Taormina is a hilltop town located near Mount Etna on the east coast of Sicily, Italy. While Mount Etna is an active volcano with amazing hiking area and summits, Taormina is the tourist capital of Sicily where tourists from all around the world flock to admire the picturesque environment. The hilltop town is well known for the ancient Greek-Roman theater which is still used today. This theater is a place to fall in love with because the cliffs next to the theater drop to the sea which form spectacular views from the top to the wonderful sandy beaches below.
Taormina has been praised so much, especially after Goethe mentioned its beauty in his book “Italian Journey”. The town is now an integral part of the Grand tour which is a famous long journey made in the continental Europe. It has been now over 200 years, since the tourists have been coming here to admire the medieval buildings, spectacular views, beautiful pedestrian friendly streets that have lots of shops, restaurants and bars making it a wonderful holiday destination.
How to Reach Taormina Sicily
Reaching Taormina is easy, you can drive to Taormina while enjoying the beautiful outskirts of the city. You cannot take the car directly to Taormina because only residents with permits can drive cars in the town. The parking is available at Lumbi Parking deck and there is a free shuttle bus to the center of Taormina which comes after every 5 to 10 minutes.
For those who directly want to land to Taormina can land on the Catania Airport which is around 1-hour drive from Taormina. From here, either take a taxi or a bus or a train. I love trains, so I always take trains which is a wonderful idea because this train route is spectacular along the scenic coastal line of Sicily. The train will take you to Taormina-Giardini station and from there, you will have to take a taxi or a bus.
16 Amazing Attractions of Taormina Sicily
If you are like me, which means hitting the ground as soon as you reach the destination, Corso Umberto will be a wonderful place to start with. Corso Umberto is a pedestrian friendly beautiful city center which is famous for refreshing walks and strolls along with shops, cafes, restaurants, and boutiques. I had my coffee with some delicious pastry while watching people and environment around the area. It always helps to settle in the new environment while absorbing it from a relaxing vantage point.
The city center stretches from the city gates of Porta Messina to Porta Catania with churches, art galleries and palazzo Corvaja which is a medieval palace. These two gates point to the direction of the two cities which are Messina and Catania. You will find most of the attractions of the town aligned with the Corso Umberto including the main square of the city called Piazza IX Aprile. This square is enclosed by Chiesa di Sant’Agostino and Chiesa di San Giuseppe. From Piazza IX Aprile, you can enjoy the spectacular views of the sea and the Mount Etna.
Ancient Theater of Taormina Sicily
The well-preserved Ancient Theater of Taormina Sicily is still in use, and it is surely the top attraction of the town. You will see for yourself as you reach here, this amazing place gets admired for both architecture and the wonderful views. The medieval theater is carved from the rock on top of the hill with views of the sea and the mountains. The theater has a capacity of 5000 spectators and is a well known and admired place.
The Greeks loved to construct their buildings with beautiful views, and they did a wonder by creating this site where you can see the Mount Etna along with the sea. This auditorium is the 2nd largest ancient theater of this kind in Sicily after Syracuse. The theater was built in the 3rd century BC and was renovated again after 100 years in 2nd Century BC to add more space, statues, and columns as the theater started to host gladiator battles as well.
These days, music and theater performances are held here during summers which appeal to a large crowd because of this wonderful venue. As this is the top attraction of the town, you might always find it crowded, but most of the crowd gets dispersed after getting tickets as the area is large.
Cable Car Rides of Taormina Sicily
Taormina is a hilltop town with many steep roads and steps, which obviously adds to the beauty of it, but cable cars have glorified these views and made it easier for people to go up and down. You can reach at different places super easily like your hotels, restaurants, beaches on the coastline. Not only it saves a lot of leg work but also you also get to enjoy the fun ride with lovely views. Probably, that is why it is called “Funiva”. The timing of the cable car is from 8 am to 8pm in the winters and in the peak summer season, it runs from 8 am to 1 am.
We talked about this medieval palace located along the Corso Umberto across the Piazza Badia from the St Catherine of Alexandria Church. As Sicily has a history with Arabs, this palace reminds us of their mark on the town. Corvaja Palace with its tower was built by Arabs in the tenth century which is superb example of Arab architecture. The Palace was built in a fortress style with added protection and a square was built for gatherings and events. Currently, the ground floor of the palace is the tourist information center and the first floor is the museum of arts.
Read more history of the presence of Arabs in Palermo, Sicily.
Porta Messina of Taormina Sicily
Porta Messina is the northern entrance of the city which was once surrounded by fortifications built by Arabs. Posta Messina is connected with Corso Umberto and as you enter from this side, you will be welcomed by a pedestrian friendly lovely street full of outlets of all kinds, that range from crafts, antiques, fragrances, food, drinks and souvenirs. You will see Corvaja Palace as soon as you enter from the Porta Messina gate.
Duomo di San Nicola
Duomo di San Nicola was constructed in the 13th century and was renovated several times during 15th, 16th and 18th centuries. The duomo with its baroque styled fountain is a wonderful reminiscent of Norman cathedrals.
The Municipal Gardens of Taormina Sicily
This lovely park was originally owned by an English noble lady Florence Trevelyan who was a close relative of Queen Victoria. It is said she was exiled from England and she settled in Taormina in 1884. She loved the flowers and gardens and hence purchased this land and turned into a garden which is an unusual mix of local and English gardening styles.
The park is beautifully built on different levels which are connected with wide staircases. This land was given to the town in 1922 and now are open to the public where people can go for a peaceful stroll and the stunning views of the coastal area from the high parts of the gardens.
Chiesa di San Pancrazio
Chiesa di San Pancrazio, bishop, martyr, and patron Saint of Taormina is standing on the ruins of the Greek Temple of Jupiter Serapis. The decorated structure of the church dates back to the beginning of the 16th century. The main entrance is decorated with columns and arches from the Taormina stone. Above the main entrance is a gallery with the Organ. There are four minor altars, two on right and two on left side of the walls. There is a fresco depicting Tofano Cerameo who was the last Bishop of Taormina. The main altar is rich in polychrome marble and bordered by two Lonian columns.
Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria
This church was built in the 17th century with beautiful baroque style architecture. The church is located near the Odeon theater of Taormina along the Corso Umberto. The main entrance has beautiful columns and arches made from pink marble. The church has a statue of St. Catherine with two angels at her side.
Church of St. Joseph
The Church of St. Joseph is located along the Carso Umberto on the opposite side of the Piazza IX Aprile which is known for some amazing views. The majestic double staircase leads to the parvis which is made of a beautiful variety of marbles. The church has a single nave and a dome in the center and the walls are decorated with stuccos that depict the lovely floral motives.
Odeon of Taormina Sicily
Odeon is the smaller theater in Taormina which was built in 21st century BC by the first Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus Octavian. It is located next to Palace Corvaja behind the Church of St Catherine of Alexandria. The architecture is much like the architecture of the larger ancient theater. It is said that the small theater was used for rehearsals and auditions of performances in preparations to perform at the larger theater. Some private functions and gatherings were also held at the smaller theater known as Odeon of Taormina.
Palace of Dukes of Santo Stefano
This palace is located near Porta Catania which is the south entrance of the city. The palace is a masterpiece of Sicilian-Gothic architecture with blends of Arab and Norman art. The palace has three floors and a beautiful garden in the front. These days the palace is used to display the sculptures by Mazzullo Foundation.
Isola Bella of Taormina Sicily
This beautiful island was also bought by lady Florence Trevelyan in 1890 who was a wealthy English women and close relative of Queen Victoria. She built a house and decorated the island like the municipal gardens of Taormina and planted many exotic and rare plants. After her death in 1907, the island remained private and no construction was allowed until Bosurgi family bought it and managed to get the construction ban lifted. The Bosurgi family owned a large citrus processing factory and turned the island into a residential hotel of elite.
Around 1982, Bosurgi family fell into hard times and all their assets were auctioned off. The island came into the artistic interest in 1984 by the Department of Cultural Heritage and was later purchased by the department. It was turned in to a nature reserve and was opened for public. The island is connected with Taormina by a thin strip of a pebbly beach.
The Isola Bella Beach
The Isola Bella is a large beach spread out widely along the sea. There are many free areas on the beach where you can easily relax and enjoy the beach views. It is next to the Isola Bella Island and you can reach here by the cable car and a little walk.
Mazzaro beach is located to the north of Isola Bella and is smaller. Actually, it comes first if you are going to visit these two beaches from the Taormina town and hence it is more famous and more crowded too. The beach has amazing cliffs along the shore and some daring divers will be seen diving off from these cliffs.
Mount Etna near Taormina Sicily
Mount Etna is the highest volcano of Europe. The volcano is active and is located between the cities of Messina and Catania. This smoking volcano has caused some catastrophic events in the past and attracts a large traffic of tourists. Many visitors come to stay in Catena or Taormina because they plan to hike and climb this mountain. Mount Etna has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013. This mountain offers some spectacular sceneries and amazing monuments.
Mount Etna is also very famous among photographers, it turns dark in summers and gets covered with snow in winters. The top of the mountain is around 3000 meters above sea level, and you can join the organized guided tours to explore it. You can go alone but only to the lower levels, if you want to go to the top, you will need a license and a guide. The temperature at the mountain varies a lot according to weather and height so, it is better to go prepared. Remember to get some Mount Etna Honey as a souvenir because this honey comes from the orange flowers of the Zafferana Etnea village.
Read about the best places to visit in Italy
Read About 13 Wonderful Attractions in Palermo Italy
Read About Treviso “Mini Venice”
Read about the breathtaking views of Nargo Torbole
Also Read about Florence which has streets full of art.
Read about San Gimignano and its Medieval Sky Scrapers