Stage 4 | Saturday 6 April | 119 km
giardini naxos /
The stage is clearly divided into two parts: the route first “circumnavigates” the Etna and then climbs up to reach 1000 m in Maletto (cat. summit). A long descent follows, still running around the volcano, all the way to Nicolosi, at the foot of the final climb. The final part of the route runs through urban areas, on narrowed and often stone-paved roads.
The final climb (1892), on wide and well-paved road, has an average gradient of approx. 6%, with no punchy bits. The road winds its way along wide hairpins for nearly 20 km. There is a mild counterslope with 500 m to go, before the final U-turn (250 m before the finish). Here, the road goes up again along the home stretch (200 m, 3% uphill grade), leading to the finish line, on 7 m wide asphalt road.
Giardini Naxos is a lovely town in the province of Messina, located just a few kilometres from Taormina. A peaceful fishing village until the 1970s, it has grown rapidly in recent years into one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy,
mostly liked for its lovely beaches and its many clubs and venues. It is nestled in a small bay, surrounded by verdant hills that gently slope down towards a crystal clear sea. The town has some of the most beautiful beaches of the entire Ionian coast. The most famous of these is the beach of Recanati, a popular destination for families (owing to its shallow water) but also for nightlife enthusiasts. The beach of Schisò is recommended for the lovers of fine, golden sand and of lush vegetation, while the beach of Porticciolo Saia features a series of small coves, tucked among the lava rocks.
Giardini Naxos is also an excellent starting point for field trips in the area. Taormina and the Alcantara Gorge sure deserve a visit, while a tour of the Etna is a thrilling adventure for the bravest who dare to venture out to the crater of an active volcano.Castelmola and Savoca are considered two pearls of the Ionian Sea, and are easily reachable from Giardini-Naxos as well.
For those of you unfamiliar, the Etna is Europe’s largest
active volcano, and one of the highest volcanoes in the world (standing at 3,326 m high). The entire area, incorporated in the Unesco World Heritage List since June 2013, is protected by a large nature park established in 1987, which can be explored far and wide thanks to large numbers of nature trails that are accessible to everyone. Several eruptions have occurred over time, opening a number of craters along the mountain slope, at various altitudes, which have soon become one of the most popular destinations for tourists visiting this part of Sicily. As you get closer to the top, the fauna and flora grow and thrive in a suggestive landscape – moonlike, at points. As you could easily imagine, all of this becomes even more fascinating at night, when an impressive river of molten lava flows down the slopes of the mountain, and the hot lava spurts light up the sky with sudden sparks of light.