Castelmola is one of Italy’s Borghi Più Belli – Most Beautiful Villages. It’s one of our favorites too!
If you’re in Taormina – for a few days or just for an afternoon – it’s worth making your way from busy Taormina to this tiny village built around the ruins of a 16th century Norman castello (castle).
Where Is Castelmola?
Castelmola sits on top of a hill above the resort town of Taormina, in the province of Messina on the island of Sicily, in Italy.
Why Visit Castelmola
Castelmola has incredible views, charming colorful streets, and it’s a prime place to pass a couple of hours sipping almond wine in the sunshine.
When to Visit Castelmola
You can visit Castelmola year-round.
Enjoy it in the summer sunshine after a day at the beach or visit during quieter winter months.
Good To Know: Shops and restaurants are still open in the winter, but a few of the hotels close up.
How to Get to Castelmola
Bus – It takes 15 minutes from the Taormina bus station to the main square in Castelmola; a few euros for the round-trip; there are also stops along the way so use Google Maps to find the stop closest to you.
Car – If you have a car, you’ll be tempted to drive up to Castelmola. Keep in mind the road is narrow and cars often park on the sides, so you’ll be navigating narrow roads with two-way traffic. I do not recommend driving to and from Castelmola in the busy summer months – too stressful, and the parking in Castelmola is limited.
If you do decide to drive up, just plug Castelmola into your GPS.
Walk – If you’re reasonably fit, the best way to get to Castelmola is on foot! Take the old mule path, the Saracens Path (Salita dei Saraceni) from Piazza 9 Aprile in Taormina. The way up is a series of steps and some sections have railings. Take time to stop and enjoy the views on the way up. It’s an especially nice walk in the summer when the road is full of cars. The walk takes about 30-60 minutes going up, less going down.
Important: Check with the tourist info before you walk up – sometimes parts of the path are closed after heavy rains.
Taxi – A simple option, costing around 20€ each way. You’ll still be in traffic, but it’s stress free because you’re not driving!
8 Best Things to Do in Castelmola
Soak up the Incredible Views
You’re treated with belle viste (beautiful views) from multiple viewpoints in the village. From different terraces, lookouts, and piazzas, you can look down at Taormina (and the Greek Theatre), Mount Etna, the Ionian Sea, and the bay of Giardini Naxos.
Good To Know: Bar Turrisi’s small balcony offers a beautiful viewpoint of the tiny, photo-friendly Piazza Chiesa Madre in the center of the village.
Walk up to the Castle of Mola
Walk up from the main piazza (Piazza Sant’Antonio aka San Antonio) up the stairs toward ‘CASTELLO.’ In less than 5 minutes, you’ll be at the castle ruins (there are a couple of viewpoints on the way up). Don’t have high expectations for the castle ruins. If you’ve got kids with you, it’s fun for them to imagine what it might have looked like, but there’s not much to see.
While the castle ruins aren’t impressive, the 360-degree views more than make up for it. From this one viewpoint, you can see Mount Etna, Taormina, the Ionian Sea, and the bay of Giardini Naxos.
Browse the Village’s Shops
Castelmola has its share of shops selling ceramics, trinkets, and souvenirs. Most are along the ‘main’ streets in town. You can also grab picnic supplies at the minimarket in town.
Check Out the Colorful Buildings, Charming Small Streets and Piazzas
Aside from the large Piazza Sant’Antonio, we loved the tiny Piazza Chiesa Madre – it’s a perfect spot for a morning coffee or evening aperitivo.
Take some time and ‘get lost’ in the smaller lanes of the village. You’ll be rewarded with classic Sicilian scenes like laundry drying from balconies, the aroma of a fresh sugo (sauce) cooking, and hidden viewpoints of the surrounding sea, towns, and countryside.
Have Aperitivo or a Snack in Piazza Sant’Antonio
The black and white Piazza will be your entry point to Castelmola if you drive or take public transport. If you walk up to town, make your way to the piazza and sit on the benches, enjoy the views, and catch your breath after the walk up!
Grab an Italian breakfast at Caffè San Giorgio (or a granita in the afternoon).
Sip on Almond Wine
Vino alle mandorle (almond wine) is a specialty of Castelmola. The technique for creating the wine (adding the almond flavor to the island’s white wine) was invented during the while the Greeks ruled.
Castelmola local Vincenzo Blandano (the founder of Caffè San Giorgio on the main square) revived the recipe in 1907, and his blandanino almond wine has been sipped by Castelmola visitors ever since.
Little old ladies in shops will ask if you want to try some, or sample wine at one of Castelmola’s bars, restaurants, or cafes.
Find a More Private Viewpoint
The two most popular viewpoints in Castelmola are from the castle ruins and from the main piazza, Piazza Sant’Antonio.
Step away from the crowds and find one of the quieter places to soak up the vistas. Belvedere Punta San Giorgio is a small terrace located next to Pizzeria Nina.
Visit the Phallic Café
Don’t dismiss it as a vulgar bar for Instagram photos. Bar Turrisi has an interesting history – Castelmola and Taormina were some of the first places in the Mediterranean to welcome travelers of the gay community in the late 1800s. The area attracted poets, artists, and writers, and was known for its bohemian attitudes and openness to sexuality.
Grab a table, have aperitivo or a snack, and check out the décor.
Good To Know: There’s a small balcony overlooking Piazza Chiesa Madre – snag it if it’s free.
Where to Eat in Castelmola
Bistrot Siciliano A’Ficaredda (Via Tutti i Santi, Largo San Giorgio 1) – fresh Sicilian food; great value; perfect for aperitivo
Pizzeria Nina (Impunta San Giorgio) – an excellent option if you’re craving pizza; family-friendly
I Pititti di Stefania (Via Papa Pio IX) – gelato hits the spot on a hot summer day in the small village
Parking in Castelmola
Parking in Castelmola is kind of complicated in spring and autumn, and especially so in summer.
The village has one main parking building with paid covered parking (mostly for residents of town and hotels) and parking on the rooftop (small, fills up quickly). You can also park up the hill by the Parco della Rimembranza. There is a small parking lot up the main hill in town (see map above) with pay and display. Otherwise, the spaces are reserved for residents.
In the summer, the drive up and back can be hairy (hairpin turns, negotiating the narrow road with two cars), so it’s best to walk up and down if you can (30-60 min up, less down).
Castelmola with Kids
Strollers – Castelmola isn’t stroller friendly because it’s full of steps. It’s best to see the village with a carrier. If you walk up the path from Taormina, you must come with a carrier. While you could technically walk up the road with a stroller, it’s much too crowded with cars and the street is narrow – not safe.
Good To Know: Strollers have been stolen from outside Castelmola restaurants and shops. Bring yours inside or make sure you can see it.
Toilet – At the entrance of main piazza, Piazza San Antonio.
Water – Water fountain next to toilet at entrance of main piazza, San Antonio.
Baby Supplies – You can find diapers, baby wipes, diaper cream, etc. at the pharmacy in Piazza San Antonio.
Playground – Visit the Paul Harris Playground, just a 2-minute walk from Piazza San Antonio. Small, but colorful and fun playground for little ones.
Helpful Tip: Be careful when walking on the small lanes on the outer edges of the villages. Some of them are full of cat poo.
Yes, there’s a bancomat (ATM) at the entrance of the town’s main piazza, Piazza San Antonio.
Castelmola can easily be seen on your own. It’s a tiny village and its main draws are its views from its piazzas and the ancient castle, and its cafes and restaurants.