8 Reasons Why You Should Visit Taormina, Sicily
Taormina on the island of Sicily is a dream travel destination for many reasons. Before we had kids, Travel Chic Dad and I visited our friends in Sicily one summer, and we stumbled upon the town of Taormina. It was the luckiest of discoveries, as we made no plans beforehand and simply fell in love with the city upon arrival.
We loved visiting this lovely Mediterranean city as a young couple. We zipped up and down the hills on the rented scooter, went swimming in the sea on a whim, walked around town late at night, and fully enjoyed the Italian dolce vita in this perfect little town-on-a-hill in Sicily. I think Taormina is as good as it gets as a romantic trip destination, but it can be as enchanting for solo travelers and families, too. You really can't be disappointed when you visit this town. Here are the reasons why I recommend visiting Taormina if you have a chance.
1. It's a perfect encounter between Terra e Mare (Land and Sea)
Taormina is perched on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea with Mount Etna in the background. It sits close to the port of Messina and has become a popular stop-over for cruise ships. Go for a swim in the turquoise waters, or go for a hike up in the hills, you get a perfect blend of "surf and turf".
2. You Will See Mediterranean Colors Like You've Never Seen Before
I'm not sure whether they have a local law requiring all houses to be built in pink and ochre, and to have bright fuchsia flowers all around, but that's what the town has accomplished. The result is a stunning image of an earthy-pink town carved into the hills, with bright bougainvilleas and dark green Mediterranean cypress everywhere, all set against the aquamarine skies and turquoise waters. You'll find yourself taking many, many pictures.
3. You Can See History Lessons Come to Life
This highly-strategic place right in the center of the Mediterranean Sea has seen major history actions over the millennia. Taormina has been inhabited since around 800 BC and has changed hands between Sicels, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, French, Spanish, and Italians. There are traces of all these civilizations in Taormina. Walk around the city center, you'll see Roman stone pavements, Byzantine mosaics, Baroque fountains, the Norman-Arab Duomo, and even an 19th century Anglican church. Taormina will definitely please the history buffs and antique hunters. Which brings us to the next reason why you should visit Taormina...
4. You Can Visit a 2,000-Year-Old Ancient Greek-Roman Theatre
We can't exactly call it the ruins, because this Greek-Roman Amphitheater perched on the hill overlooking the Mediterranean is surprisingly well-preserved and is still used as a concert venue today. The panoramic view of the sea and Mount Etna is dramatic, now imagine hearing Puccini from the aisles at the Ancient Theatre of Taormina... You will surely have a heightened experience of Turandot, or any opera here in the Teatro Greco.
5. You Can Swim with Fish around Isola Bella
The little island Isola Bella is nicknamed "Pearl on the Ionian Sea". It sits in the center of a little bay on the coast of Taormina, and makes for a perfect place for a relaxing afternoon on the beach. It's a also a great place for snorkeling, as the rocky beach in the bay provides a natural shelter for many marine animals. Go later in the day to avoid the crowd, and you'll have a peaceful, quiet time looking at Isola Bella at sunset.
6. You Can Get a Glimpse of Ancient Naxos at Giardini Naxos
Giardini Naxos lies on the coastal curve embraced by Taormina and Cape Schisò. It's a short Vespa ride away from Taormina. When Taormina starts to feel a little too unreal, a little trip to down-to-earth Giardini Naxos can be fun. We picked up some delicious prosciutto and Sicilian cheese from a small deli and simply dined on the beach.
This precise location was where the Greeks first settled on the island of Sicily, supposedly. In the archaeological park of Naxos, we can see rock wall foundations of Greek temples and shrines. There are also traces of the ancient agora and port. You can walk around Giardini Naxos and imagine some very different sceneries here some two thousand years ago.
7. You Can Indulge in Sicilian/Italian Food
Sicilian cuisine is rich in colors of all the cultures that came to stay. We had Italian carpaccio topped with Sicilian cheese, Catanian Pasta alla Norma, and Oriental-flavored Cassata Siciliana and cannolo siciliano. Many restaurants offer amazing view, our favorites were lunch at Granduca in downtown and dinner at Ristorante Al Saraceno. Al Saraceno is on top of the hill with an amazing view of Taormina and the fiery Mount Etna that glows in the dark, perfect for a romantic dinner for two.
8. It's A Vibrant City That Doesn't Sleep
As the saying goes, this city is a butterfly by day and a firefly by night. Corso Umberto, the main street in Taormina, lights up at dusk and gets filled with people dressed to the nines out on the town for fun. But it's not just for the party-goers, you can simply stroll down the medieval streets and admire the well-lit architecture.
If you're lucky, you might even run into Angelina Jolie! Well, the portrait of Angelina Jolie at least.
Travel Chic Mom's Tips for visiting Taormina
How to Get There and When to Go
The best way to get to Taormina is to fly to Catania, Sicily. From Catania Fontanarossa Airport to Taormina center, you can take the train (~1 hour) or the bus (~1.5 hours), both are economical options. Otherwise you could book a private airport transfer, for around €75 you can arrive in Taormina center in less than an hour.
Taormina does get quite crowded in the summer, so going there in May or September is probably the best time to get the best hotel deals. However, we visited Taormina in July and did not find it unpleasant. There were some cruise groups in town here and there, but it didn't feel overrun by tourists.
Where to Stay
These two sister hotels are luxury hotels with amazing architecture and views. Grand Hotel Timeo is next to the Ancient Theatre of Taormina on the hill, and Villa Sant'Andrea is close to Isola Bella on the coast with a private beach. Both are gorgeous, there's a shuttle bus that connects the two, and guests of either hotel can use the facilities of the other hotel. If you're ready for a splurge, then either will give you an amazing stay in Taormina.
* Added bonus for family with kids: these hotels have great family-friendly features, check out their "Kids Club" features here.
This Leading Hotels of the World property is set in a 15th century convent. It is sumptuous, with a rooftop garden and pool that overlook the Taormina coastline, and it has a Michelin 2 star restaurant onsite. A stay at this hotel will definitely be a memorable one.
Mid-range boutique hotel and a bit further from city center, this hotel nevertheless has all that you'd hope for in Taormina: beautiful view, historical villa, great Sicilian food. It's small, intimate, and charming, probably my favorite combination when it comes to hotels.
And of course, last but not least, there's always...
Airbnb. Sign up and get a $25 credit on me!
A Word on Hotel Bookings
I personally like to use Booking.com when I book hotels because of the competitive prices and the free-cancellation policy (most of the times) if something comes up. Book using the above affiliate links or the Taormina page to help support TravelChicMom.com ~ I highly appreciate it.
And here's my Taormina Map including the places mentioned in this post:
Pin for your future reference: