I grew up in Taormina, the Pearl of the Mediterranean, I was 18 when I moved away. However, summer, though, for me has always meant at least seven days in my town where I have old friends, and where I know all the streets by heart.
My nest, perhaps the only place where I really feel at home, where life is that typical of small towns where even if I have not been seen for years.
It’s enough to go around on the Vespa to be recognized even with a helmet and sunglasses on.
Yet never like this year, given the absence of exactly two years, have I started to notice things that perhaps those who come here for the first time would notice right away, and sometimes the eyes of those who live in it take for granted. Small beautiful details, corners, entrances of houses, alleys, passages.
From wherever you are looking the panorama is worthy of the nickname that over the years continues to elect it a TOP destination in Sicily.
Not only in summer but also in winter, the snow-covered Etna that lies on the coast where Catania rises, that had inspired the famous painting by Otto Geleng, is reason enough to come to this small village perched on Mount Tauro overlooking the sea.
On the one hand, the Calabrian coast, on the other the most active volcano in the world. From wherever you are facing, the view is unique.
The village winds around for streets and lanes, arteries of the main road: Corso Umberto where top fashion boutiques alternate with jewelry shops and some souvenir stores.
The Corso, amicably called “the tub” by the inhabitants of Taormina, is crowded from June until the end of August, especially on weekends, by the locals and tourists coming from all over the world.
The walk can start at Porta Messina, the arch that looks toward the north, thence Messina, or Porta Catania – the second arc that looks to the south.
To the right and left along the course, stairs … everywhere.
Among which, the narrow alley, the name speaks for itself, flowering balconies and plants and lush colorful flowers housed in heads of Moors, vases in the shape of heads with strong Arab colors and faces of dark colors, in ceramic or earthenware.
Colored terraces of typical ceramics, the very beautiful Piazza IX Aprile of which sight is worth the slalom, or way of the Cross, as I call it, of the Corso also on 15 August.
Taormina is not by the sea, it is above the sea, at 200 meters.
It dominates and leaves, to Giardini Naxos, Letojanni and Mazzarò the arduous task of welcoming the tourists that every summer flock to the beaches in August, which become a bit too full for my taste.
Yet Taormina is attractive, even when in August to go forward 10 meters will take you 10 minutes because you will remain bottled up in the crowd. Everybody is dressed elegantly, in high heels, fashionable clothes.
Premises close when the sun rises, the restaurants stay open late. Midnight is the hour to go out if you dine at home. Sometimes even at 1 am, you never know at what time you will go home. I have stopped asking myself.
What to do in Taormina in 2 days
The great thing about this village is that taking the steps down or up will take you to quiet corners in which to escape if the crowd of Corso Umberto gets too much.
In this way, you shy away towards the beautiful square of Varò, with the stone walls of the houses and the climbing bougainvilleas, and lemon and orange trees, the square lit by large lamps that give off a warm light.
Same style and just as beautiful and intimate although very central The Square of Carmine and the deconsecrated church where often are hosted art exhibitions and performances.
It is worth then a walk in the fairytale Public Gardens and a must stop at the lookout at the end of Via Pirandello, which presents you with a view of Isola Bella from the top.
It is worth then a walk in the fairytale Villa Comunale (Public Gardens) and a must stop at the lookout at the end of Via Pirandello, which presents you with a view of Isola Bella from the top.
Hidden but central the Naumachie, mauri in bricks of the Roman period that once was believed to be an aquatic circus in which the naval battles were represented (naumachia means, in fact, naval battle) but later identified as a fountain with water play.
The dominations can be felt and seen in the palaces as in its people.
Dark and deep eyes, the Saracens of today that are not far from the beautiful Sicilian fauns artistically photographed by von Gloeden who managed to capture the Sicilian in artistic nudes of priceless value when man fits perfectly in his place of origin.
Taormina is well-liked, and the whys are many.
Hard not to love this little quiet and elegant town overlooking the sea, which boasts among its treasures the Isola Bella, which I recommend to visit inside, the villa could surprise you, linked to the mainland via an isthmus of sand that appears and disappears depending on the tide, the Greek Theatre and the concentration of historical and archaeological artifacts that cannot escape not even the most distracted eye.
For a different afternoon, I strongly recommend considering a few hours up in Castelmola one of the oldest medieval towns in Italy.
The higher you go the more beautiful the panorama becomes, and sipping an aperitif in one of the many bars of Castelmola at sunset is one of my favorite things to do with friends especially those who do not know Taormina.
It might be that we islanders are proud in nature, it might be that the Taorminans are even more so, though … there hasn’t been any one time I haven’t thought that this cannot be the place where I would want to spend one day, my old age: right between the sea and the sky
Things to do in Taormina
Taormina is beautiful for walking around, enjoying the little and elegant town center spending time looking at the wonderful view of Mount Etna falling down into the sea. It’s a small town, 1 day could be enough for visiting it but then, once you get here, I bet you hardly leave!
When you get tired, if you get tired, of going to the sea, Isola Bella, Mazzarò, Fondaco Parrino, Villagonia, you can dedicate yourself to daily excursions.
Taormina, in fact, is located exactly halfway between Messina and Catania, hence the doubt for many of the province, Taormina is in the province of Messina, you can safely consider it as a base for organizing several excursions to do during the day including Catania, Siracusa e Vendicari, Tindari, Aciscastello e Acitrezza, l’Etna o Modica.
For more travel ideas on the East coast check the article: Treasures of East Coast Sicily
What to do in Taormina in 2 days – Suggested itinerary
Day 1 – Taormina center
Today you will discover the town center and its gems.
Here is the map of the walk
Starting from Porta Messina, which introduces us to the Corso Umberto.
We immediately enter into Piazza Badia, where you will recognize the Palazzo Corvaja, today tourist information center and museum of folk arts, and the Baroque Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria in Egypt, dating back to 1600, which stands on the ruins of the Odeon, constructed, in turn, on the ruins of a Greek temple probably dedicated to Aphrodite. Under the floor of the church, there is a crypt, discovered during the restoration that took place in the 70s, in which they were originally buried, important people.
After having breakfast with granita with figs at the BamBar, we head to the ancient theater of Taormina, which does not require many presentations.
The walk continues along the Corso Umberto with a stop at Piazza IX Aprile, from which you will enjoy one of the most beautiful views Sicily can provide you having behind the Church of St. Joseph, which was the seat of the Brotherhood of Purgatory souls, the reason why it will be easy to identify, in different parts of the facade and even into the church, human figures in the flames as a symbol of purification from sins.
Keep on walking until you get to Piazza Duomo, built intone 1400 on the ruins of a small church of the Middle Ages and dedicated San Nicola di Bari.
On the way back, I recommend doing for internal road passing by the former Carmine’s church, now used as art exhibitions and Varò before getting back to Piazza IX Aprile.
About a hundred meters after the square, in front of the Unicredit Bank take the way on the stairways on the right, Via Naumachie, where you can sport the Naumachie, on your left, before reaching the public park of Taormina where you will enjoy a panoramic view of the Gulf of Giardini Naxos and Etna.
The Villa Comunale was once the home of Lady Florence Trevelyan, an English noblewoman cousin of Queen Victoria, who lived in Taormina since 1884 and married Prof. Salvatore Cacciola mayor of the town at the time.
The park, which was a desire of Lady Florence, was built as a typical English garden with many species of rare plants and pretty special constructions, called victorian follies.
After dinner, follows the nightly walk along the Corso Umberto ending the day with a drink at the Morgana Bar.
Day 2 – Beaches and landscapes
We will spend the second day at the beach ending drinking an aperitive with a view!
Here is the map of the itinerary
Even if cold you can’t miss our wonderful bays and the world-famous Isola Bella!
The beach is accessible by cable car, € 3 round trip, or through a path down the stairs walk starting from the Belvedere at the end of Via Pirandello.
I also recommend paying a visit to the Bay of Mazzaro, which is the beach of the people of Taormina, and then spend the rest of the day to the Isola Bella (or the opposite).
Lunch on the beach at the Lido La Pigna.
*** Note that both beaches can get incredibly crowdy during August
Return to Taormina and then drive to Castelmola where to make the aperitif, my choice goes to the Bar Turrisi, a pretty weird bar.
On the way to Castelmola have a brief stop at the Church of the Madonna Rocca, a beautiful church built in the rock, if open is worth entering, it is tiny, from which see Taormina from above.
If you are in Taormina during summer is worth buying tickets for one of the events taking place at the Greek Theater to enjoy the Opera or the ballet in the most impressive scene in the world.
For more info: Taormina Arte and Film Festival
Taormina lends itself excellently also to visit some tourist centers in eastern Sicily, for an idea of 7-day cruises having as base Taormina click here (a car is better!).
Best time to visit Taormina
From spring to autumn Taormina is beautiful, indeed, I personally prefer among all the months, September.
It is then that the prices go down, the mass goes away, the seawater is still warm, Corso Umberto empties slowly until to fill up pretty much just during the weekend. August is the Terrifying and Delirious month.
Everywhere is full, restaurants, hotels, roads, kilometric queues that sometimes start from the motorway toll-gate up to the main parking lot of the city, Lumbi. Astronomical prices … even for those who live here.
Also, May and June are quite interesting. It’s the beginning of summer, prices start to be higher but yet not like in July or August, and you will have chances to enjoy huge empty beaches (mainly from Monday to Friday).
Taormina is a 12 months tourist destination, even in winter can be a nice base to discover the eastern part of Sicily.
You won’t swim, of course, but the climate is pretty temperate also during winter.
Where to stay in Taormina
Taormina is beautiful and as often happens, good things come with high prices.
For those on a budget, the best solutions are: either to stay in Giardini Naxos or in Letoianni and then pass the evenings in Taormina, or, if in more than two persons, to rent an apartment.
In all cases, mainly if you are planning to visit Taormina during high season you better book well in advance. August fills up quickly, and, as early as June, it becomes difficult to find economic solutions but above all free and available.
Iancu Charme Aparment (Mazzarò)
Elegant apartments close to the Bay of Mazzarò, ideal to spend the day at the beach and then go up to Taormina by cable car in the evening.
Hotel Villa Ducale (Taormina)
A boutique hotel with fantastic views of the Gulf of Naxos overlooking Mount Etna.
The rooms are elegant and decorated in typical Sicilian style. There is also a small swimming pool, comfortable for days when you do not want to go to the sea.
Isoco Guesthouse (Taormina)
The Guesthouse looks towards Capo Sant’Alessio and Calabria, is located near the center but in a quiet and peaceful area. Each room is dedicated to a different artist and therefore each with something special. All rooms have a sea view.