Are you going to Sicily? Here are the must-do things to do the charming village of Taormina and the Ionian coast!
An Italian municipality attached to the metropolitan city of Messina in Sicily, Taormina is considered one of Sicily’s most beautiful jewels, only an hour’s drive north of Catania. The city is built on a rocky promontory raised to 660 feet on the slopes of Mount Tauros, and therefore offers a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea and Mount Etna. Although 11,076 people live there permanently, the city is under attack from tourists who come in large numbers to admire the historical and cultural heritage left by the civilizations of the past. So much so that in summer, traffic jams are legion and sites of interest become difficult to access.
Founded in 403 BC by the Greeks, the city came under Roman, Byzantine and Norman domination before becoming Italian. In Taormina, tourists mainly come to visit the ancient Greek Theater, but the city has many other monuments and places not to be missed. So what to do in Taormina? Here is our selection of things to see and do to visit Taormina.
Also read : The 17 best things to do in Sicily
1. The Ancient Greek Theater
The Greek theater is one of the most frequented Gallo-Roman remains in Sicily because of its good state of preservation. Built during the 3rd century BC by the Greek tyrant Geron II, its location on the upper part of the city offers a superb view of Mount Etna and the sea. If you like the history of ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, it is an essential site to visit Sicily. The theater is 360 feet in diameter and can accommodate up to 5,400 people. The foundations are Greek, but the brick architecture shows that most of the building dates back to Roman times.
2. The old town of Taormina
Clinging to the eastern side of Etna, the old town of Taormina is perched on a natural terrace from which you can see monuments of great beauty: Piazza IX Aprile, Corso Umberto, the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, the Villa Comunale. Corso Umberto is a major tourist destination in Taormina: it is the main street, where you can find bars and restaurants, comfortable hotels to stay in, a large number of luxury shops (clothes, jeweler and souvenirs, luxury products) for a high-end shopping. This street in Taormina earned the nickname of “Sicilian Saint-Tropez”. Take a look at Piazza IX Aprile, with its panoramic terrace overlooking the bay. Musicians and acrobats may perform in the open air during your visit.
3. Villa Comunale
What to do in Taormina if you have already seen the Gallo-Roman ruins? The city’s public garden, called Villa Comunale, is a good idea to break away from your boredom, and will make you stay a little longer in Taormina. Before you hit the road again, take advantage of this garden to get away from the crowds of tourists and the noise of the backfiring engines of vehicles struggling to get up to the old town. The land once belonged to Miss Florence Trevelyan, a wealthy English owner who is believed to have been the mistress of the British king-to-be Edward VII (1841-1910). Strolling through this lush green setting, you wouldn’t think you were in an ultra-frequented tourist site!
4.The Chiesa Madonna della Rocca
You will need to climb up the 300 step Salita Castello, stopping to catch your breath and a glimpse of the progressively nicer and clearer view of the stunning surroundings, in order to visit the Chiesa Madonna della Rocca. A modest and understated facade will give way to a beautifully decorated church, carved into the stone, and a place of serenity and quiet. The views you will get from the top of the stairs are beautiful, and if you have it in you, you can keep climbing just a bit more to reach the nearby ruins of the Saracen Castle. Make sure to pack water and pace yourselves, you won’t get much shade and the heat is absolutely sweltering in the summer.
5. Isola Bella
Going down to sea level, there is a must-see everywhere from above and on the postcards of the souvenir stands: Isola Bella. Wondering what to do in Taormina? Isola Bella is often presented as a hidden jewel of Taormina. It is not so hidden as that since the islet can be reached on foot in half an hour (we advise against driving, the number of places available is infinitesimal). It is a tiny isthmus connected to the pebble and sand beach, where you can swim in crystal clear waters: on the program, snorkeling, diving, boat trips, jet ski rental and idleness!
6. The Alcantara Gorges
Another essential site for a day trip to Taormina: the Alcantara Gorges. Located 50 minutes by road west of Taormina (in the interior), this site has a 82 feet deep chasm at the bottom of walls only 6 to 12 feetapart. The narrow canyon is of volcanic origin – Mount Etna is not far away – and results from the lava flows cooled in the waters of the rivers. These are very cold, even in summer. Note that there is an excursion from Taormina to Etna and visit the Alcantara Gorge on the same day.
7. Mount Etna
Of course, many departures to Mount Etna are possible from Taormina. It is one of the must-see sites for anyone wondering what to do in Sicily. Travel agencies and tour operators will take you to the crater in a 4×4 vehicle, with a guide and equipment for safe hiking. By car for an open house, it takes an hour’s drive.
How to get to Taormina?
To come to Taormina by plane, you will have to land in Catania, which is the nearest city. Many airlines fly to Catania from major UK cities, from London (both Luton and Stansted) Glasgow or Manchester, with easyJet or Ryanair most often offering the best prices, you can just compare flights usingSkyscanner. If you are flying in then we suggest you rent a car directly at the airport.
You can also reach Catania via a ferry boat which will allow you to travel freely on the island with your own car. Ferries leave from France and other Italian ports. You can book your ferry to Sicily online on the DirectFerries website.
Then to reach Taormina, the easiest way is to go by public transport because the city center is partly pedestrian and it is very difficult to park there. Another solution is to rent a car and park in a large car park in the city or park towards Castelmola in the upper part of the city (free solution).
The train, although quite slow, is also an option, the arrival station is Giardini-Naxos.
Where to stay in Taormina?
Taormina is divided into two parts: the upper city and the lower city. It can be reached by car, bus and funicular. Hotels in the lower city are a little cheaper. Besides, the prices are quite high compared to the rest of Sicily but off season it is still very correct if you want to stay in Taormina. To find a cheap hotel in Taormina, try searching a online booking service or you could also book an apartment or homestay via Airbnb.
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