Reed Travel Features

CATANIA -- This city, the second largest in Sicily, is a logical central point for visitors who want to take in the attractions nearby.

Catania, which has its own airport, is close enough to Siracusa, Taormina, Acireale and Caltagirone that clients could visit all of them in just a few days.

Siracusa, located on Sicily's east coast, straddles the mainland and adjoining Ortigia island, which juts out into the Ionian Sea.

The smaller island is accessible from the rest of the city via the Ponte Nuovo.

In addition to being a picturesque beach resort, the area is known for its impressive archeological ruins.

The Greek theater, which dates from the third century B.C., and the Roman amphitheater, from the third century, are unusual for their vast size and state of partial preservation.

Those looking for a greater understanding of the digs can visit the Museo Archeologico Regionale, on the mainland.

Noteworthy churches include the Cathedral, with its seventh century dome and 18th century facade, and the much older Church of San Martino, which combines sixth century and 14th century construction.

Going even further back in time is the Temple of Apollo, which combines elements from the sixth century B.C. with more recent construction by Arab and Norman conquerors.

Taormina is a heavily visited resort perched on a plateau of Monte Tauro overlooking the sea. The drive to Taormina is a winding affair with scores of hairpin turns that are particularly eye-popping for motorcoach passengers.

Clients who like to visit churches will find an eclectic mix of buildings from the tiny Church of San Pancazio, constructed partly of ancient ruins, to the imposing Cathedral at the Piazza del Duomo.

One of the city's most notable sights is the Greek Theater, which dates to the second century B.C.

Well preserved, the theater also is known for its location on a terrace that hangs over the sea far below.

On a sunny day -- and that is the norm in Sicily year-round -- the view alone is worth the journey.

Visitors who prefer shopping will find what they are looking for here, whether it be leather shoes, ceramics or trinkets.

Acireale is a less well-known destination that boasts a Baroque central square, the Piazza del Duomo, as well as a natural spa at Santa Venera.

Caltagirone, also located nearby, is ceramics heaven.

The high point of the city is a monumental staircase that climbs from street level to Santa Maria del Monte.

Each stair is adorned with ceramic tiles, and shops selling ceramic wares are stationed at intervals on the way up.

For details, about Sicily and Catania, contact the Italian Government Tourist Office at (212) 245-4822.

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