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Salt & Wind Travel

Here’s Why You’ll Absolutely Want To Visit Taormina Sicily

Taormina Sicily Piazza IX Aprile

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Even before you discovered White Lotus Season 2 was filmed at the Four Seasons Taormina, you’d heard of Taormina Sicily, hadn’t you?

Known as one of the chicest resort towns in Italy, this cliffside haven perched above the sea is one of the premiere spots in Sicily to soak up the dolce vita. 

If your friends have visited Taormina Sicily, they’ve told you of the sweeping views of Mount Etna, the stunning ancient Greek theater, and the gardens with vistas over the Ionian Sea.

But Taormina can be expensive and touristy in high season, so it’s crucial to know when and how to best visit. Read on for more about Taormina Sicily as well as where to stay, what to do, and when to visit.

Where Is Taormina

First off, let’s orient ourselves and get to know where is Taormina, Sicily, shall we?

Taormina is set along Sicily’s Ionian Coast, which lies on the island’s east side and stretches from the narrow Strait of Messina, past burly Mount Etna, and down to the cobbled streets of Ortigia. 

This side of the island has a bit of everything that Sicily has to offer from gritty Catania to age-old family farms and the world-class wines of Etna to the stunning resort town of Taormina. 

History of Taormina

Founded in the 4th century by the Greeks, Taormina Sicily thrived under both the Greeks and Romans. However, it fell into relative obscurity when the Normans took over in the Middle Ages. 

It was then during the 18th century that the town became the tourist destination it is today. Northern Europeans who set out on the “Grand Tour” stopped in Taormina and it has since been frequented by greats like DH Lawrence and Truman Capote.

Villa Comunale Taormina Sicily

What Is Special About Taormina Sicily?

We could wax poetic about how Sicilian traditions are still unironically intact in Taormina. That you’ll find locals eating granita and brioche in the morning and doing the passeggiata in the summer evenings. And that would all be accurate.

There are stunning communal gardens, a few of the top restaurants on the island, and some of the best shopping in Sicily with a mix of local boutiques and international brands as well as housewares, gourmet goods, and fashionable clothing.

Speaking of, a few well-known (but worth visiting spots) include Majolica for ceramics, Dieffe for all things Made In Italy, and La Torinese for gourmet goods.

With seaside hotels like the Villa Sant’Andrea and cliffside luxury like the San Domenico Palace, it’s also one of the top destinations for our travel planning clients heading on an Italian honeymoon. And, unlike some other destinations where tourism is the main draw, there are 10,000 full-time residents in Taormina Sicily and they very much live there.

How Touristy Is Taormina?

Our only hesitation is that Taormina Sicily can get crowded with tour groups in the height of summer. And, just like the Amalfi Coast, there are a lot of people going there for strictly the ‘gram (or the TikTok as it were). 

We say go for a few days to explore Taormina itself. But also use the town as a jumping-off point for exploring this corner of Sicily from Bronte to Mount Etna and even Messina.

Taormina Sicily Teatro Greco

What To Do

If you’re asking yourself “Is Taormina Sicily worth visiting,” the answer is yes! Well, make that a measured yes. The reality is that cruise ships have day tours during the high season so we’re not keen to go there when the main streets are shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists. 

But if you go on the shoulder or off-season (see below), there is enough to do to stay occupied for a few days or even up to a week if you like to travel leisurely. Top of your list should be: 

Ancient Greek Theater

The best-known sight in Taormina Sicily is the horseshoe-shaped Teatro Greco, which has a view of the coast and Mount Etna. Dating back to the 3rd century BC, this is possibly the most dramatically situated amphitheater anywhere. 

Corso Umberto I

You can’t miss this main drag that runs from porta Catania to porta Messina through the center of Taormina Sicily. But make sure to also take a tour or take note of the historic architecture along the way from the Baroque fountain in Piazza del Duomo or the 12th-century clock tower known as Torre dell Orologio to the medieval cathedral or the stunning Palazzo Duca di Santo Stefano.

Night Time

What is there to do in Taormina at night, you ask? There are a few stylish bars around and that is the nexus of the night culture. Also, in the summer, there are lots of seasonal events. The highlight is Taormina Arte, a legendary festival where the historic Teatro Greco becomes home to world-class opera, dance, theater, music, and many renowned acts. 

Street Food Tour

Though the bigger cities of Palermo and Catania are better known for their street food Taormina also holds its own. A few must-stop for classic Sicilian street food include getting a granita from Bam Bar, noshing on a cannoli from Pasticceria Minotauro, and arancini from Rosticceria Da Cristina. Or, contact us, and we’ll help arrange a private tour of Taormina Sicily!

Villa Comunale

These stunning public gardens — created by Englishwoman Florence Trevelyan in the 1800s — are all too often overlooked by visitors. They are a perfect spot to grab some peace and quiet and the views of Mount Etan and the coastline are jaw-dropping.

Taormina Sicily Beach

Day Trips From Taormina

You could head as far as Oritigia or Catania for a day trip but here are day trips from Taormina Sicily that are within a one-hour drive:

Castelmola

This hilltop village is perched above Taormina Sicily and is punctuated by a now-ruined castle. It’s a steep, but rewarding one-hour hike up on foot or you can take a bus. 

Capo Sant’Andrea 

These classic grottos can be visited via guided tours.

Isola Bella

This nature reserve and stunning beach are just south of Taormina and are easily accessed via the aerial tramway.

Gold Alcantara

Located just a few miles inland is this 25-meter-high gorge that the Alcantara river flows through. It is not accessible from November to March due to the risk of flash flooding but is worth a visit in the summer when a dip in the icy waters is pure refreshment. 

Messina

Just about an hour’s drive from Taormina is the bustling city of Messina, which is located just a few kilometers from mainland Italy. This city is seriously underrated but is worth a visit if you want to experience more city-than-small-town vibes for a day.

Mount Etna

Head here to hike Europe’s largest active volcano or visit the famed pistachio farms of Bronte or go visit some of the most celebrated wineries in Sicily.

Where To Eat Taormina Sicily

Where To Eat

If you’re looking for restaurants in Taormina Sicily, know you have a lot of options. But, because Taormina is popular, it has some of the most expensive food in Sicily.

However, a lot of our travel planning clients ask if Sicily is cheaper than the Amalfi Coast and, generally, from hotels to restaurants, the answer is yes. 

Luckily, if you wander from the main street of Corso Umberto I, you can find plenty of quality options from locally-owned wine bars to fine dining and even quality Slow Food spots. 

Note that Taormina restaurants don’t really start bustling until 8 PM because most locals don’t eat until around 9 PM. As such, we’d advise against early dinner reservations.

If you want our list of top recommendations of restaurants and bars or help planning your trip, feel free to get in touch!

Where To Stay

If you’re after pure luxe, make like the Aubrey Plaza, Jennifer Coolidge, and Michael Imperioli in White Lotus Season 2, and check out the Four Seasons San Domenico Hotel in Taormina Sicily.

It’s important to know that many of the hotels in Taormina Sicily are luxury hotels such as the Four Seasons and the two Belmond properties. They are, of course, stunning with incredible views but they are some of the most expensive hotels in Sicily.

If you’re looking for where else to stay in Taormina, know that there are a few boutique hotels as well as some higher-end apartments. Reach out to us if you need help finding the best lodging for you.

Taormina Sicily Couple On Balcony

How To Get To Taormina

By Airplane

The Catania–Fontanarossa International Airport is the closest major airport to Taormina. It takes just under 1 hour to drive there and private car service starts at €100 for a one-way ride.

By Bus

The bus is the best public transportation for reaching Taormina as there are frequent departures from the region’s major towns like Messina and Catania as well as to the Catania airport. You can also use the bus to head up to the hillside town of Castemola as buses depart every hour or two and take just 15 minutes.

By Car

The town of Taormina can be reached from the A18 autostrada and the SS114. You can drive there but know that parking can be tricky. If you’re at a higher-end hotel, check with them as they may have a few parking spots. Otherwise, you’ll have to park at one of the garages outside of town and then walk or take a shuttle into town.

Also, note that the historic city center is a ZTL (zona traffico limitato) or limited traffic zone so it (including the main drag of Corso Umberto I) is restricted to resident traffic only.  

By Train

There are frequent trains from both Messina and Catania to Taormina. However, the train station is almost 2 miles away from the town so it isn’t very convenient. If you take a train, plan to take a taxi or car service to get into town.

Best Time to Visit

The nicest weather is from about April to October with largely sunny days.

  • High Season: Don’t go in the height of the high season (in July) when the day tours from the cruise ships are endless. Also, skip August when it’s unbearably hot and flooded with Italian tourists.
  • Shoulder Season: We suggest visiting in late spring and early fall when the temperatures are moderate, the crowds smaller, and prices lower than in the high season. One of our top times to visit is April to May kicking off at Easter when there are colorful religious festivals and the flowers are blooming. Or, head there from September to October when things are still open (and when we lead our small group trips to Sicily!).
  • Off-Season: You can also visit in the offseason (November to March) but know that the islands and any water-based activities will be closed. If you travel to Taormina during this period, we’d suggest the last two weeks of December to get a feeling of the holidays and a taste of Italian Christmas food!

Have Us Plan Your Italy Trip

Looking to travel to Taormina Italy? Our Italy travel planning services are here to help you achieve the ideal vacation. After discussing your preferences during a short consultation, we’ll plan your perfect itinerary. Head here to get started!


Photo Credit: Piazza IX Aprile by Vadym Lavra; Ancient Greek Theatre by MikeDotta;  restaurant by DaLiu;  Villa Comunale Gardens by Marek Mosinski; couple on balcony and isola bella shot by fokke baarssen

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