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How to spend a day in Taormina, Sicily
Taormina is a picturesque town about 55 km northeast of Catania. She is home to places of extraordinary beauty, including an ancient Greek Amphitheater, and Isola Bella, an incredibly scenic beach with its own little island.
Famed for its beauty, you really shouldn’t miss it if you’re visiting Sicily’s east coast!
I’ve been twice, once in the summer (July) and once in the winter (February), so I’ve combined my tips for both seasons in this post.
Getting to the city center of Taormina By car
In order to reach the city center, you have to park in one of the lots or garages just outside of it. It’s a very hilly walk up, but at the back of the Parcheggio Lumbi, where we stashed our rental car, there’s a large staircase that brings you up to the heart of Taormina.
Here’s some info about all the available parking areas.
Getting to the city center of Taormina by train and bus
Taormina has a train station called Taormina-Giardini. It lies below the city center of Taormina, which can be reached by bus or taxi. The station was designed in the liberty style, which is Italy’s version of art nouveau.
The bus stop is directly in front of the station, on the same side of the street. There are a few bus lines that run up to the center, and you can buy tickets in advance from the bar at the station. I’d suggest just buying them on board from the first bus that passes (we bought them at the station and then had to wait for the right bus to come).
The bus drops you at the terminal on Via Luigi Pirandello, where you’ll find the cable car station that brings you down to Isola Bella (more on that below).
Getting to the city center of Taormina by taxi
Outside of the station, you can easily get a taxi at the stand to the right of the exit. It’ll cost you about 15 euros.
What to do in Taormina
Visit The Greek Amphitheater
The Greek amphitheater of Taormina is believed to have been constructed by Hiero II, a Greek ruler of Siracusa, in the third century BC. His wife’s name, Philistide (yikes), is carved into a part of the building, thus leading archaeologists to believe that he ordered its construction. [Hiero II + Philistide 4eva.] The amphitheater was restored in the second century AD under Roman rule. It is considered to be the most well-preserved ancient ruin in Taormina.
Hiero is called a tyrant, but the man certainly knew where to find the best view in Taormina. Can’t take that away from him. The amphitheater is perched in such a way as to allow visitors to see Etna, in all her massive glory, in the distance, and in the same eyeful, a sweeping view of the Ionian Sea.
Tyrant, shmyrant. The man had an eye.
There was a concert in the amphitheater that night, so our views of the structure itself were a bit obscured by big speakers and lights and whatnot. It wasn’t too bad though, and I’m sure a concert in that setting would be absolutely amazing.
There’s a stunning view just outside of the little museum on one side of the amphitheater. We stopped for a photo shoot.
Cost and practicalities
An adult ticket costs 10 euros. It was absolutely boiling the day that we visited in July, but luckily, there are some trees ringing the top, and even a small museum to visit, so you can escape the sun periodically.
Stroll through the public gardens
The public gardens in Taormina, i giardini della villa comunale, are absolutely beautiful, just like the rest of the city.
Urns filled with flowers sit on stone railings, pavilions peek out from between the trees, and a stunning view of the sparkling sea all sit in the city center.
Entry is free. The gardens are open from 9pm to midnight during the summer, and from 9am to 8pm in the winter.
Check out the view from Piazza IX aprile
Taormina’s most stunning piazza is also home to a Sicilian baroque church, San Giuseppe.
Behind the church, green and gray cliffs soar skyward, and opposite it is yet another sweeping view of the sea.
Go for a swim at Isola Bella
My first visit to Taormina was in July. After visiting the Greek amphitheater, we were more than ready for a dip (read: bathed in sweat), so we left the amphitheater, and started to walk towards the funivia, or cable car, which brings you down towards the beach of Isola Bella.
Taking the cable car from the city center
The stop in the city center is on Via Luigi Pirandello. It runs about every 15 minutes. Here’s a link to some more information about the cable car.
Walking to Isola Bella from the cable car
When you exit the station, you’ll see a small sign in front of you indicating the way to Isola Bella.
We followed the arrow until we reached a large sign for the entrance to the beach. The staircase down to the beach is quite steep and long, but the view makes the hot walk worth it!
The beach at Isola Bella
The beach wasn’t as crowded as I thought it would be, and the cool water was absolutely heavenly after being in the sun all morning. One of the things I really liked about Isola Bella is that large parts of the beach are free. Many beaches in Italy are private, and it was so nice to have a place to just hang out for a few hours without having to pay for a sun bed.
There are a few little cafés and bars where you can enjoy a cold drink and an ice cream, and if you purchase something, you can use the bathroom.
Just wander around
Walking around Taormina, you’re bound to see beauty every which way you look. Take some time to just stroll and soak it all in.
Visiting Taormina in the high season
So I’ve been to Taormina twice now, once in July and once in February.
To me, Taormina is approaching the “made for tourists” feeling that you get sometimes in Italy, whereas the other cities we visited had a more authentic vibe (in addition to Catania and Siracusa, we also went to Noto, Agrigento, and Enna, with quick stops in Marzamemi and Avola).
Visiting Taormina in the low season
In February, of course, there were way fewer tourists, but a lot of things were closed, including the cable car station on Via Pirandello.
Whatever the season, you should go to Taormina just to behold her beauty.
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