Tucked away in the mountains along the Northeastern coast of Sicily is the beautiful town of Taormina. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit this city during my stay in Sicily and would love to share some of my recommendations for if you ever get the chance to go.
This town's nickname is "The Pearl of The Mediterranean," and with good reason - it is absolutely stunning! Anthropologists believe that the area was inhabited as early a 734 BC, but it was not established as a city until 392 BC. Many of the Greek and Roman structures are still left standing today, including the ancient Greek theatre. On my short visit to this beautiful city, I was able to hike up to the theatre and take the picture below of the spectacular view. From this elevation, you can see the entire town of Taormina, the beach, and of course Mount Etna towering behind them.
The city is actually located pretty high up in the hills (820 ft). The streets are too narrow for buses, but are accessible by car, or if you choose you may take one of the cable cars from sea level up to the city. It's about a two-minute ride, and it only costs six euros for a two-way trip. You will also have an amazing view on the way up.
What to See:
The Ancient Greek Theatre
This was the first place that we explored upon arriving in Taormina, and trust me, it is an amazing place to start off your visit! Be aware that because of the elevation, there are quite a lot of stairs. But I promise the view is worth every step! Out of all of the ancient theaters I have seen in Sicily, and there have been many, this is absolutely my favorite. From the seats, you can see straight through the arches that overlook the turquoise Ionian Sea, Mount Etna, and the towering mountains. I can only imagine what it must be like to see a play here with such a beautiful backdrop just beyond the stage! Pictures don’t even come close to doing it justice!
This is the most popular beach in Taormina, and I can definitely see why! Its name translates into “Beautiful Island,” and it definitely lives up to this title. In fact, it may be one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! The water is crystal clear, and the rocks just beneath the surface look as if they are glowing. There is an old house on the island that is covered with bright pink flowers as well as many other exotic plants, which make it even more majestic. Unlike the beaches in the US, the beaches here are very rocky, so make sure to throw a pair of water shoes in your suitcase. My friends and I chose to sunbathe on the rocks, and by the end of the day I actually had a few bruises! If you’re not up for that though, there are many chairs that you can rent for about five euros, but bruises are free! The Isola Bella was hands down my favorite part of the trip, so this beach is an absolute must!
This is the main street in Taormina, and it is packed with a variety of restaurants and shops including small boutiques, designer stores, souvenir shops, and more. In the middle of Corso Umberto is an area called the Piazza IX Aprile, also known as "The Living Room" of Taormina. In this square are several different restaurants, a church, and an incredible view of the water and Mount Etna. There are also several artists in the piazza who sell their original paintings and sketches of Taormina. Personally, this is my favorite type of souvenir. At the time of my visit, there was a woman offering to take Polaroid pictures for people with the beautiful scenery in the background. I thought that was a great idea, and now I have two cool Polaroids to serve as mementos of my trip to Taormina.
On our last day in Taormina, my friends and I decided to hike up to one of the castles located above the city, which unfortunately is privately owned and unavailable for tours. However, the view along the way was one of the best parts of my trip! Be aware, it is quite a hike! The climb up the seemingly endless stairs takes about and hour, but it is absolutely worth it! Because we were hiking above the town, you could see all of Taormina, the ancient theatre, the sea, and Mount Etna. It was stunning!
Where to Eat:
La Botte- Because I was only in Taormina for a very short time, I didn't get to try very many restaurants, but this one is a must! It is located just downhill of Corso Umberto, the main street in the city. Taormina actually hosts a film festival every summer, and this is a favorite of the visiting celebrities. The walls on the inside of the restaurant are covered with pictures of their famous guests, but trust me, you will want to sit outside. Their gorgeous patio is covered by a ceiling of thick vines, which gives the crowded space a much more intimate feel. I went here with a very large group, and we all shared each other’s dishes. Everything I tried was amazing, so I'm not sure that you can make a bad choice here!
Where to Stay:
The Belmond Grand Hotel- This is the most famous hotel in Taormina, and it is extremely popular during the film festival. Sadly I did not have time to go in and take a peek, but it looked incredible from the outside. Based on its location just beneath the ancient theatre, it probably has the best view in all of Taormina! Even if this hotel is out of your price range, like it was mine, I would recommend at least going to the bar or the restaurant to have a look around. I wish I would have had the time to do so.
If it weren't for the fact that I had classes the next day, I would definitely have stayed in Taormina longer. If you are interested in visiting Taormina, which I highly recommend if you ever have the opportunity, look online and at various travel books to find some more information on where to go and different places to stay. Of all the places I visited during my six weeks in Sicily, Taormina remains the highlight of my trip!