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Top 10 Things to Do in Taormina, Sicily

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures and experiences and makes the world a more tolerant place.

Taormina

Beautiful Taormina

Beautiful Taormina

Taormina

Taormina is located on the east coast of Sicily about halfway between Messina and Catania on the Ionian Sea. The town itself is perched on a hill about 250 meters above the sea and this provides for some incredibly scenic views from almost anywhere in Taormina. It also has the dubious distinction of sitting practically in the shadow of Mt. Etna, Europe’s largest and most active volcano.

Taormina is often characterized as overly touristy and during the peak season, it can get crowded, especially when the cruise ships are in port. While many folks may feel that Taormina can be done quickly in one day, I think a couple of days is more appropriate to cover not only Taormina but some of the surrounding sites as well. Undoubtedly, Taormina is one of the most picturesque locations in all of Italy and can rival the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre for sheer natural beauty. If you’re planning on a couple of days in Taormina, this guide will help you to cover all of the must-see sites plus a few additional points of interest for the more adventurous souls.

Open my heart and you will see,

Graved inside of it, "Italy."

— Robert Browning

Greco Teatro

Greco Teatro

Greco Teatro

Greco Teatro

Taormina’s Greco Roman Theater is probably the most visited and photographed site is all of Sicily and for good reason. The site is simply spectacular. Perched on a hill overlooking the Ionian Sea, and with a perfect view of Mount Etna looming in the distance, it makes for an absolutely beautiful setting. The ancient theatre is built mostly of brick, which would indicate that it is of Roman origins, but its layout follows what is considered to be a Greek design so it is sometimes referred to as the Greco Roman Theatre. Most likely the theatre was of Greek origin and then rebuilt on its present site by the Romans. No matter its origin, the theatre is a must-see on any visit to Taormina.

Because of its remarkable preservation, the theatre is still used today for concerts and theatre performances. If you happen to be in Taormina during a performance look into attending a show here for an unforgettable experience.

Greco Teatro, Taormina

Greco Teatro, Taormina

Castelmola

Located on the top of a hill above Taormina is the quaint village of Castelmola. Considered one of the most beautiful towns in all of Italy its precarious setting high above the coast provides for an amazing view of Taormina, the beaches of Giardini Naxos, and Mount Etna.

The Duomo of Castelmola, also known as the church of San Niccolo’ di Bari, is worth a visit and has a balcony which affords some great views. The remains of the castle itself are not much, but it is worth the few extra steps to climb to the ruins of the castle if for no other reason than the view. The village is a great spot for a mid-day lunch break and some shopping.

Getting to Castelmola can be done with a short taxi ride or you can take the bus. The bus station is a ten-minute walk from the center of Taormina and the bus trip takes about fifteen minutes. For the adventurous souls out there you can walk/hike up to Castelmola. Plan on at least an hour each way and possibly more depending on your physical condition.

View from Castelmola

The view from Castelmola looking down on Taormina.

The view from Castelmola looking down on Taormina.

Isola Bella

This tiny island is located in a small bay on the coast just below Taormina. The island is connected to the mainland by a small and narrow path that depending on the tide may be submerged. The island itself was actually private property up until 1990 when the owners went bankrupt and auctioned the island, which was bought by the Region of Sicily. Since then it has been designated as a nature reserve and is home to numerous species of birds and lizards. The island also has a very small beach area that seems to be very popular with sunbathers. There is a larger beach area on the mainland side and folks seem to come and go from the island with relative ease.

To get to Isola Bella from Taormina you will have to take the cable car down to the coast. From here it is a short walk to the beach at Isola Bella. Please be forewarned that the beach here is not sand but pebbles so bring the necessary footwear.

Tip

Take the cable car down to the shore from Taormina then head to the right up the short hill. Isola Bella is just over the hill about a 5 minute walk from the cable car. Buy your return ticket before heading to the beach to avoid waiting in line when you want to head back up to Taormina.

Isola Bella

Isola Bella

Isola Bella

Isola Bella

Alcantara Gorge

The Alcantara Gorge is something that I highly recommend. As it’s about a 40-minute bus ride from Taormina you should probably dedicate at least half a day for a visit. Located on the north side of Mount Etna, the Gorge was formed thousands of years ago when a lava flow from the volcano was cooled quickly by the flow of the Alcantara River. This quick cooling resulted in the lava forming columns through which the river eroded a channel, eventually resulting in the gorge that you see today.

There is a beautiful path that you can walk that follows the top of the gorge and you get some great views looking down into the gorge from this vantage point. You can also take an elevator down to the river and there is a small beach where you can swim, sunbathe, and walk the shallow river if you like. For the more adventurous, you can do some river trekking with a guide and the appropriate equipment can be rented here if you like.

A visit to the Alcantara Gorge is a great break from the crowds of Taormina. The site has facilities including a restaurant and the bus stop is right at the front gate to the Gorge site.

Tip

Be sure to bring your bathing suit, water shoes and a towel. The water is advertised as being very cold but we found it refreshing.

Alcantara Gorge

Alcantara Gorge

Alcantara Gorge

Alcantara Gorge

Public Gardens

Many visitors either bypass the public gardens or are simply not aware that they are here. I found the gardens to be a beautiful shady respite from the crowded Corso Umberto. Also known as the Trevelyan Gardens, this English-style garden has a panoramic walkway that faces the sea and Mount Etna. Numerous flower beds, bushes, trees, and finely trimmed hedges adorn the garden and make for a pleasant walk or a great spot to just sit and admire the view.

The garden also contains a few old artillery pieces from WWII, a play area for children and a few cottages and towers. A small terrace area is also found here and is used for small outdoor concerts or gatherings. If you’re looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of Taormina head to the public gardens for a little rest and relaxation.

The Public Gardens

The Public Gardens

top-10-things-taormina-sicily

Piazza Duomo

This beautiful piazza is located at the western end of the Corso Umberto in the old section of Taormina and is the site of the Church of San Nicola, otherwise known as the Duomo of Taormina. The church was built around 1400 AD and was constructed over the site of an older church.

At the center of the piazza is a Baroque fountain that contains a centaur (from Greek mythology – part human, part horse), which is the symbol of Taormina. This small but beautiful piazza is the perfect place to relax and unwind for a spell.

Tip

Be sure to take a drink from one of the horse fountains. Do you see them in the photo below?

Piazza Duomo

Piazza Duomo

Shop & Stroll the Corso Umberto

The Corso Umberto is the main pedestrian street through Taormina and is hard to miss. For the shoppers out there this is the place to be. The Corso Umberto is lined with numerous high-end shops as well as gelato shops, produce vendors, café’s, souvenirs and jewelry shops. No matter what you are looking for it’s a sure bet that you can find it somewhere along the Corso Umberto. At night the street comes alive with music and entertainment and can resemble a party atmosphere. It all makes for a fun and lively place to be.

top-10-things-taormina-sicily
top-10-things-taormina-sicily

Mount Etna

When visiting Taormina, Mount Etna looks so close you’d think you could reach out and touch it. One of the things that helps make Taormina such a beautiful and picturesque place is the fact that you can get a great view of Mount Etna from pretty much anywhere in Taormina. Taking pictures and looking at Mount Etna is wonderful, but making a visit to Europe’s largest Volcano is an amazing adventure.

There are numerous tours available from Taormina that will pick you up and take to you the Sapienza Refuge area, which is 1910 meters up the mountain. This is the only one of the five refuge areas that is accessible by public transportation. Because of this, it is the most popular of the five hubs for accessing Mount Etna. The refuge areas all have basic overnight accommodations and restaurants if you're looking to spend a night on the mountain.

From the Sapienza area, you have a few options available to you. There are numerous trails from here where you can hike and explore the area. Or, you can take the cable car farther up the mountain to some of the more recent eruption sites. If you want to go still higher there are four-wheel drive buses that will take you as high as is permissible given the status of the mountain. Keep in mind that Mount Etna is not only Europe’s largest volcano but it is also it’s most active. Another consideration to keep in mind when planning a visit to Mount Etna is the cost. The cable car and four-wheel drive buses are very expensive so make sure you are prepared for the cost as well as the elements when making your visit. Even at the Sapienza Refuge area the weather can be extremely cold and windy so come prepared.

Tip

Be sure to bring warm clothing and sturdy shoes. The footing is loose, broken lava, so watch your step especially going downhill.

Like the surface of the moon!

Like the surface of the moon!

Mount Etna

Mount Etna

BamBar

To be honest it wasn’t until just before we were to leave for Italy that I came across the BamBar. Apparently, this place is somewhat of a local legend in Taormina. Famous for their Granita, which is a semi-frozen dessert that originated in Sicily, the establishment has been visited by numerous high-profile celebrities over the years. The owner, who may very well also be your server, will be glad to show you the long list of celebrities who have graced his little bar. It was clear to us that he is not only proud of his famous clientele but also of his world-famous Granita.

Located off of the main street in a small piazza with outdoor seating, it’s a great place to relax for a few minutes while enjoying one of Taormina’s famous desserts. The BamBar's Granita is consistently ranked among the best in all of Sicily. It comes in numerous flavors and can be served with or without cream. I had the peach and it was wonderful.

Granita anyone!

Granita anyone!

The BamBar

The BamBar

Piazza IX Aprile

It would seem that Piazza IX Aprile (Square of the 9th April) is the epicenter of Taormina. This beautiful piazza with is black and white pavers seems to draw everyone in Taormina at sunset for a great photo opportunity. From here you have an unobstructed view of Mount Etna and the Ionian Sea. Standing guard to the piazza are two churches, St. Augustine’s and the Church of St. Joseph. At the western end of the piazza is the Porta Di Mezzo, which takes visitors under the Clock Tower and into the oldest part of Taormina.

The Piazza IX Aprile makes for a great meeting place and with its many benches is a perfect spot to sit and people watch or simply stare off into the stunning view. You may even be lucky enough to catch a wedding ceremony coming out of the Church. At night the square comes alive as musicians and artists fill the piazza with music and color.

Piazza IX Aprile -St. Augustine's Church

Piazza IX Aprile -St. Augustine's Church

Piazza IX Aprile - Church of St. Joseph

Piazza IX Aprile - Church of St. Joseph

If you find yourself planning a visit to Taormina, I hope you found this guide helpful. My opinion of Taormina is that it is certainly worth more than a day to fully enjoy all that the area has to offer. It is also possibly the most beautiful place that you will visit in Sicily. Enjoy your stay.

Ciao for now.

Questions & Answers

Question: Should we rent a car in Taorima, Sicily to get around?

Answer: That depends on how far you want to venture from Taormina. For the immediate area you don’t need a car. We did use the bus to get to the Alcantara Gorge. If you want to visit Mount Etna you can take a tour or a bus. We did rent a car to visit Mount Etna, but we were also leaving Taormina and heading south to Modica. Keep in mind that there is very little parking in Taormina.

Question: Is there snorkeling in Taormina ?

Answer: Yes, you can snorkel on the coast below Taormina around Isola Bella. It’s actually a nature reserve so there is good snorkeling and clear water. You can bring your own snorkel and flippers, or I’m sure there are rentals available in the area.

Question: Can you please advise where would be the best area to stay to get the most out of our short visit? We will be arriving by train and hopefully doing a day trip to Mt Etna. We will not have a car and only have a couple of days.

Answer: If you are arriving in Taormina, we have stayed at a small bed & breakfast called B&B Le Sibelle. It’s located in the center of Taormina right on the Corso Umberto. You can do a day trip to Mt Etna from Taormina by bus; the trip is about an hour. The Alcantara Gorge is also reachable from Taormina by bus, very interesting place. Staying anywhere in Taormina should be convenient for doing day trips or seeing the local area, all depends on what your interests are?

Question: What hotels do you recommend when visiting Taormina, Sicily? Would you stay near the Corso Umberto (Erustars Hotel) or further away (Villa Carlotta)??

Answer: Personally I would stay closer to the Corso Umberto. Villa Carlotta, while it looks beautiful, is further down the mountain and quite a distance from the Corso Umberto, especially if walking. I have not personally stayed in either of these hotels so it's difficult to recommend one over the other but based solely on location I would prefer to be closer to the center of Taormina. We will usually stay in a B&B right on the Corso Umberto, a place called Le Sibille.

Question: Is it possible to visit Mt. Etna and a winery in the area in the same day?

Answer: Sure, there are a few wineries located on Mt. Etna. No reason why you can’t do both. While you could spend all day hiking around on Mt. Etna you can certainly experience the mountain and have time to visit a winery.

Question: We are traveling with a baby to Taormina. Can you please advise the best locations for a stay of 4 days?

Answer: Not sure what a pram is? But, the best location when traveling to Taormina is right in town. I would avoid places close to the large piazza’s as people tend to congregate there at night, hence it can be noisy.

Question: Our cruise offers a "Taormina on your own," which will give us 2 hours to see the city. Because of mobility issues that seems the best we can do. We want to make the best of that short time. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: With just 2 hours, I would visit the Ancient Greek Theatre of Taormina. It is stunning, and the views are amazing. If you have any time left, I would stroll the Corso Umberto. This is the Main Street through Taormina, and there are a few interesting churches, scenic overlooks, shops, cafes, etc. You probably won’t have time for much else, but if you can manage to squeeze in these two things, you will have done well. Good luck, Taormina is beautiful.

© 2012 Bill De Giulio

Comments

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 22, 2019:

Hi Ajay. Definitely visit the Ancient Greco Roman Theater. It's stunning. We took a ride up to Castelmola, which is located high above Taormina, it has great views of Mt. Etna and a great place to explore. Go down to the beach area, Isola Bella, another great place to explore and enjoy the water. You can make a couple of day trips if you are so inclined. Mt. Etna and the Alcantara Gorge are both wonderful. Certainly explore Taormina, it has a beautiful public garden and some wonderful churches. There is a lot to do.

Ajay Mehta on March 22, 2019:

Hi Bill, I am to be at Taormina from from the 31st of March onwards, for 5 days, we are a family of 3 adults, can you suggest some "Must Do" things?

Thanks.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on November 30, 2018:

Hi Lorna. Thank you. Glad you enjoyed the hub on Taormina. Such a beautiful place. How great that you lived in Italy for a period, that has always been one of my dreams, to live there for a year or so. Have a great day.

Lorna Lamon on November 30, 2018:

Hi Bill, Excellent article about a really beautiful place. I lived in Italy for several years and Taormina holds wonderful memories for me. Your piece has encouraged me to take another visit. Thank you for sharing.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 03, 2018:

Thank you Gary. It certainly is. Nothing but fond memories of Taormina and definitely looking forward to returning soon.

Gary in P’Cola FL on August 02, 2018:

Bill,

Great articles. Taormina is a great place. Loved the theater and other ruins. Enjoyed the food and sights. Going back Sept. this year, still more to see.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 01, 2018:

Thank you Donna. You will love Taormina. It's definitely a magical place. Have a great trip.

Donna Pothier on August 01, 2018:

Hi..I have many friends... mostly fans and friends of IlVolo who have now been to Taormina. I am going in October. Our first stop will be The Bam Bar!! My friend has been there many times. Cannot wait to see Mt. Aetna and the beaches!! Thanks for the info!!’

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 03, 2017:

Hi Gatlin. Taorima, which I think is what you meant to write, is a beautiful place but it is up on a hill above the shoreline. There is a funicular that you can take which makes getting to the beach and back doable. The beaches here are a bit rocky and crowded. Keep in mind that Sicily is very hot in July. Naxos is just down the coast from Taormina. We did not visit the beach there but it is supposed to be very nice.

We found the best pure beaches to be in the southeast corner of Sicily. The beaches from Sampieri along the coast to Noto were very nice with a fine sand and less of the pebbles found in other parts of Sicily. Also, we visited Cefalu on the north coast. It's a quaint little fishing village with a very nice beach.

Taormina has lots to see and do so you can't really go wrong staying there. The only issue, which does not seem to deter too many visitors is getting to and from the beach due to it's location up above the sea.

Gatin on July 02, 2017:

Hi,

My wife and I are retirees and would like to spend a month in either Tamonia or Nixon in Sicily

We want to travel in July because we want to get away from Australia winter.

We know it will be busy but not sure where to stay.

I would like to stay on or near the beach do you have any other suggestions

Thanks

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 21, 2015:

Hi Mary. Taormina is beautiful but I'm not sure kids will appreciate how amazing this place is. We loved the history and the ancient Greek Teatro.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on March 21, 2015:

We were in Taormina as we wanted to have some beach time but it was still too cold. Good we discovered the beautiful town but our kids did not like the deserted beach so we went on.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on February 21, 2015:

Hi BlackSpaniel1. Thank you. We spent a week touring Sicily and loved every minute of it. Taormina in particular is one of the most beautiful spots in all of Italy.

Blackspaniel1 on February 21, 2015:

Sicily is definitely on the wish list for the future. Beautiful images.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 08, 2014:

Hi Mimi. Thank you for stopping by, so glad you enjoyed the article. You will love Taormina, it really is a beautiful place. Don't be afraid to venture outside of the town as there is much to see and it's all amazing. Thanks again for the visit and have a wonderful trip. Ciao :)

Mimi 'In love with Italy', London on August 08, 2014:

Hello Bill,

We're going to Taormina in a couple of weeks time...I really enjoyed reading your wonderful informative account of this beautiful place and have jotted down places to visit - thank you.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on December 19, 2013:

Hi Martie. Thanks for stopping by, glad you enjoyed Sicily. There certainly is a lot of history there. Would love to get to South Africa someday. Happy Holidays.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on December 19, 2013:

I appreciate hubs like this - wonderful virtual tours of places I will never see in real life. Sicily seems to meet the expectations of a keen historian. Thanks, bdegiulio :)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on October 13, 2012:

Hi Chantele. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. Hopefully you get to Italy some day soon. Ciao.

Chantele Cross-Jones from Cardiff on October 13, 2012:

Wow looks like an amazing place. I have never visited Italy before so would really love to one day

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on October 03, 2012:

Hi Mary. It is a beautiful place. If you get the opportunity, go.

We did have a great time, kind of hard not to in such a beautiful place.

Thanks so much for the nice comments and the vote.

Mary Craig from New York on October 03, 2012:

You can rest assured if I ever get to Italy I will head to Taormina and print out this hub to take with me! So much good information and fabulous pictures. What a wonderful trip you had.

Voted up, awesome, and interesting.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on October 01, 2012:

Hi Alicia. Thank you, Taormina is certainly one of the most beautiful sites in all of Italy. Hopefully you get there someday soon. It is the perfect place to take lots of photos.

Thanks for the read and comment. Have a great day.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 30, 2012:

Your photos and descriptions are so beautiful, Bill. I would love to visit Taormina and take lots of photos!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on September 30, 2012:

Hi Glimmer Twin. I think I would go back also, maybe someday. And yes, there are lots of craft and pottery shops also that sell beautiful pieces. It's a beautiful place. Thanks so much for the read and comments. Have a great day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on September 30, 2012:

Hi Suzie. I'm looking forward to your move to Italy, maybe you'll get over to Sicily. Would like to hear your take on this area. Taormina really is in a beautiful setting overlooking the sea and with Mt. Etna nearby. We enjoyed our stay there.

Really appreciate the nice comments and support. And of course the vote, share, etc. Have a great day.

Claudia Mitchell on September 30, 2012:

Awesome and useful hub! Taormina is glorious. I especially loved all of the painted plates and have one on my kitchen wall. I'd love to go back some time.

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on September 30, 2012:

Hi Bill,

What a wonderful article on Taromina - It is truly stunning and your dead right, it needs more than a day trip when possible to see the very best it has to offer! You have done an excellent job as always, giving great local information with super pics and tips! I can't wait to visit when I'am next over. You have a great way of bringing a place to life and this is another beautiful example. Voted everything and more and shared this engaging hub I love!!!

Thanks so much for the link my good friend - appreciate greatly :-)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on September 29, 2012:

Hi Jenny. Thanks for stopping by. You'll get there someday. It's definitely worth it.

jennyjenny from Somewhere in Michigan on September 29, 2012:

What fabulous views! Oh, if only I could hop on a plane this moment! Thank you for sharing! :)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on September 29, 2012:

Hi Bill. I feel very fortunate to been to the places that we have visited over the last few years. It has become somewhat of an addiction for me.

Speaking of jealous, I am somewhat envious of where you live out there in the great Pacific Northwest. It's like being on vacation every day!

Thank you for the continued support. Have a great weekend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on September 29, 2012:

Hi Joe. Luckily we have always been blessed with good weather on our trips to Italy. I wonder if my sentiments would be different if the weather were not so good?

I would love to read your account with the heavy rain. Give it a shot when you get a chance. It sure did pour when you were there based on your pictures, wow.

Thanks for the read and comments. Have a nice day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on September 29, 2012:

Hi Carol. I pretty much live for these trips. This one was wonderful but very tiring. We managed to do a lot more than I thought we would get to. As always I appreciate your support and the sharing. Have a great day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on September 29, 2012:

Hi Margaret. Thank you for the nice comments. Hopefully you get to Italy some day soon. It's a wonderful place to visit. Thank you for the votes, etc.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 29, 2012:

Bill, you and your family have seen some amazing places. I am slightly jealous....but I'll get over it. :) Well done! You really need to think about being a travel agent or writing for a travel magazine!

Joseph Hollick from Hamilton, ON Canada on September 29, 2012:

I really enjoyed this hub as we visited Taromina two years ago when our cruise ship docked in Catania.

However our experience of Sicily, Taromina and Mount Etna was very different because we were caught in a heavy rainfall.

Our pictures of Taromina are very unique as it shows a different side of the city. Here is a link to a few photos which I took there: http://www.panoramio.com/user/5399338/tags/Sicily

Your hub is inspiring me to try to do a similar hub but with the heavy rain aspect in mind! Hopefully I can find time to do it soon.

Cheers, Joe

carol stanley from Arizona on September 29, 2012:

I love the travelogs through Italy and it does make me want to get on the next plane. You did a wonderful job describing and gorgeous pictures. I always enjoy reading and dreaming. Thanks for sharing..and I am doing the same as well as Up+++++

Margaret Perrottet from San Antonio, FL on September 29, 2012:

Another fabulous hub on Italy. So many interesting things to see there. I've bookmarked your hubs so that I'll have them for reference if I ever get to go to Italy. Voted up, useful, interesting and beautiful. Great pictures!