TAORMINA IN A DAY
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Taormina is such an easily doable day trip from Catania you really have no excuse not to go. Also called The Pearl of the Ionian Sea, the town has such a vibrant summer resort feel it will put you right in a holiday mood!
The town has long been a favourite of the A list crowd and over the years welcomed everyone from Woody Allen, Elisabeth Taylor and Marlene Dietrich to Richard Wagner and Goethe. Today it’s still a perfect place to indulge in some people watching and in fact we spotted a couple of Polish celebrities during our short visit.
But with glitz and glamour, and the atmosphere comes popularity and the town can get really crowded in high season. If you can, avoid the days when cruise ships dock at the port below (you can check the cruise schedule on this website ) and as many as 1,000 extra tourists can descend on the small town. It will make your visit much more enjoyable.
You might be surprised to see me write about Taormina as I usually shun the most popular spots when traveling in favour of exploring more off the beaten track, local spots. Whilst Taormina is certainly very touristy and not the place to experience authentic Sicily, its undeniable charm make it worth visiting even just for a day and I really enjoyed my time there.
In this post I share with you my recommendations for things to see and do in this gorgeous town.
HOW TO GET TO TAORMINA
You can take a train from Catania Centrale railway station to Taormina Giardini and then hop on a bus to the centre of Taormina. The trains run at least hourly and sometimes even every half an hour depending on the time of day, have excellent air conditioning and you can see the sea and lots of lemon tree groves from the window.. The journey takes just under an hour and tickets cost 4.30 euro each way. On your arrival at the station (Which is located in a beautifully restored building with plenty of original features such as old platform clocks and intricately painted ticket hall ceiling still in place. It’s worth having a look around if you have time!) head outside to the bus stop. Buses depart regularly and the journey takes approx 20mins, you can get your ticket from the
Another option is to take a bus straight from Catania. Etna Transporti run a regular service between the two cities (also stopping at the airport) for 8.50 euro return and the journey takes 1 hour and 10 minutes. You can check the latest timetable on their website.
In Catania the bus station is located on Via Archimede whilst the ticket office can be found on Via D’Amico just a couple of minutes' walk away.
WHAT TO DO IN TAORMINA
Taormina is such a picturesque town you can spend literally hours just walking around its narrow streets where around every corner lays a new photo opportunity.
The town is built on a cliff side so expect lots of stairs mixed with stunning views of the Meditarrean sea below. Start at the north entrance marked by the medieval gate called Porta Messina and continue along the Corso Umberto I. Take your time to look around and walk down the many small alleys, artisan workshops and souvenir stores selling the biggest lemons you’ve ever seen, traditional Sicilian ceramics and bottles of pistachio liqueur.
Eventually you’ll arrive at Piazza IX Aprile which is one of the most postcard picture perfect squares I’ve ever seen. On one side there are sweeping views of the sea below and on the other the 17th century Church of San Giuseppe with pink and white facade, a charming double staircase and blossoming trees at the front. From here it’s just a short 10 minute walk up to the Ancient Theatre which is one of the most famous spots in town. Originally built in the third century BC it still regularly hosts plays, opera and music concerts as well as the annual film festival.
Another spot worth checking out is the Villa Comunale di Taormina. This gorgeous public garden offers a welcome respite from the crowded town centre streets and you can relax and enjoy the views.
Of course, no visit to Taormina would be complete without a couple of hours at the seaside. Because where else would you be able to take a cable car to the beach? Yes, awesome right!? It’s a really short trip (literally a couple of minutes) but makes for a really fun and unique experience. There are still quite a lot of stairs from the cable car to the actual Mazzaro beach but the walk is totally worth it. The seashore here is pebbly with some of the clearest water I’ve ever seen and obviously you have the famous Isola Bella just to your right.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN TAORMINA
The food and drink scene in Taormina is certainly thriving and walking through the town you’ll spot cafes, gelaterias and restaurants everywhere you look.
When walking along the Corso Umberto I, make a short stop at one of the ice cream lolly shops such as Stecco Natura to pick up a refreshing and instagrammable treat. They make a point of only using the best natural ingredients (for example their sorbets are made using fruit that have been grown without the use of any pesticides) without any artificial colourings or flavourings. They use pistachios from Bronte (the best in the world), hazelnuts from Nebrodi and almonds from Avola. There are also plenty of gluten free and lactose free options. Oh and did I mention that they look and taste amazing too? Just be sure to eat quickly as they melt fast in the Sicilian summer heat which can get messy.
One thing available in abundance in Taormina is the views, thanks to the town location perched on the side of a cliff. Because of that there are many restaurants with terraces, perfect for enjoying an al fresco lunch. We went with Caffe Wunderbar as it has tables right on the piazza and is good for a quick lunch and a spot of people watching (the only reason wouldn’t recommend them is that we had to remind them to bring us change from our bill!). Other options worth checking out nearby include Vicolo Stretto and Ristorante Cinque Archi.
Alternatively I’d recommend ¾ quarti Antipasteria Siciliana or Bistrot Siciliano Sike which both serve excellent food although without the amazing views (but then there are plenty of options to enjoy the views while simply walking around the town centre) or Siculishh wine bar which is as authentic Sicilian as you’re going to find in Taormina.
I hope you enjoyed this short guide to the best things to see and do in Taormina. Have you been to this gorgeous town or maybe it is on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments!