Home » Traveling In Italy » Taormina in Winter – Why You Should Visit in the Off-Season
Piazza IX on a quiet day in the winter in Taormina, Sicily. You can see Mount Etna in the distance.

Taormina in Winter – Why You Should Visit in the Off-Season

Visiting Taormina in winter – why visit the Sicilian resort town in the winter, the best things to do in cooler months, what to skip on a winter visit to Taormina, what to wear in Taormina in the winter, and our tips for making the most of a visit to Taormina in the winter.

You’ve probably seen Taormina in photos and the sun is shining, people are walking around in shorts and colorful dresses, and outdoor cafes are bustling and crowded.

Taormina, on the eastern coast of Sicily, has been a global traveler’s hotspot since the 1900s, but it’s not just a place to relax in the sun.

The town boasts historical landmarks like the ancient Greek theater and Palazzo Corvaja, as well as smaller gems like hidden mosaics and a 13th century Duomo (cathedral).

And, town is full of excellent restaurants and cafes – some with views, some on busy streets, and some tucked into quiet piazzas. 

While it’s definitely a prime choice for a relaxing summer holiday, visiting Taormina in winter has its merits.

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Why Visit Taormina in the Winter

Christmas lights and decorations fills Corso Umberto in Taormina, Sicily.
Corso Umberto, the main pedestrian street in Taormina

While you probably imagine visiting Taormina in a sundress and sipping granite poolside, the winter months are a wonderful time to visit.  Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Taormina is a very popular resort town, so if you visit in the summer, you’ll find crowds of Italians and international visitors.  A winter visit (outside of the Christmas and New Year’s period) is much less crowded.  If you want to see the view of Etna from the terrace in Piazza IX Aprile, you may have it all to yourself (or at least you won’t have to wait for a spot to open up).  And, you’ll be able to enjoy a quiet moment at the Greek Theatre without loads of other visitors.
  2. The weather in Taormina in the winter is pleasant. The average temperature in December ranges from the low 60s (°F) in the day to the low 50s (°F) in the evening.  In January, the average temperature drops to the high 50s (°F) in the day and the upper 40s in the evening.  However, don’t let the temperatures scare you away!  There are many sunny days, and I even spent some time in just a light fleece on our recent visit in January
  3. A winter visit to Taormina (outside of the Christmas and New Year’s period) is much less expensive than a summer visit.  Check with hotels for winter specials (discounts on stays or ‘stay 7/pay 6’ type of deals). 

Good To Know:  February is a very quiet month in Taormina – so quiet that you probably want to avoid it.  The festive atmosphere is over (holiday lights and decorations come down in January) and many hotels, shops, and restaurants close up for a quick break before the season gets going (around Easter).

Best Things to Do in Taormina in the Winter

Child walking up steps in the Greek Theater in Taormina, Sicily.
An almost-empty Greek Theatre in Taormina in the winter

Stroll Corso Umberto

Corso Umberto is the ‘main drag’ in Taormina, and its. It’s pedestrian only and full of boutiques, shops, restaurants, cafes, and piazzas with a view.  In winter months, stroll the Corso, stopping occasionally to check out the view, duck into a church, or explore a small lane.

Good To Know:  Don’t miss the Vicolo Stretto (narrow alley), near Piazza IX Aprile.

Visit Taormina During the Christmas Holidays

Taormina is particularly festive during the Christmas holidays. Residents string lights up, shops decorate and put up lights, and there’s a large tree set up in Piazza IX Aprile.  The town also projects beautiful light displays on buildings and organizes a holiday calendar full of events, concerts, and activities.   

Spend New Year’s Eve in Taormina

Taormina is a fun place to spend New Year’s for couples, solo travelers, and families.  There are a ton of events in town, including the countdown celebration in Piazza del Duomo.  Restaurants organize special dinners and you can ring in the New Year in a romantic setting or dancing with new friends! 

Or, if you’d rather have a ‘chill New Year’s Eve,’ head back to your hotel after dinner and watch the fireworks from your hotel or apartment balcony.  We did this and my kids were amazed by the amount of fireworks – it seemed like every direction we looked in there was an incredible fireworks display!

Stay in a Fancy Hotel For Less

One of the major benefits of visiting during the off-season is taking advantage of lower hotel rates.  Since Taormina is an expensive destination, it’s nice to snag deals and discounts on Taormina hotels during the winter months.  Contact one of Taormina’s 5-star hotels to find out what offers they’re running and enjoy a luxe visit for a non-luxe price!

Visit the Ancient Theatre

Taormina’s historic highlight, the ancient Greek theatre, is less crowded during winter months, and it’s much more pleasant to walk around the site without the scorching sun beating down on you. 

Still, it’s helpful to pre-book tickets online so you can skip the line at the entrance. 

Helpful Tip:  Stop for a Sicilian pastry or snack on the terrace of the café at the back of the theatre.  It’s got spectacular views of the Ionian Sea and the Bay of Giardini Naxos.  And in thte winter it’s not hard to get a good seat.  There are also toilets.

Dine Outdoors

Don’t think that because it’s winter, you can’t dine outdoors.  Taormina has plenty of outdoor seating at restaurants, bars, and cafes, and it’s especially pleasant during the day.  Some restaurants also have outdoor seating even on chilly evenings – they keep things warm by using patio heaters. 

I especially enjoy aperitivo with a view of Mount Etna. 

Winter Activities Near Taormina

Boys exploring a lava tube on Mount Etna in Sicily.
Exploring Mount Etna in the winter

Visit Castelmola

Winter is a perfect time to visit Castelmola!  You can hike up and it’s not hot or drive up the narrow road between Taormina and Castelmola without having to play car Tetris.  Plus, the village itself is still ‘open’ and with fewer crowds it’s easier to get a table for a meal or aperitivo.  Read more about Visiting Castelmola.

Explore Mount Etna

Winter is my favorite time to visit Mount Etna, especially if you can visit when there’s not much snow on the volcano (reason: you can see the landscape and lava – otherwise it’s just a sea of white).

We just visited in January and it was the least crowded I’ve ever seen it.  Everything was open, and we were able to enjoy the natural beauty of Etna without rubbing elbows with others. 

You may want to read out Tips for Visiting Mount Etna with Kids.

What to Skip in Taormina During the Winter

You can do pretty much anything you’d do in summer months, except for water and beach activities – the water is too chilly.

  • Isola Bella – save a stop at the gorgeous island (and WWF nature reserve) for a summer visit
  • Swimming in the pool – outdoor pools are closed for the winter

What to Wear in Taormina in the Winter

People looking at and taking photos of the Christmas tree on display in Taormina, Sicily.
  • Layers – It’s warm in the sun (we spent some days in short sleeves) but can be chilly if it gets cloudy or when the sun goes down in the evening.
  • ‘Nice’ clothing – Taormina is a chic resort town and both visitors and residents dress the part.
  • Sunglasses – Expect plenty of sunny days. 
  • Comfortable shoes – Taormina has a compact center but you’ll still do a lot of walking, including uphills, downhills, and steps. 
  • A coat – In case you missed the weather summary above, Taormina in the winter is not hot. You’ll need a coat for mornings, evenings, and chilly days.

Good To Know: Taormina is full of shops so if you find you need an extra item of clothing, toiletries, or equipment, you’ll be able to find it (but not at Target prices).

Tips for Visiting Taormina in the Winter

  • Stay in a hotel in town, not on the outskirts or on the beach below town.  You’ll want to be close to the action.  Read more about Where to Stay in Taormina.
  • If you drive a car to Taormina, make sure you don’t go on a day trip on New Year’s Day.  It’s a popular destination for local day-trippers, and you will not find parking on your return in the evening (trust me, we just experienced this!).  A similar situation occurs on December 26th (Santo Stefano, the day after Christmas).  Instead of leaving, just hang out and enjoy the scene in town.
  • Avoid a February visit unless you’re ok with a very quiet Taormina.  Many things close up for February and then slowly start to reopen in March (before the season starts up around Easter).
  • If you’ll be in Taormina for Christmas or New Year’s, be sure to make restaurant reservations.  Not only do visitors come to stay at Taormina hotels for the holidays – there are also plenty of day-tripping locals.

Taormina in Winter FAQ

Small side street in Taormina, Sicily decorated with plants and ceramics.
Is Taormina empty in the winter?

Taormina is busy for the Christmas in New Year’s holidays, and it’s very quiet in February. The rest of the winter, the resort town is quiet, but still open. Winter is a lovely time to visit and explore Taormina.

What can I do in Taormina on a rainy day?

Grab an umbrella and visit the shops on Corso Umberto.  See the Cathedral in Piazza Duomo and check out Palazzo Corvaja.  Tuck into a small restaurant for a cozy meal of pasta alla norma and a warming digestivo. You could also participate in a cooking class.

Is it worth visiting Giardini Naxos in the winter?

Taormina’s neighbor, Giardini Naxos is a lively beach town in the summer, but it quiet in the winter.  If you’re visiting Taormina in the winter months, skip Giardini Naxos and focus your time on Taormina.

Is the cable car to Isola Bella open in the winter?

Yes, the cable car that runs between Taormina and Mazzarò (500 meters from Isola Bella) is open in the winter, but with reduced hours.  To find out the most up-to-date schedule, contact the Taormina tourist info.