjoyed more food at dinner, the sun began to set in the background. As it sank on the bright orange horizon line, it emitted a subtle green flash, as if signaling to us that the daylit portion of our fabulous time ashore was ending. However, the night was a welcome invitation for sea shanties. The crew led us in numerous shanties—even getting all of us to join in at one point or another.

The day was packed with new experiences and special moments that brought us closer together. Although we’re nearing the end of this special voyage, we know that we come nowhere near ending the friendships created during our memorable adventures together.