Last updated on July 7th, 2023
Located in Eastern Sicily and perched atop Monte Tauro, Taormina is Sicily’s fashionable, luxury resort town. It’s got stunning views of the Bay of Naxos and the Ionian Sea, a main drag full of glamourous shops and boutiques, gorgeous hotels, and plenty of restaurants to keep you well-fed during your visit.
If you think it sounds too fancy for your style, don’t worry – it’s still worth visiting! I’m fairly casual and still love strolling Corso Umberto, checking out the views of Mount Etna, and wandering around the Greek Theatre. There’s something here for everyone.
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Where is Taormina?
Taormina’s on the eastern coast of Sicily, about halfway between Catania and Messina.
Who Will Love Taormina
Plan on visiting Taormina if you’re looking for:
- Sunshine, a Sicilian town with a Capri vibe
- A chic resort town
- Trendy boutiques
- Luxury accommodation options
- Historical sites
- Incredible views
Who Should Skip Taormina
Skip a visit to Taormina if you’re looking for:
- A quiet, tranquil holiday
- A very inexpensive place (or just visit for the afternoon or a day)
- A town full of Sicilians (there are Sicilians, but they’re scattered amongst the tons of visitors)
- Parking right in front of your accommodation
When to Visit Taormina and How Long to Stay
You can visit Taormina year-round, but know the town is busy from spring through summer.
Spring in Taormina – Flowers are blooming, temperatures are pleasant, and you can start swimming in May (but my kids play in the water even in the winter if it’s a sunny day). If possible, avoid the busy Easter period.
Summer in Taormina – Summer temperatures in Taormina soar, but you can always head to the beach at Isola Bella or in nearby Giardini Naxos. Town is crowded with day trippers (especially cruises) and Italian and Europeans on vacation. Evenings are magical – you can dine outdoors, have a lovely stroll on Corso Umberto. Ferragosto will be busy in Taormina.
Autumn in Taormina – One of the best times to visit Taormina, when vacationers have departed, school is back in session, and the weather is still sunny and pleasant.
Winter in Taormina – December and January are nice months to visit, when the town really gets into the holiday spirit, with tons of lights, a large Christmas tree in Piazza IX Aprile, and a schedule packed with events. Taormina is well-known for its New Year’s festivities and beautiful fireworks displays. Our family recently visited in January and had a blast (and were even in short sleeves during the day!).
I would avoid a visit in February, when things are a little too quiet.
Read more about Visiting Taormina in Winter.
You can ‘see’ Taormina in a day, but it’s also a nice place to wander around during the evening. I recommend spending at least one night and two days in Taormina. This will give you time to see the Greek Theater, wander through town and check out the shops, and have a couple of aperitivi and meals with a view.
Good To Know: Taormina is a stop on the cruise ship circuit, so you’ll see quite a few groups during the day, and many shops selling t-shirts and trinkets that cater to them. If you can, stay the night so you can stroll the main piazza in the evening, spot lava on Etna in the distance (if it’s currently flowing), and see Taormina at its best.
How to Get to Taormina
The closest airport to Taormina is Catania-Fontanarossa (CTA) airport, located southwest of Catania. It’s about a 1-hour (without traffic) drive from the Catania airport to Taormina, using the E45/A18 Autostrada.
While Taormina can be reached by public transport, it’s easiest to drive to town in your own car.
To get to Taormina, you’ll most likely arrive via the Autostrada (A18/E45). After paying your toll, you’ll make your way up a winding hill until you reach the compact city center with its main pedestrian drag, Corso Umberto.
While the ZTL isn’t currently active (as of winter 2023), it’s not fun driving around town. The best thing to do is park in one of the two main paid parking garages – Porta Catania parking garage or Lumbi parking garage. I prefer Porta Catania because you can take an elevator right up to the western edge of town, whereas you must take a bus (or walk 10 minutes) from Lumbi to get to the eastern edge of town.
Good To Know: Roads are narrow and there are some hairpin turns. Many roads are one-way. There is a lot of traffic in town during the summer, especially surrounding holidays.
You can take the train to the Taormina-Giardini Naxos station on the Messina – Catania line. The station is below the town. To get to the center of Taormina from the train station, you can take the bus or take a taxi. You can walk from the station to the center of Taormina – it’s just over one kilometer and takes 30-40 minutes (200 meters of elevation gain).
You can travel to Sicily by bus from within Sicily or even from the mainland. Check out routes and fares on Interbus and Flixbus.
Things to Do in Taormina
Explore the Greek Theatre
To me, visiting Taormina isn’t about ‘checking things off your list.’ It’s a place to relax, stroll the pedestrian Corso Umberto, and have aperitivo in the sunshine. But, you really shouldn’t miss a visit to Taormina’s Greek theater. Built by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC, the Romans later repaired and expanded it.
Visit on your own, with a guide, or attend an event (like a concert or a film at the Taormina Film Festival). Enjoy the amazing views of town, the sea, and the star of the show – Mount Etna.
Helpful Tip: Purchase your theatre entrance tickets online, so you don’t have to wait in line at the entrance.
Good To Know: There’s a small café with a terrace overlooking the sea in the rear, upper part of the property.
Stroll Corso Umberto
Taormina’s pedestrian street, Corso Umberto, runs for 800 meters from Porta Catania (west) to Porta Messina (east). It’s lined with shops, restaurants, cafes, and beautiful piazzas.
Helpful Tip: Don’t miss the aptly named Vicolo Stretto (narrow alley).
Walk along the Corso for the evening passeggiata. I also like getting up early to walk it when it’s empty and quiet.
If you love shopping, this is one of the best places on the island to shop at boutiques with clothing, ceramics, art, lace, textiles, jewelry, and other products like Sicilian perfumes.
Yes, plenty of souvenir shops sell t-shirts, postcards, Trinacria magnets, and coral jewelry. But they’re mostly on the side streets – especially on the walk up to the Greek theater.
Helpful Tip: If you like maps and prints, visit L’Agora at Corso Umberto, 133.
Check Out the View from Piazza IX Aprile
This is a prime spot to stop and gaze out at the Bay of Naxos and Mount Etna – day or night. In the daytime, the views are spectacular, and in the evening, you can see the twinkling lights and the orange glow of lava on Mount Etna (if it’s flowing at the moment – we saw it on our recent trip).
Good To Know: This is one of Taormina’s most photographed spots – you’ll probably recognize the black and white patterned floor.
Stop at the Piazza del Duomo
You can go inside the Duomo, but if you’re traveling in Sicily, you’ll have opportunities to see other more impressive cathedrals. Still, it’s lovely to look at from the outside and the fountain (Quattro Fontane) in the center of the piazza steals the show. Atop the fountain sits the centaur, the symbol of Taormina.
Fun Fact: It’s debated whether the statue on top of the fountain is a centaur (human torso with horse bottom) or a minotaur (bull’s head and tail with lower body of a human). Which do you think it is?
Hike Up to Castelmola
Castelmola is a tiny village set in the hills above Cortina. While you can drive or take a bus or taxi, the zig-zag hike up is full of gorgeous views, and it’s a nice way to work off the extra cannoli you’ve been eating.
Read more about Castelmola, including how to get there in our Guide to Castelmola.
Follow the Stations of the Cross to the Madonna della Rocca (Church)
Don’t feel like walking all the way up to Castelmola but still want to hike? Make your way up the 700+ steps to this church and pass the stations of the cross on the way. Madonna della Rocca translates to ‘of the Rock’ because the church is actually built into the rock.
Don’t feel like walking but want to see the church? You can also take the bus or a taxi up and down.
Good To Know: You can see the Castello Saraceno ruins but you can’t go in.
Good To Know: There are a few steep sections.
Pretend You’re a Movie Star
Taormina has been a vacation destination for Hollywood stars like Greta Garbo, and it’s hot in showbiz at the moment because of its part in HBO’s White Lotus – Taormina’s San Domenico Palace is the White Lotus hotel.
Put on your beautiful sundress, slide on your superstar sunglasses, and sip a cocktail in the sun.
Have Aperitivo at Grand Hotel Timeo
Yes, you could also have aperitivo at the White Lotus hotel (San Domenico Palace), but I love the setting and terrace of the Grand Hotel Timeo. It oozes history and charm, it’s light and airy, and the staff are kind and welcoming. The large terrace overlooks town and Mount Etna and it’s a perfect place to toast the day – salute!
Soak up the Sun at Isola Bella
If you’re craving the beach, take the cable car from Taormina down to the sea and explore the WWF nature reserve at Isola Bella. Or, throw your towel down and relax by the sea!
It gets crowded in the summer, but it’s worth checking out if you’re in Taormina.
Helpful Tip: Many people want to hang out on the narrow isthmus that connects Isola Bella to the mainland. You can, but you’ll have people stepping over you and your towel as they walk to and from the island.
Go For a Walk in the Giardini della Villa Comunale
Wander through the unique gardens of an Englishwoman, Lady Florence Trevelyan. She filled the gardens with follies, or buildings that have no purpose (except to be beautiful).
It’s a nice place to visit if it’s hot out as there’s plenty of shade. There are beautiful views from the edge of the gardens.
Good To Know: A highlight for kids is the WW2 torpedo. It’s a human-driven craft (there’s a similar one at the Milan Science Museum).
More Things to Do in Taormina
- Visit during the holidays. Taormina is very festive for Christmas and New Year’s holidays. The city fills with lights, light displays, and a large Christmas tree in Piazza IX Aprile. There’s also a full calendar of events, including an amazing fireworks display on December 31st. Read more about Visiting Taormina in Winter.
- Buy some marzipan
- See the Palazzo Corvaja
Where to Eat in Taormina
Taormina has quite a few restaurants to pick from and if you’ll be hiking or visiting the beach, you can also visit the grocery store (I like the Decò on the western side of town) and purchase picnic supplies. Here are a few recommendations for food and treats in town:
- L’Arco – About Pizza – Sicilian street food like arancini and Sicilian-style pizza.
- Osteria Rosso Divino – Romantic setting (especially in the outdoor courtyard) with excellent food, including seafood.
- Pizzeria Villa Zuccaro – Excellent pizza and typical Sicilian food, sit outside in the courtyard.
- Ristorante al Saraceno – Spectacular views, and delicious cibo siciliano (Sicilian food). Seriously, the views during the day or night make this a must-visit restaurant
- Gelato– Stecco and Gelatomania
Taormina Hotels and Apartments
In general, accommodation in Taormina is expensive, and it probably won’t feel like great value. However, in this case, it’s all about location, location, location. Enjoy staying in Taormina and soaking up all town has to offer.
The best luxury options are San Domenico Palace, a Four Seasons Hotel, and the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo.
There are also quite a few mid-range hotels and many apartments for rent. I usually do a quick check on Booking.com.
Read my post on Where to Stay in Taormina for more info on the best part of town to stay in, what you should pay close attention to (hint: parking options), and I give some recommended hotels and apartments.
Things to Do in Taormina with Kids
There are plenty of things to do with children in Taormina. Our kids love:
- Checking out the puppets on display at D’Agata Giocattoli (Corso Umberto, 111)
- Sampling granite and marzipan
- Exploring the ruins of the Greek Theatre
- Finding the orange glow of lava on Mount Etna at night
- Playing at the playground in the Villa Comunale Gardens
Things to See and Do Near Taormina
- Mount Etna
- Giardini Naxos
- Gole dell’Alcantara (Alcantara Gorges)
Learn more about Day Trips from Taormina
Yes, you can easily visit Mount Etna on a day trip from Taormina. You can drive on your own or take an organized tour. Our family went on a private tour of Mount Etna and we met our guide on the outskirts of Catania.