Regardless of how long you intend to stay in Sicily, the town of Taormina should be at the top of your list of places to visit on the island. From pretty piazzas to an ancient theater to lots of shopping, the city is worth dedicating a few days out of your travel schedule. It’s as gorgeous as you can imagine an Italian town to be right from the moment of arrival, with numerous historic sites to see, fun things to do and dishes to devour.
If you don’t have tons of time to dedicate to your visit, even a one-day trip is bucket list worthy. I took a day excursion to Taormina while aboard Costa Cruise’s Costa Smeralda ship and fit it a BUNCH of fun stuff!
The Best Things to Do in Taormina Sicily (Including the Ancient Amphitheater!)
1. Admire the Piazza Duomo
Piazza Duomo is undoubtedly one of Taormina’s most significant attractions, located right in the heart of the old town of Taormina Sicily. It houses the Cathedral, which is among Taormina’s most valuable historic spots. Additionally, it is the home to a fountain designed in fabulous Baroque style, with Taormina’s symbol, a Minotaur statue, standing at its center, as well as the town hall.
Whether you plan to specifically visit the Cathedral, or join any of the walking tours arranged in Taormina, you can’t escape from passing through the Piazza Duomo.
You can easily navigate to Piazza Duomo on your own, but it if you want to know more about the buildings and history then take the Sunset Walking Tour or a fun 3-hour Segway Tour.
2. Book a Room at Casa Cuseni (Where Picasso Stayed)
Casa Cuseni is a gorgeous villa that mixes the Art Nouveau style of architecture with Sicilian style, the end result being something incredibly beautiful, unique and timeless. From antiques to frescoes, and a lush library full of rare copies of classics, it’s a sight you’ll want to see with your own eyes.
While Casa Cuseni was originally designed for private use, to cover the costs of home maintenance, some of the rooms became available for renting to distinguished guests—among these was the famed painter Pablo Picasso. T
The villa operates as a museum today, but also doubles as a B&B, giving you the unique opportunity to spend the night just like one of those acclaimed guests from the past century. Check latest prices here: Casa Cuseni Maison De Charme.
3. Chiesa di San Pancrazio/Church of St. Pancrazio
Chiesa di San Pancrazio is a modest-looking church is considered to be one of the most significant places to stop at during your time in Taormina. Once you step indoors, you can marvel at the gorgeous paintings, while simultaneously taking in the oldness, small size, and modesty of the church. The church was named after a Taormina-based Christian martyr, Pancrazio, who died around 40 AD. He’s said to have been from Cilicia (known as Adana today, located in Turkey), but was sent to Sicily to become the first bishop in Taormina. Although the church may have a modest feel, the story of the saint it’s named after more than makes up for it.
4. Relax at Morgana Lounge Bar
While checking out the local scene for night-time fun, Morgana Lounge Bar is one place that cannot be missed. Vibrantly furnished and decorated, it offers a cozy atmosphere, perfect for those who like to have their drinks in a fun but relaxing environment.
Their signature menu is stylish, unique, and funky, all at the same time–and you’ll want to try each of those drinks! No matter the day of the week or time of season, at Morgana Lounge Bar you can have a good time, whether you opt to sit at a corner table quietly sipping your drinks while you examine the happenings, or you find yourself right in the middle of all the action.
5. See the Church of St. Joseph (Chiesa di San Giuseppe)
Much like other places in Italy, Taormina is also full of beautiful churches. Chiesa di San Giuseppe was built sometime between late 1600s and early 1700s following Baroque style. It’s located on Piazza IX Aprile, next to the Clock Tower, with a double staircase leading you to the entrance. The church’s main portal is made with different varieties of local marble. The beauty of the church’s design continues indoors, complete with marble statues and frescoes.
6. Have Dinner with a View at Al Saraceno
Al Saraceno restaurant, located right above Taormina, combines together two amazing things: gorgeous town views and pizza! While you’re in Taormina Sicily, I highly recommend giving this spot a try at least once—it’ll fill your needs for pizza and a scenic dinner in one fell swoop.The gorgeous scenery from the restaurant not only consists of the town of Taormina, but offers views reaching Etna and the Gulf of Giardini Naxos.
The restaurant is located right next to the historic church called Madonna della Rocca, so you get to take in some picturesque history as a cherry on top of your dining experience.
7. See an Opera at San Giorgio Theater
Located in Taormina’s City Center, the San Giorgio Theater offers spectacular showings of Italian operas. Each show features both arias and duets of the most internationally famous Italian lyric repertoires. You can hear tunes from Mozart to Rossini, with the famed opera pieces sung over a piano. The setting at the theater is impeccably intimate, perhaps more so than what you’re accustomed to at most operas. That makes an evening at this Italian opera assuredly unique and unmissable. During a break from the opera show, you can enjoy a delicious drink while taking in the panoramic views of the bay of the Perla della Ionio from the theater’s terrace.
8. Explore Mount Etna
Mount Etna is located a little over an hour away from Taormina and while you can catch sights of the mountain from different parts of Taormina, it’s definitely a worthwhile destination to go visit from up close. After all, it is one of the most active volcanoes in the entire world, having erupted enough times in 2021 alone to have grown 100 feet more in height, standing at over 11,000 feet altogether!
In general it’s one of the tallest volcanoes in Europe, only losing in height to Russia’s Mount Elbrus (which hasn’t erupted since 50 AD) and Tenerife’s Teide (which hasn’t erupted in more than 100 years).
For an extra bucket list worthy experience take a private tour in 4×4!
9. Find Your Favorite Balcony
In all honesty, just the numerous gorgeous balconies on the streets of Taormina make it a bucket list topping destination to visit! For whatever reason, the locals love to pour their heart into their balconies, and it shows, in a way that shapes up some of the most gorgeous streets in all of Sicily. So, whilst in Taormina Sicily, why not challenge yourself to find as many beautiful balconies as possible—either throughout your stay, or by dedicating one whole day to it—and then choosing your favorite among them? I guarantee you though, that while finding those balconies will be an easy feat, picking your favorite among them may not be so simple!
10. Eat the Famous Arancini at Da Cristina
If you want to get the best Arancini while in town, you must head to Da Cristina! Although they may not have the most historic roots, having started up business in 1980, they have fabulously nailed down the essence and flavors of Sicilian cuisine. They serve a variety of things, including pizza, mostly on a take-out concept, but it’s their arancini specifically that has people flooding in through their doors.
11. Visit the Hilltop Village of Castelmola
Located right above Taormina, Castelmola is a hilltop village with a population of just above 1,000. Its origins lead all the way back to the times of ancient Greece. In fact, Castelmola was originally proposed as Taormina’s acropolis, so a fortified part of Taormina. It has since become a popular tourist destination, thanks to its long history and medieval design. It is also thought to be one of the most beautiful villages in all of Italy. After you’ve made your way to the village and have spent some time looking around, do not forget to stop at Caffè S. Giorgio, an old café built in 1700, located at the village square.
12. Make a Quick Stop at The Odeon
The Odeon, a small theater, is another sight in Taormina with origins to the ancient times, having been built by the Romans in the year of 21 BC. It really is quite small for a theater from its time, but a great showcase nevertheless of how highly regarded culture was in Taormina in the ancient days. To add a bit more excitement to your visit, The Odeon was actually found entirely by accident a little over 100 years ago, and prior to that it hadn’t even been thought to exist! So in a way it is a hidden gem in its truest meaning.
13. Visit the Medieval Palazzo Corvaja
Built in the late 14th century, Palazzo Corvaja is a lovely medieval palace located in Piazza Badia. It is named after the family of Corvaja, one of Taormina’s oldest and most famous families; they also owned the palace for 400 centuries. Today it operates as an exhibition center, housing the Sicilian Museum of Art and Traditions. It’ll be a great visit for any history fiend, especially if you’d also love to take a deeper dive into Sicilian culture. In its architecture, you can see the influences of Arab, Norman and Spanish styles stemming from their past invasions of Sicily.
14. Ride the Mazzarò-Taormina Cable Car
By taking the cable car you can reach Mazarrò, Taormina’s coastal part, in just two minutes, all the while admiring the views along the way. You can get to the cable car by finding your way to Via Luigi Pirandello, which is just minutes away from Porta Messina. Once in Mazzarò, you can enjoy the beach of Isola Bella, which is about 500m away. It’s a great place to hit up during the summer season for sun tanning and swimming, but it can be just as lovely to go there for a stroll in the winter. If up for it, you can also join the local diving school at the beach.
15. Santuario Madonna della Rocca
Santuario Madonna della Rocca is a small church that was built into a rock, somewhere around 1600, next to the Benedict Monastery. It originally contained a sanctuary, but it has since been abandoned. Besides the church and the Odeon theater “next door”, you can catch some breathtaking views from its spot.
There is a panoramic staircase that you can take to reach the church and it’s probably the most scenic of all the options (you’ll find the start of the staircase at Via Circonvallazione). By foot, it shouldn’t take you longer than 30 minutes to reach the church, but you can also reach near the site by bus or by car.
16. See St Nicolas Cathedral of Taormina
St Nicolas Cathedral of Taormina is the cathedral that stands on Piazza Duomo, the town square introduced earlier on. It was first constructed in the 13th century, and has been rebuilt a couple of times over the centuries that followed, most recently in the 18th century.
This cathedral is one of Taormina’s most important sights to see. It has a truly unique appearance, as its architecture appears to be more similar to what you’d expect of a fortification rather than a church. Inside you can find gorgeous windows, columns, and even door jambs with figures carved on them. On both sides of the main altar, you can find smaller chapels, one which is Baroque style and the other that is more Gothic.
17. Shop Along Corso Umberto
Corso Umberto is the main street of Taormina that is reserved for pedestrians only—and it is ideal for shopping! Its name is a dedication to Umberto I of Savoy, who was the king of Italy between 1878 and 1900. It used to be a part of the ancient street of Via Valencia.
Besides shopping, you can also admire the different styles of architecture, from Arabic to Spanish and Baroque to Gothic. These architectural marvels include palaces and churches, making Corso Umberto an unbelievably fun place to stroll, shop, and sightsee through, all the while remaining right at the historic center of Taormina.
18. Ogle Porta Messina
At the very furthest end of Corso Umberto street lies Porta Messina, a stunning arched gateway, it basically serves as an entrance to Taormina and its historic center. For perhaps the perfect combination of the two, find your way to Porta Messina, admire your surroundings for a moment, and then enter through the arch to step onto Corso Umberto, and continue to walk along to see some of Taormina’s most gorgeous buildings.
19. Sunbathe on Isola Bella Beach
Reachable by cable car, Isola Bella Beach is a picturesque Sicilian island and beach, where you can sunbathe, swim, or even learn how to dive. It is the one beach in Taormina that everyone goes on and on about, so you better not forget to check it out! You could say that Isola Bella Beach is one of those spots that symbolize Taormina. The island actually lay abandoned for a few decades, until it was bought by a new owner in 1954, and was declared a historical asset in 1984. In 2011, Isola Bella became a public open air museum of sorts.
20. Take in the View at Piazza IX Aprile
Piazza IX Aprile is Taormina’s main square, and also its most gorgeous one. It houses numerous different monuments, such as the Church of St. Joseph and the clock tower next door to it. You can also catch views of Mount Etna and the bay of Naxos right from the square. You can even see Teatro Greco, the ancient Greek theater from this square, meaning it’s a truly central location to many of the best things Taormina has got, and totally picturesque while at it. The clock tower is the square’s most significant building, built originally in the 12th century. Since then it has been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times.
21. Taste Granita at Bam Bar
Located in Taormina’s historical center, right off of Corso Umberto, Bam Bar is a cute little cross between a bar and a café. They are especially known for their granitas, a semi-frozen dessert made with many different flavors. Some of the most popular flavors include strawberry and pistachio, but you’ll have to do some serious sampling in order to discover your personal favorite!
22. View the Bay from Giardini della Villa Comunale
Giardini della Villa Comunale is a gorgeous park and garden makes for an amazing morning or afternoon stroll. It is located within the Municipal Villa for Taormina, and is open for the public to walk in and out. With the sea on one side, and the volcano on the other, you’ve landed yourself in quite a fantastic spot when stepping into this lush garden.
The villa was built for private use in the late 1800s, and was turned into a more public property after the original owner’s death in 1923. There are various plants and shrubbery, from different parts of the world, which you can view and admire in the garden. You can also find some different styles of architectural structures.
23. Day Trip to Alcantara Gorge
Located right by Taormina, the lcantara Gorge makes for a magnificent day trip destination. It holds some of the most diverse biodiversity systems in the entire Mediterranean area, with the gorge specifically being located within a bigger Botanical and Geological Park. Here you can simply enjoy nature, or join in on some activities such as body rafting—a unique activity that ought not to be missed out on during your trip. It is by all accounts a summer destination, but while the gorge may not be at its best outside of the season, there’s plenty to discover within the valley and parks in general.
It’s easiest to visit by taking a tour, and here are some highly rated ones:
24. Visit The Ancient Greek Theatre
Besides the Odeon, the town of Taormina holds another, bigger theater from the ancient times. This ancient Greek theater was built already in the third century BC, although it was then rebuilt during the ancient Romans’ time. It is still in use today, holding the annual Taormina Arte festival, and is in general a great sight of its nature to visit and discover, complete with some impeccable views towards the sea. It’s original purpose was indeed to hold dramatic performances and musicals, but when the Romans rebuilt it, gladiatorial battles and other games became a feat to see at the theater as well.
For the best experience that the Taormina Walking Tour with Greek Theater Visit.
25. Walk Through in the Narrowest Walkway in Town
Vicolo Stretto is officially the narrowest street in any part of Italy, and you must walk through it—if you can fit! It’s impossible for two people to walk through it side by side, but most people can fit single-file. Within the walkway you can find a delicious restaurant, operating under the name Vicolo Stretto which, yes indeed, does translate as narrow alleyway. It is a Michelin star level restaurant, specializing in cooking fish and meat the Sicilian way. Even if you don’t wind up stopping at the restaurant, walking through this walkway will make for a fun addition to your day. Don’t forget to take a photo of yourself at its entrance, either!
. . .
Offering some of the best views in all of Sicily, Taormina is a charming and relaxing town to visit for a couple of days – during which you’ll fall in love to the point you won’t want to leave just yet. For a place its size, it’s amazing how many historic sites and famed delicious eateries it manages to store. Not to mention the easy access from Taormina to attractions like Mount Etna and Alcantara Gorge. Have you booked your tickets and packed your bags for Taormina already?
Essential Tips for Visiting Taormina Sicily
Getting There: Catania Airport is a major hub and most airlines will fly into it. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination. From the airport to the city center, you can take the bus service, train, taxi, or you can rent a car.
Where to Stay in Taormina Sicily: It’s best to stay near the city center, public transportation or the area that you will be spending the most time in. Hotel Villa Belvedere is a great choice in Taormina. For something on the less expensive side, try the Casa Carla al Duomo apartment located in the city center of Taormina. For a hotel with a little more extravagance, book a room at the Grand Hotel Timeo, A Belmond Hotel. Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to Airbnb that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Getting Around: Driving in a new destination can be a bit of a challenge, but if you choose to rent a car, RentalCars.com has great deals. If you are not renting a car, there are plenty of other options. Although almost all of the places in Taormina are within walking distance there are small local buses that you can find. A cable-car connects Taormina with the seaside at Mazzarò, for visits to the beach and Isola Bella. Plus most of the major attractions can be accessed with the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus.
Best Tours in Taormina Sicily: You can find some of the top tours at Get Your Guide or Viator, and here are some of the top ones. tours:
Insurance: It’s always a good idea to travel fully insured so you are protected in case of trip cancellations or medical emergencies. You can check out pricing at Travelex Insurance.
Universal Adapter: Your American plugged equipment will need an adapter. I use the Celtic Universal Adapter, which has brought me around the world with no problems.
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