We love Taormina in Sicily and have visited many times. I don’t know about you, but I love going back to a place. I love already having a sense of the restaurants I really liked, which beaches were the best, where the best coffee was served… but also, it’s amazing how much more you see the second, third, fourth or even fifth time around!
Where is Taormina?
Taormina is a hilltop town in Sicily that’s 204m above sea level but close to the beaches – the most famous of which is Isola Bella. The closest airport is Catania and you can travel to Taormina by train, bus or car. It’s less than an hour’s drive from Catania and the train takes around an hour and a half. Note though that the train stop for Taormina is called Taormina-Giardini as it’s between Taormina and Giardini Naxos. If you get the train, you will still need to get either a bus or taxi up to Taormina.
Here’s the best things to do in Taormina
Visit the Teatro Antico di Taormina
One of the most famous sites in Taormina is the Teatro Antico di Taormina, dating back thousands of years – the third century BC in fact. You can’t help but be in awe! It is also a concert venue where you can watch a ballet show or listen to music.
It also offers some amazing views over Taormina and the hillside as well as the nearby towns of Castelmola and Giardini Naxos. Tickets cost €13.50 and are well worth the money!
Relax on the beach
Taormina is on the coast so there are plenty of beaches to explore. As with many beaches in Italy it can cost you a pretty penny if you’d like a lounger and umbrella (as much as €20 per person). However, in Taormina every beach also has a public beach that is free. Top tip though is to buy a pair of diving shoes from a beach vendor (around €10 a pair) as a lot of the beaches are stones rather than sand and can be pretty painful to walk on.
Isola Bella gets very busy. There is another beach very close by at Mazzarò, which is also fairly small. It’s where you’ll find more locals. There are also a few restauarants here and you can also hire boats or go on excursions.
Visit the Grotto Azzura
At Isola Bella try a boat excursion (€5 per person) which takes you to Grotto Azzurra – the colour of the water is phenomenal! It’s not a long excursion – probably an hour or less – so won’t eat into your valuable beach time!
Get a panoramic view of Isola Bella
For one of the best (free!) views of Isola Bella, head to the observation deck at Belvedere di Taormina. It’s quite close to the bus terminal.
Eat delicious Sicilian food
Here are the best restaurants in Taormina that I’d recommend, some of which we’ve been going to since our first trip back in 2012!
It’s well known that Italy has some of the best food in the world (my Italian husband argues it IS the best). Try a local pasta, such as pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines, fennel, sultanas and pine nuts), caponata (aubergine stew) and cannoli (a pastry stuffed with sweet ricotta and candied fruit).
Sicily is also famous for its granita and brioche. There’s nothing better than having a delicious granita and brioche for breakfast! There are lots of flavours to choose from but my favourites are pistachio, caffè and mandorla (almonds).
Have aperitivo before dinner
As well as fabulous food, Italy also has fantastic wine and a culture of having an aperitivo before dinner. Aperitivo is essentially drinks served with snacks or small bites of food, which is included in the price.
Places I recommend in Taormina are:
Al Grappolo d’Uva, which has a great ambience. Arke is quite cool and trendy and the Hotel Metropole has stunning views from their terrace but is expensive (€18/20 for an Aperol Spritz with nuts, olives and some fritta). Tucked away down a side street is La Locanda del Mori which is super cute although costs around €17 for two glasses of wine and some nuts.
For an absolutely amazing view (but at a price…) is aperitivo at the Belmond Villa Sant’ Andrea hotel down in Mazzaro. The setting is just so beautiful, overlooking the bay. Expect to pay around €20 a drink which is accompanied by some snacks and some small bites from the chef.
Explore the nearby towns
There is definitely more to Taormina than just beaches. Take a short trip (by bus or car) to Castelmola, which is a medieval town above Taormina. It’s very small but it’s worth a trip if you have time.
Another town worth going to – for the beaches and for lunch or dinner – is Giardini Naxos. It’s also much more affordable than Taormina.
Take a trip to Gole Alcantara
About 20 kilometres from Taormina is to Gole Alcantara – a botanical and geological park. It’s something to behold with it’s amazing rock formations, canyons and gorges, which were formed by Mount Etna erupting. But be warned… the water is freezing – even in the height of Summer!
Visit Mount Etna
Mount Etna is the highest active volcano in Europe and you can easily do a guided day trip from Taormina. The volcano is only around 55 km away from Taormina and the trip takes around 8 hours in total.
Explore the Aeolian islands
As well as a visit to Mount Etna, you can also do a day trip tour to the Aeolian islands. There are 7 islands, however two of them are very small. The tour usually combines two islands, such as Stromboli and Panarea or Lipari and Vulcano. Both Stromboli and Vulcano have volcanoes that you can walk up. We didn’t visit Stromboli but we did walk up the volcano in Vulcano!
Shop local goods
I absolutely adore Italian ceramics and the south of Italy has some of the best. They are so colourful with such intricate designs and I try to always buy something – usually a bowl or something for the kitchen. I also like to stock up on dried herbs for cooking and you can find packets of them everywhere. In Taormina we always make sure to leave with a tray of baked goods from Da Roberto.
Visit the churches and Duomo
Sicily is a deeply Catholic region and there are beautiful religious homages all around – pretty much on every street. Taormina has its fair share of churches – including an Anglican one!
The Baroque church of San Giuseppe, dating back to the 1600/1700s can be found in the centre, in Piazza IX Aprile. You are almost guaranteed to see a wedding taking place here (or several)!
If you go to Castelmola, look out for the tiny church in a grotto. They also have a Duomo too, which is fairly small but very beautiful.
Visit Villa Comunale (the public gardens)
Taormina can be very busy so if you’re looking for a bit of an oasis, head to Villa Comunale – or, the public gardens – on via Bagnoli Croci. The park was the former home of Lady Florence Trevelyan, an English gardener (apparently not a ‘Lady’ at all), who lived in Taormina from 1884 and married the mayor, Prof. Salvatore Cacciola.
She designed an English garden with a number of Victorian follies – sadly unable to be explored – and it serves as part oddity, part beautiful gardens.
If you have small children, there’s a play area in the park. Admission to Villa Comunale is free and open until midnight during the Summer and 10 pm during Winter.