Too busy compared to other towns on the island, a precious vantage point giving onto Mount Etna and a draw for those looking for where to take their marriage vows. Taormina is ravishing and tourist-oriented. Its attraction for people from the world of art, the nobility and the wealthy is not only recent. As in the past it was the capital of the Byzantine island, today it plays host to the celebrated Taormina Film Festival. Taormina is only calm in the low season.
What to See and Do
Taormina’s main information office is on Corso Umberto I and provides information in different languages.. The Teatro Greco on Via Teatro Greco is the most fascinating sight maybe. It dates back to the 3rd century BC and is beautifully located with a great view over the sea. When the Romans took the town they unfortunately made changes such as covering the beautiful views with a colonnade, and tearing down the stage and orchestra pit to make room for an arena for gladiators’ combat. It was even changed again when the Spanish family of Constanza d’Aragona erected their house on a part of the theatre. At present some of the changes have disappeared and the view came back again. As designed originally by the Greeks. The theatre plays host to the International Taormina Arte. For a passeggiata, stroll the medieval streets around the Corso Umberto I lined by antique and craft shops, delis and designer boutiques. Then you can head for Piazza IX Aprile which offers breathtaking views of Mount Etna and is lorded over by Chiesa San Giusseppe, built in the rococo style, and Porto di Mezzo e Torre dell’Orologio, a tower built in the 12th century. The gate opens onto the oldest part of Taormina Borgo Medievale. Piazza del Duomo is enthroned by an intricately ornate baroque fountain adorned with the centaur and angel representing Taormina. The square is soared over by the 13th century cathedral. The Spanish modified it in the Renaissance style in the15th century. Palazzo Duca di Santo Stefano still keeps its Norman Gothic windows. Other stately buildings which are available to visits are Palazzo Corvaja (where tourist information office is today), Palazzo Ciampoli (today converted into a hotel) and the 14th century Badia Vecchia with its Norman-Arab features. The summit of Monte Tauro on whose terraces Taormina lies, can be reached by means of a staircase. At the end of the ascent are the Saracen castle and the Santuario Madonna della Rocca and great views You can also reach it by car driving along the road connecting to Castelmola. Villa Comunale or Parco Duchi di Cesaro on Via Bagnoli Croci offers a children playground and perfect setting for tossing a blanket, relaxing and picnicing. From these gardens, one of the most attractive in Sicily, there are precious views of the bay. If you are into beach-life head for Lido Mazzarò (Picture 2) by the cable car that leaves from Via Luigi Pirandello. There you will find bars and restaurants and you can rent umbrellas and deckchairs. A sight to do here is to go to Capo Sant’Andrea by boat and reach the tiny Isola Bella, which was bought by Lady Florence Trevelyan, the same women the Villa Comunale was designed for. Isola Bella is at present a world wildlife fund’s reserve. You can anyway snorkel around it which is magnificent. And if you want to improve or learn about this sport, Nike Diving Centre has different courses for different levels of expertise. Below the autostrada, down a staircase, through a tunnel you reach Spisone, the real sandy beach of the area. Among the festivals held in Taormina is the Raduno del Costume e del Carretto Siciliano in which Sicilian carts and people dressed in typical costumes travel along the streets. The festival is generally celebrated in autumn. In July and August Taormina Arte gathers the international jet set and international artists. The festival includes films, theatre performances and concerts. Shopping pleasure find lots of places to fulfil your expectations. There are shops supplying ceramics, lace and linen tableware, antiques and jewellery. You can even get your purchase packed and shipped without any charge. Buy wine, conserves, liqueur and honey at La Torinese (Corso Umberto-Picture 3), jewellery made of materials from nature at Kiseki (Corso Umberto I) and creative ceramics at Carlo Mirella Panarello (Via A Marziani).
Where to Eat and Drink
La Piazzetta on Via Paladini is a deservedly well-liked restaurant. Great pizza, perfect sights from its terrace and international menu is what you will find at Granduca on Corso Umberto I.. Al Duomo on Vico Ebrei requires reservation for it is a big draw and recommendable. Casa Grugno, housed in a Catalan farmhouse (Via Santa Maria dei Greci), serves international dishes. On Via Domenico de Guzman you will find Maffei’s, which has great dishes based on fish. Refined La Giara is an art deco restaurant-cum-piano bar serving great dishes with some creative touches. Café Wunderbar on Piazza IX Aprile and Pasticceria Gelateria Etna (a café-cake shop) on Corso Umberto I are two recommendable places. In the summer time the Arabian style Marrakesh Cafè (Piazza Garibaldi) fills with customers from all over the world. Shatulle (Piazza Paladini) is a big draw for the gay and lesbian community . Refined, well cared and fashionable Q Loungebar (Piazzetta Paladini) Bar serves great drinks. The Irish style O’Seven Irish pub provides an ideal spot to enjoy the passeggiata over a good drink.
How to Get to/around/away
BY BUS: from Messina (length: 1 ½ hours, services: 5 Mon-Sat), for Catania (length: 1 ½ hours, services: 5 Mon-Fri), to Alcantara Gorge (services: 4 a day), to Castelmola (length: 15 minutes, services: 5 a day). BY CAR OR MOTORCYCLE: You reach Taormina driving along the A18 and the SS114 connecting Messina and Catania. Already in tow remember that Corso Umberto I is pedestrian only BY TRAIN. To Messina (length: 40 minutes, services: every hour), to Catania (length: 45 minutes).