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A Quick Guide to Taormina, Sicily

The best time to visit Sicily is between May and July, when the weather is warm, but not hot. Joel and I visited Taormina in mid-May and could not have been more impressed.

To get to Taormina, we flew into the Catania (CTA) airport, took a bus into the city, and then a train from the Catania Centrale station to Taormina-Giardina. From there, you must take a taxi into the main part of Taormina. You can find the timetables and prices here, and buy your tickets online, then use your phone to present your tickets to train operators.

Background

Sicily has an extensive history that starts long before the Greeks first arrived in 734 BC. It has been under the rule of Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, and French, before finally being claimed as a region of Italy.

Today, Taormina attracts many tourists with its fertile soil, abundant flowers, crystal clear water, outstanding Mediterranean views, and friendly locals.

Things to do

Teatro Antico di Taormina

The Teatro Antico di Taormina is actually the most popular tourist destination, and for good reason! It dates back to the third century BC and it is the second largest ancient theatre in Sicily.

The theatre sits on top of a hill which peers off over the Ionian Sea. In the distance, one can see Mount Etna, an active volcano with its grey smoke staining the blue skies. lt makes for postcard perfect views.

The Teatro Antico di Taormina is built mostly of brick, which indicates that it is of Roman origins, yet its layout is considered Greek. Therefore, in the Italian language, it is referred to as the “Greco Romano Teatro.” Most likely, the theatre was originally Greek, but the Romans rebuilt parts of it.

Because it is so well-preserved, concerts are still held here regularly. You can see a few events here, so, if you are interested in seeing a performance, make sure to plan your trip around this schedule!

 

Isola Bella

Isola Bella, or the Beautiful Island, is located at the coast of Taormina. It is connected to the mainland by a narrow path of sand and pebbles that, depending of the tide, may or may not be underwater.

Isola Bella is owned by the state of Italy and designated as a nature reserve, so it isn’t actually possible to sunbathe on the island. That being said, the beaches along the mainland will not disappoint.

Be warned, though, that these are pebble beaches, not sand. You may want to bring water shoes, or at least stay in your flip-flops.

Joel and I had a lime margarita at a nearby bar on the Mazzaro Bay, then rented beach chairs at the bars dedicated “beach space,” Lido La Pigna. It was a quiet, family style beach. I highly recommend it.

 

 

Take the Bus/Cable Car up to the Old Town

The old town is located above the beach/bay area. To get here, you can either take a bus or the cable car. We took the bus, for around 3.50 euros. Joel and I found that it was best just to wander through the old town without a map.

Along our walk in the old town, we passed through the city gate, Porta Catania. In ancient times, Taormina was protected by a triple fortification system. The only two entrances were Porta Messina, in the north, and Porta Catania, in the south.

We got plenty lost, but the locals were happy to help us when we asked for directions. When we were ready to go back down, we found the nearest staircase and walked all the way back. I only recommend doing this if you are in good shape and prepared to sweat!

Villa Communale

Often overlooked by tourists is Villa Communale, the public gardens of Taormina. Joel and I entered these gardens because we spotted shade and stayed because entrance was free!

We were intrigued by the eclectic architecture and spectacular views along Via Bagnoli Croce. The garden also holds artillery pieces from World War II, cottages and towers. There is also a terrace here for outdoor concerts.

 

For the Best Views…

Okay, this spot sent Joel and I on a bit of a wild goose chase because of the nature of the mountains versus the flatness of a map. It seems like it is right next to Piazza XI Aprile, which is very much worth a visit. In real life, this mysterious spot is actually almost directly under the piazza.

The address of the viewpoint is Via Luigi Pirandello, 83-85, 98039 Taormina ME. If you click the link, it will show you the exact location on Google Maps. Trust me, this view is well worth the confusion.

Where to Stay

Joel and I stayed at one of the less expensive hotels in Taormina. We were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the hotel for the price. Jonic Hotel Mazzaro, which we booked through Booking.com (use this link to get $20 off!) is located at the very foot of Taormina, right by the beach – Lido La Pigna, to be exact.

Jonic Hotel Mazzaro offered a typical Italian style breakfast with coffee, fresh squeezed juice, pastries, bread, cereal, yogurt, and cold cuts, as well as bar service later in the afternoon for an added price. The workers were so friendly and accommodating that I don’t think I had to lift my bags once the entire time I was there!