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Guide to Taormina

A stunning city on Sicily’s eastern coast sometimes called the Pearl of the Ionian Sea, Taormina has a split-level geography that marries a curving, rocky coastline and beaches with an historic hillside town up above.  

The tourist experience here can be surprisingly luxurious, with high-end designer boutiques standing out on the main street of Corso Umberto. It can be jarring if you know that Sicily has long been a fairly poor region, with limited resources and a history of colonization. But if you look a little deeper, you’ll find a more authentic Taormina, with a beautiful history and vibrant local culture.  

Travel Tips

To see Taormina at its best, avoid the tourist crush that comes in the high season. Plan your visit for June or September/October, when the weather will be warm enough to enjoy the water minus the summer crowds.

Many cruise ships stop at Taormina for the day and debark their passengers in the late morning and early afternoon; evenings in town tend to be much less crowded. And don’t be afraid to stray from the beaten path! Wander the narrow alleys and stairways away from the main streets, peek in at small cafés, shops, and restaurants that catch your eye, and make conversation with the locals you encounter.

Use this guide as a starting point, but venture off-list to make your own discoveries to get a better sense of the true Taormina. 

Getting Around

The closest airport is in Catania (CTA), about an hour’s drive south of Taormina, and flights arrive here from most major European and Italian cities. Cabs are available at the airport, or you can arrange a transfer with your hotel before you arrive.  

You can also get here by train from mainland Italy—once you arrive at the Calabrian coast, the train is transported across the water by ferry, the only route in Europe to follow this unique method! Note that the Taormina train station is at the beach level and is a short distance from town, so you’ll need to catch a cab there to take you to your hotel. 

The biggest decision you’ll need to make when planning your trip to Taormina is where to stay: at the beach or in town. A steep hill lies between the two zones; you can climb it in a quaint cable car, a 20-minute or so walk, or by cab. But you may not want to go up and down several times a day, so if your main goal is rest and relaxation, stay at the beach and head up to town for dinner and exploring in the evenings. If you’re more interested in seeing the local culture, or if you have mobility issues, opt for a city stay—once you’re there, the town is small and easily navigated on foot. 

Eat

   Bam Bar

Bam Bar

There’s no better way to start the day than with the traditional Sicilian breakfast of granita and brioche in this cheerful little café that’s easy to spot from the sunny hand-painted tiles outside. The fresh fruit granita flavors are all perfectly refreshing, made with whatever is in season at the moment. Afternoons here can get crowded, so make this your first stop of the day for a leisurely experience.

Via di Giovanni, 5
+39 0942 24355

   Rosticceria da Cristina

Rosticceria da Cristina

Just a short walk from the Greek theater, this casual spot is a welcome stop for arancini, pizza, and other street-food classics to keep your strength up. The super-flavorful local Bronte pistachios are highlighted here in a flavorful pesto that tops a thin-crust pizza with mortadella and mozzarella or fills crispy fried arancini.

Via Giovanni di Giovanni, 28
+39 0942 21171

   Osteria da Rita dal 1991

Osteria da Rita dal 1991

Just a few minutes’ walk from the gardens of the Villa Comunale, this is the perfect place to stop for a late lunch of local favorites like calamari, swordfish involtini, and their namesake Spaghetti za Rita with sun-dried tomatoes, chilis, and garlicky toasted breadcrumbs. They don’t take reservations, so come early or be prepared for a wait—if you’re lucky, local musicians will stop by and play on the piazza to keep you entertained!

Via Calapitrulli, 3
+39 0942 681015

   Trattoria Tischi Toschi

Trattoria Tischi Toschi

Chef Luca Casablanca is dedicated to slow food that showcases the best of what’s in season every day.Inside this eclectic, homey restaurant, you’ll find him circulating among the tables, quick to offer a joke or a wine recommendation. Don’t miss the meltingly tender Polpette di Finocchietto, vegetarian meatballs made from fennel cooked in a rich tomato sauce.

Vico Francesco Paladini, 3
+39 339 3642 088

   Trattoria da Nino

Trattoria da Nino

For more than 50 years, locals have flocked to this family-run restaurant a short walk from the city center for its homestyle cooking and incredible patio view that looks out over the stunning coastline. Pastas tossed with fresh seafood are on every table, and they should be on yours, too—whether you go for vongole, bottarga, sardines, or a frutti di mare mix.

Via Luigi Pirandello, 37 
+39 0942 21265

   Gambero Rosso Taormina dal 1949

Gambero Rosso Taormina dal 1949

As you might imagine, fresh seafood in Taormina is incredible, especially the enormous local shrimp known as gambero rosso. You’ll find them in this historic restaurant’s namesake pasta tossed with tender linguine and a fresh tomato sauce, as well as other delicacies like mussels, octopus, and whole grilled fish.

Via Naumachia, 11
+39 0942 24863

   Pasticceria D’Amore

Pasticceria D’Amore

You can’t visit Sicily without trying the island’s favorite way to eat gelato: sandwiched in a barely sweet brioche bun. This is the place to do it. Be sure to browse the well-stocked bakery counter while you’re here, where you can’t go wrong with a wide selection of miniature local pastries like cassata and almond cookies and crisp cannoli filled to order.

Via Constantino Patricio, 28 
+39 0942 23842 

   Pasticceria Etna

Pasticceria Etna

If you’re spending time on the busy main street of Taormina’s central city, Corso Umberto, make a stop at this perfect little café no matter the time of day; in the morning for a chocolate-filled cornetto and cappuccino, at midday for a decadent, custom-filled cannolo, or in the evening for a spritz and people-watching at an outdoor table. 

Corso Umberto, 112
+39 0942 24735

   Bar Sant’Andrea

Bar Sant’Andrea

The bar at this luxury hotel is worth a stop no matter where you’re staying. You’ll pay elevated hotel-bar prices for your drinks, but they’re beautifully made, with lots of thoughtful non-alcoholic options, and the staff are friendly and happy to make local recommendations. The 360-degree view over Mazzarò Bay at sunset is truly spectacular.

Via Nazionale, 137
+39 0942 627 1200

   Bar Timeo

Bar Timeo

This hotel bar’s elevated patio overlooking the Bay of Taormina and Mount Etna is a can’t-miss choice for beautifully crafted cocktails and what may be the best aperitivo snacks in town, including savory local pistachios and addictive housemade potato chips dusted with dehydrated beet powder.

Via Teatro Greco, 59
+39 0942 6270 200

Do

   Le Colonne

Le Colonne

This family-owned fine jewelry store is led by two women designers who combine antique and modern elements in gorgeous gold and gemstones. Their styles are timeless, with a captivating mix of daintiness and strength. If you’re looking for a wearable souvenir of your time in Taormina or a unique accessory that will spark conversation every time you wear it, this is the place.

Corso Umberto, 164
+39 0942 23680

   Ceramiche Don Corleone

Ceramiche Don Corleone

Sicily has a millennia-old tradition of stunning ceramics, and you’ll find hand-painted ceramic tiles, dishes, and objects with traditional motifs like suns, florals, and intricate geometrics in many shops around town. For a modern twist, check out local artist Antonio Forlin’s boutique on a narrow stairway off Corso Umberto, where influences from Picasso to Pop art combine in his cheerful, eye-catching pieces.

Salità Guglielmo Melivia, 5
+39 0942 24967

   Boat Tour with Boat Excursions Taormina

Boat Tour with Boat Excursions Taormina

Taormina’s coastline dips in and out across many small coves and bays, making it hard to explore them all from land. You’ll see it all much more clearly from the water, especially with a helpful, knowledgeable captain like Daniele, who knows all of the secrets of this island’s water ways. Visit the stunning grotta azzurra, snorkel in the aquamarine waters, or just cruise with a cocktail in hand—whatever your pleasure, they can plan the perfect excursion for you.

Corso Venezia, 21A
+39 02 8416 1374

   Ride the Cable Car

Ride the Cable Car

Wherever you’ve made your base for your stay in Taormina—at the water’s edge or up in the town center—you have to ride this ski lift-like transportation between the two at least once. It’s just a few minutes’ ride and operates late into the night during the summer season, though it’s best experienced during the day so you can appreciate the view as you climb the hillside. 

Via Nazionale, 232, Mazzarò

   Biblioteca Comunale Sant’Agostino

Biblioteca Comunale Sant’Agostino

Once a church dedicated to Saint Augustine built in 1448, this beautiful building has been transformed into a public library with a fascinating collection of antique books and rotating exhibit space. Wandering among the ancient manuscripts while admiring contemporary local art, for example, is a welcome moment of peaceful calm just steps from the bustling Corso Umberto.

Piazza IX Aprile, 1°

   Villa Comunale di Taormina

Villa Comunale di Taormina

Built as the home of a Scottish noblewoman in the late 19th century, this villa’s grounds are now a stunning botanical garden with a terrace view of the coast. Native trees mingle with tropical greenery and colorful flowers, and quirky pavilions and statuary wait to be discovered around every turn.

Via Bagnoli Croci

   Teatro Antico di Taormina

Teatro Antico di Taormina

Evidence of Sicily’s melting-pot culture is everywhere on the island, like this stunningly well-preserved Ancient Greek amphitheater dating back to the 3rd century BCE. Carved out of the side of a mountain and expanded later by the Romans, its stone steps once held more than 10,000 spectators, who would have watched dramatic performances, gladiatorial games, and more here. Today, it is occasionally used to host concerts, operas, and the Taormina Film Festival. Visit in the morning, when it’s quiet, and imagine how life must have been thousands of years ago.

Via Teatro Greco, 1

   Isola Bella

Isola Bella

This not-quite-island connected to the Taormina coast by a narrow strip of sand was once owned by the same woman who lived in the Villa Comunale. She turned this small island into another stunning botanical paradise, wilder than the manicured gardens of her mainland home, and it became a nature preserve maintained by the World Wildlife Fund in 1990. Today it’s free to walk across and costs a small fee to enter the park, a popular spot for sunbathing on its rocky perimeter.

Isola Bella

   Lido La Pigna

Lido La Pigna

Our favorite of the many beach clubs you’ll find on the Taormina coast, this one boasts a fantastic casual beach shack-style restaurant that locals swear has the best spaghetti alle vongole in town. Your fee here gets you a lounge chair with umbrella, shower and changing room access, plus food and drink service directly to your spot on the beach.

Via Mazzarò
+39 0942 24464 

   Day Trip to Castelmola

Castelmola almond wine

High on the hill behind Taormina sits this small medieval village recognized as one of the most beautiful in Italy. Hire a driver to take you up here or take the bus from the station in Taormina’s town center, though there is a mule path that takes about an hour to hike if you’re looking for a serious workout during your vacation. Once you’ve reached the town, you’ll be able to see unmatched views of Mount Etna, the ruins of a Norman castle, and the beautiful Duomo di San Nicolo. Don’t leave without trying the local almond wine invented at the Caffè San Giorgio!

Castelmola

Stay

   Villa Sant’Andrea

Villa Sant'Andrea

If a romantic beachside retreat is what calls to you, make this former private residence built in 1919 your home away from home. The hotel’s private beach club is a luxurious place to pass the day by the water’s edge, and many rooms have balconies that overlook the lush tropical gardens that surround the building or gaze out to sea. The hotel operates a shuttle to take you to the town center whenever you want a taste of city life, or it’s a short stroll to the cable car station to ride up the hill. 

Via Nazionale, 137
+39 0942 6271 200

   San Domenico Palace

Four Seasons Taormina

This iconic Four Seasons property is located in a former 14th-century convent that has been a destination hotel since 1896. Its lush gardens, peaceful rooms, and stunning hillside location are the stuff of dreams, but the most luxurious element here is the friendly, pampering service. They can arrange any local experience you might desire, from a guided day trip to Castelmola to stargazing at Mount Etna.

Piazza San Domenico, 5
+39 0942 613111

   Grand Hotel Timeo

Grand Hotel Timeo

Photo Credit: Grand Hotel Timeo

The very first hotel built in Taormina, this beautiful property next to the Greek Theater has been stunning guests since it opened more than 150 years ago. For a city stay that still feels like a luxurious oasis of calm, this luxury hotel is it. A stunning pool, Michelin-starred restaurant, terraces with views down to the water, and rooms equipped with old-school comfort in mind are all here. Guests here also have access to the private beach club at their sister property, the Villa Sant’Andrea.

Via Teatro Greco, 59
+39 0942 6270 200

   NH Collection Taormina

NH Hotel Taormina

For a more casual city stay, this centrally located hotel in the heart of the city will give you a great home base from which to explore. The oh-so-thoughtful staff will help you with any questions or arrangements you need to make, from restaurant recommendations to airport transfers to hiring guides for day trips out of town. They’re the epitome of warm Sicilian hospitality.

Via Circonvallazione, 11 
+39 0942 625202 

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