The characterful city of Taormina in eastern Sicily is perched on a rock above sea level with awe-inspiring views over Mount Etna and the coastline. The city has rich history to explore as Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, and Normans all frequented the city. And as word spread, Taormina became a holiday spot for the aristocracy. The city is divided into two parts, the historic center and Taormina Mare – filled with beach resorts easily reached by cable car. Taormina has everything you could wish for in a holiday destination – cultural attractions, sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and great shopping and dining. Follow our Taormina Travel Guide for insider tips on how to plan an unforgettable journey!
How to Visit Taormina
Taormina is easily reached from Italy and other European countries. Most major airlines fly to Catania – Fontanarossa Airport, which is around 50 minutes drive. It’s possible to travel by bus, train, private shuttle, or taxi to Taormina. The local airport bus can transfer you to the Catania Centrale train station to catch the train to Taormina – Giardini. Alternatively, there is a direct bus service from the airport with a journey time of around 1.5 hours. You can also reach Taormina by ferry from the Italian mainland. The port of Messina is just 45 minutes’ drive from Taormina.
How to Get Around Taormina
Taormina is easy to get around and made for walking! The city center is elevated on a hilltop and closed to traffic. If you wish to get to the beach, cables cars operate every 15 minutes until late with a journey time of around 5 minutes. If you fancy seeing the city from a different perspective, rent a scooter for the duration of your stay. You can cruise Taormina’s streets like a local and even explore outside the city and off the beaten tourist path.
Neighborhoods of Taormina
If you want to be close to attractions, shopping, and dining establishments, choose a hotel close to Taormina’s historic center. Many hotels here have views of the bay and Mount Etna, providing a stunning backdrop for breakfast on the terrace. The area is a short stroll from Palazzo Corvaja, Teatro Odeon, and Piazza IX Aprile, making the neighborhood an ideal choice for culture lovers and Taormina first-timers.
A short drive outside Taormina, Giardini Naxos is a quaint neighborhood set by the beach. There are regular bus connections into Taormina, making it easy to reach the city center. This once peaceful fishing village is lined with hotels, pensions, bars, pizzerias, and restaurants. As a result, it’s a great spot for families. There are also several historic churches and an archaeological park to explore in the town.
Mazzarò Beach lies 15 minutes from the center of Taormina. It’s a beautiful coastal area connected to Taormina by cable car, and boasts a selection of elegant hotels with spectacular views. You can take boat trips to the famous Blue Grotto in Sicily from here, swim, snorkel, learn to dive, or enjoy delicious Sicilian cuisine by the water’s edge.
Food, Drink, & Nightlife
At the heart of every Taormina Travel Guide is the regional cuisine. With Michelin star restaurants and charming trattorias overlooking Mount Etna, you’ll never be stuck for a stunning place to dine in Taormina. There are old-world style osterias in the historic center where you can enjoy traditional Sicilian fare and feast on fresh seafood, meat, and vegetable dishes coupled with local vintage wines. For the ultimate immersion, join a food and wine tour, and sample your way through the Old Town savoring the best of Sicilian cuisine and wine!
Nightlife in Taormina can be as laid back or lively as you choose. The city comprises terrace cocktail bars, underground wine cellars, and chic hot-spots where you can dance until dawn. Alternatively, you can enjoy outdoor music concerts, operas, theater productions, and symphony performances at Taormina’s spectacular ancient amphitheater.
Shopping in Taormina can be a fun escapade. Most shops are filled with local products selling colorful ceramics, local artwork, and sweet treats like marzipan fruit. And you’ll discover cool boutiques, tailors, and costume jewelry stores dotted about. Every Wednesday, Taormina’s street market springs to life. It’s great for purchasing handbags, clothing items, and shoes. Alternatively, the daily produce market is ideal for fresh fruit, fish, and vegetables if you want to try your hand at cooking like a local!
Ancient Theatre of Taormina
With some of the most breath-taking views in Sicily, a visit to the Ancient Theater of Taormina is a must. Built in 3rd century B.C. atop the hillside, this well-preserved amphitheater offers a glimpse into city life centuries ago. Although many of the original seats have disappeared, visitors can still sit on the worn steps, gain incredible photo opportunities of the Sicilian countryside, and learn more about this remarkable archaeological site.
The foundations of Palazzo Corvaja were constructed during the 11th century when the city’s defenses were reinforced by Arab settlers. The original cubic tower remains to this day, although later there were additions of new wings, reliefs, and courtyards. The right wing of the palace dates to the 1400’s. It was built to host Sicilian Parliament meetings, which is why the structure is also called Parliament House. There are several interesting stone carvings, a charming courtyard, and a mix of architectural styles ranging from Norman and Gothic to Arabic.
Piazza IX. Aprile
Situated in the center of Corso Umberto in Taormina, this piazza is the perfect place to sit back and relax with a cappuccino. Chic cafes line the square, artists sketch passers-by, and it’s home to the pretty Baroque Church of San Giuseppe. A nearby observation deck provides fantastic views of Mount Etna and the Ionian Sea, making it ideal for photography lovers.
While following our Taormina Travel Guide, you’ll be ready to dive into luxury sheets at the end of the day! And Taormina has its fair share of 4 and 5-star hotels. Most offer panoramic vistas of Mount Etna and Sicily’s coastline. You’ll find verdant gardens with swaying palms and cypress trees, crystalline turquoise pools inviting you for a cooling dip, and characterful buildings in which to rest your weary head. There are also several B&B’s and friendly hotels if you prefer to immerse yourself in local culture. Whether you wish to stay by the beach, in the historic city center, or into the countryside, you’ll find a chic hotel ready to cater to your needs. When in Taormina, you can’t go wrong with a villa – and both Villa Carlotta and Villa Ducale have you covered here!
What to See Near Taormina
Once you’ve hit all the highlights of our Taormina Travel Guide, venture to some nearby treasures! The majesty of active volcano Mount Etna is just an hour’s drive from Taormina and there are a variety of day trips on offer. Visitors to the volcanic region can enjoy some soft trekking along lava fields or a fabulous train ride on the Circumetnea Railway, which loops around the base of the volcano. Alternatively, make the 3-hour trip to another popular site in Sicily, Agrigento. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is simply spectacular, with rich history and an ancient Grecian temple dating to 5th and 6th century B.C. When you’ve completed both of these tours, a boat trip to the Blue Grotto near Taormina will give you the opportunity to relax and enjoy the sea breeze.