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Train Rome to Taormina-Sicily- should we stopover enroute?

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Flying into Rome September 5 ( 2.30 pm arrival)
Overnight Rome and then taking an early morning train to Sicily Sept 6.- We have visited Rome several times before so we won't be hanging around this time.

I know flying may be cheaper and obviously quicker but husband is particularly keen on experiencing "a train on a ferry" as we make the crossing to Sicily, as well as checking out the scenery as we travel down the east coast. We have done quite a bit of train travel previously in Italy on all classes of trains, in the north and as far south as Brindisi (Puglia), so feel quite prepared.

Thinking of beginning our approx 2 week stay in Sicily in Taormina before traveling anticlockwise around the island.( by public transportation)

Would like some input on the pros and cons of

1. Travelling direct Rome- Taormina ( around 9 hours)- this would actually give us 17 nights Sicily

2. Stop en route for 3 nights, therefore 14 nights Sicily

We have visited Pompei and are not interested in staying in Naples. Have never been to the Amalfi Coast but felt that maybe 3 nights wouldn't be enough ( save for another trip) but recently read about Tropea in Calabria which sounded quite appealing.

I'm leaning towards breaking the 9 hour trip- to relax and explore a part of Italy new to us.

Anyone done this train trip including a stay in Tropea or somewhere else? I believe Tropea is about 5 hours from Rome.

We are flying on to Malta afterwards so won't be taking the train back!

Your valuable thoughts please!!

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