Taormina is a charming hillside town and is one of Sicily's most popular tourist resort. It can get very hot and busy during July and August, but the crowds melt away in the evenings. Early summer and autumn are ideal times to visit.
The TIC 1 Servizio Turistico Regionale di Taormina (Ufficio informazioni turistico), is on Largo Santa Caterina (near Palazzo Corvaja), ☎ . Mo-Fr 8:30-14:30 & 15:30-19.00; also May-Nov Sat 9:00-13:00 & 16:00-18:30.
Note that since 2011, the town service provider ASM (which runs the local buses, cable-car and parking lots) has been technically bust. But it's been kept on financial & legal life-support ever since (ciao, welcome to Italy!), and in 2018 these services remain open.
The main town of Taormina, which is what you've come to see, straggles along a hillside, 2 km up a hairpin road from the coast. The main access road is Via Luigi Pirandello (SP10), which leads to the bus station and Porta Messina at the east end of town. The pedestrianised high street Corso Umberto I stretches from here to Porta Messina at the west end. Bypass roads above and below carry the town traffic, while unseen and unheard deep beneath, the Messina-Catania Autostrada burrows through the mountain.
Above the main town, Via Leonardo da Vinci (SP10) continues to zigzag upwards, to Sanctuario Madonna della Rocca and the castle. And on it climbs, to end at the hilltop village of Castelmola. This is actually a separate township but it's such a tiny place, reached only by this road, that its facilities (such as they are) are described on this page.
The name "Taormina" is also loosely applied to the strip along the coast road SS114 below, notably to the railway station Taormina-Giardini-Naxos. Taormina town limits include the beach area of Mazzaro at the foot of the cable-car, and the tip of the peninsula where Via Pirandello starts its climb. Most package tourists stay down there, or in nearby resorts such as Giardini Naxos and Letojanni. Hoteliers down on the coast invoke the T-word to boost their prices, but for practical purposes - and considering the feel and identity of the place - they're altogether somewhere else. Stay in Taormina itself if you can.
The nearest airport is Catania-Fontanarossa. Interbus runs a direct bus between the airport and Taormina, roughly hourly 7 am - 8 pm. The journey takes about 90 mins, fare €8.20 (€7.50 if bought online)
Bus is the best public transport option, as this will bring you up the hill to the town centre 1 bus station, Via Luigi Pirandello. The Interbus from the airport runs via central Catania (80 mins; fares approx €5 single, €8 return). Four buses a day run direct to Taormina from Messina (just under 2 hours, fares €4.30 single, €6.80 return).
There are trains roughly hourly from Messina to the north and Catania to the south, both taking just under an hour. The problem is that the railway station Taormina-Giardini 2 is down on the seafront, a steep 2 km below the main town along a hair-pinning, busy road. You'd have to transfer to the ASM bus or Interbus: the station is equally far from the cable-car.
The exit from the Autostrada is just north of town. Follow road signs onto V Garipoli, which climbs to the long-stay parking lot of Parcheggio Lumbi, a five-minute uphill walk to the east gate of Porta Messina. Ascending V Pirandello from the coast road comes to the same place. Or, from the Giardini area further south on the coast road, you can ascend V Crocefisso, leading to the other long-stay lot Parcheggio Porta Catania just below the west gate of Porta Catania.
If your accommodation is outside the pedestrianised area, you may drive on to reach it, by the anti-clockwise one-way system. (Miss your turn-off and you'll have to make another 3 km circuit.) If it's within, ring ahead for advice: it may be okay for you to come to the hotel and drop off, otherwise park in the closest long-stay and schlep. Parking tariffs are about 50 cents per hour up to 48 hours, thereafter 6 euros a day.
Cruise ships occasionally moor offshore or at nearby ports, and bus their customers up to Taormina. But these are tour itineraries, and not available to book for point-to-point travel.
Most of the centre of Taormina is pedestrianised, making it easy to wander around by foot.
ASM runs four local bus lines:
- Linea verde (the "Green Line") runs between Madonna della Rocca next to the castle at the top of town; down through the centre, main bus station, and Lumbi car park; on down to the foot of the cable-car at Mazzaro; then south along the coast past the railway station, then a final turn uphill to St Vincent's Hospital. There are 8 services on Sundays but only four the rest of the week.
- Trappitello runs from central Taormina past Lumbi car park to the coast road and railway station, then south to the village of Trappitello. Five times a day Mon-Fri.
- Circolare rossa (the "Red Circle") loops round town centre and Lumbi car park. Roughly hourly Sunday, no mid-morning or afternoon buses midweek.
- Beachbus runs from central Taormina down to the coast, then north to Mazzeo, a short walk from Letojanni. Seven per day.
By cable car
- 3 Funivia Taormina. Daily 08:00-22:00. The cable car runs every 15 mins between Taormina town centre and Mazarro down on the beach. (It was closed over winter 2017/18, but re-opened in March.) €3 single.
Despite of its relatively small size the town is rich in history.
- 1 Teatro Antico (Teatro Greco), Via del Teatro Greco, 1. From 09:00 daily; Nov-Feb to 16:00, Mar & Oct to 17:00, Apr & Sep to 18:00, May-Aug to 19:00. Ancient theatre of Grecian origin, but re-built in Roman brick in the 3rd C BCE. Impressive for the views and because the proscenium (the back-drop) survives, unlike in most amphitheatres. €10.
- 2 Piazza IX Aprile. A square with a balcony facing the Mediterranean Sea and Mount Etna. In the corner of the square stands the
- 3 Torre dell'Orologio/ Porta di Mezzo,. A clock tower and gate to the southern part of Taormina.
- 4 Palazzo Corvaja (Corvaja Palace). Medieval palace, dating from the 10th century. Originally built by the Arabs when they ruled over Taormina. The main body is an Arabic tower. It has also an inner courtyard where the Arabic influence can been seen in the architecture.
- 5 Odeon. Remains of a small theatre built by Romans in 21 B.C.
- 6 Parco Duca di Cesarò (Villa Comunale), Via Bagnoli Croci (Stairs down from main town). 8AM to sunset. Restful gardens, populated by mock-oriental follies on the verge of tumbling down. The gardens are the creation of Florence Trevelyan (1852-1907), an English conservationist who also bought Isola Bella. She settled and married here and is buried in nearby Castelmola.
- 7 Palazzo Badia Vecchia. It was though that this fine Gothic tower used to host an abbey (Abbazzia).
- 8 Palazzo dei Duchi di Santo Stefano. Built in a style similar to Badia Vecchia. Now it's a site of the Fondazione Mazzullo, which hosts a collection of numerous works of the artist Giuseppe Mazzullo.
- 9 Naumachie. The remains of a 120 m long Roman structure. Probably it was a part of nymphaeum, with a monumental fountain. Now it's merely foundation for a few buildings.
- On the coast at the foot of town adjacent to Giardini Naxos:
- 10 Isola Bella (Parco di Isolabella). Dec-Mar Tu-Su 09:00-14:00. This is the tiny tombola island seen below, now a nature reserve. You can paddle out to it but the museum is closed and the beach is sharp volcanic shingle, so it's probably best admired from the terraces up the hill. €4.
- 11 Villa Caronia, Via Luigi Pirandello, 105. T-F 09:30-13:30. Small museum, appears to be closed in 2018. €4.
- Wander up and down the main street - Corso Umberto I taking in the sights
- Walk down from Castelmola village to Taormina (or vice versa if you're fit). This path is in decent condition, unlike the path between Taormina and railway station, which remains unsafe.
- A vintage self-drive excursion or a themed tour on a classic Fiat 500, starting from Taormina and Giardini Naxos area. The most popular excursions are themed on the Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather movie and on the Etna Wines Road. You can reach villages like Savoca and Forza D’Agrò. Contact 500 Vintage Tour - Classic car hire & tours - Taormina - Phone +39 3497234906 - Email: email@example.com - Website: 500 Vintage Tour
- There are plenty of souvenir shops.
- Gelatomania, Corso Umberto, 7, ☎ . Daily 9.30 am till half-past-midnight. Gelateria with big portions, mostly happy customers, has dairy-free alternatives.
- Ristorante Mirage, Via Roma 7 (Next to Hotel Monte Tauro). Customers have enjoyed the views of Naxos bay and Mount Etna, but are not always impressed by the food or service.
- Casa Giolì, Vico Giordano Bruno, 8 (Opposite Piazza Duomo), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sicilian gastronomy. Prices are high.
- 1 Al Giardino, Via Bagnoli Croci, 84, ☎ . Daily noon - 2.45 pm & 6 pm - 1 am. Good food and friendly service.
- Gianni House, 47 Via Pergusa, Giardini-Naxos (off SS114), ☎ . 2-star hostel near beach
- Albergo Victoria, Corso Umberto, 81 (Historical centre), ☎ , fax: . Central 2-star place
- Dolphins Guest House, 46 Vico B S Pancrazio. Has single, double and triple bed rooms starting from €25. Spacious, clean accommodation
- Hotel Del Corso, Corso Umberto 238 - Porta Catania, ☎ , fax: . 3-star 80€.
- Hotel Jonic Mazzaro, 224 Via Nazionale (on SS114), ☎ , fax: . Cliffside 3-star hotel overlooking the Bay of Mazzaró. Close to the transport link down to the beach.
- Hotel La Pensione Svizzera, via Luigi Pirandello, 26 - 93039, ☎ , fax: . 3-star, outside the town center and a few metres from the bus station.
- Hotel Villa Gaia, Via Fazzello, 34 (30 metres from the Duomo), ☎ , fax: . 2-star hotel. Single room from 85€, double from 120€.
- Villa Il Glicine, Viale S. Pancrazio 25-27, ☎ . Group of family-sized apartments with private terraces and facilities and the services of the nearby 3-star Hotel Jonic. Full kitchen facilities and home comforts are all provided in this recently-built structure.
- Hotel Villa Schuler, 16 Via Roma (at Piazzetta Bastione), ☎ . 4-star, surrounded by its own extensive gardens. Central and quiet position. Own garage with valet parking. 21 spacious rooms and 6 Junior Suites with 24-hour room service, parking, garages, solarium, sport activities and shuttle service to the hotel beach. Free Wi-Fi. Doubles from 200€.
- Hotel Taodomus, Corso Umberto, 224, ☎ , fax: . 3-star in the historical centre.
- Ariston, 168 Via Bagnoli Croce, ☎ , fax: . 4-star
- Hotel Caparena, Via Nazionale, 189 (on beach off coastal hwy), ☎ , fax: , e-mail: email@example.com. 4-star hotel with spacious rooms on the beach. Features 3 restaurants, 3 bars and a wellness and beauty centre.
- Residence degli Agrumi (Residence of Citrus), Via Di Giovanni 67, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. In a quiet location overlooking a terrace with evergreen plants, prickly pears and lemon trees. Each apartment is bright and spacious with a TV, radio and washing machine.
- Villa Angela, Via Leonardo Da Vinci (on Hwy SP10), ☎ . 4-star near Greek Theatre
- Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, Via Teatro Greco, 59, ☎ . 5-star plush place in extensive gardens. Kaiser Wilhelm II stayed here in 1906.
- Hotel Villa Carlotta Taormina, Via Pirandello 81, ☎ , fax: . 4-star castle-like Sicilian villa.
- Villa Ducale, Via Leonardo da Vinci 60, ☎ , fax: . 4 star boutique hotel.
- Diamond Resort Naxos, Via dei Sei Mulini, Giardini Naxos (corner of Via Sirina), ☎ . 5 star spa with indoor & outdoor pools
- NH Collection Taormina (Hotel Imperiale), Via Circonvallazione, 11 (Historic centre), ☎ , fax: . 5-star hotel in centre with free Wi-Fi, a spa, a terrace with city views & an outdoor pool.
- Hotel Méditerranée, Via Circonvallazione, 61 (off Via Leonardo da Vinci (SP10)), ☎ , fax: . 4-star hotel overlooking the sea from a great height, with outdoor swimming pool, restaurant and large meeting facilities plus access to the private beach of the sister hotel on the coast.
- Hotel Villa Sirina, 30 Via Crocifisso (S & below main town), ☎ , fax: . 4-star historic villa at the foot of Taormina with a wonderful view of Giardini-Naxos Bay. Note there is another Villa Sirena on Via Pirandello.
- Hotel Villa Taormina, 39 Via Tommaso Fazzello (At W end of town above cathedral), ☎ . An antique residence in the heart of Taormina surrounded by a typical Sicilian garden with pleasant scents. Antique furnishings, panoramic terrace with a splendid view.
- Belmond Villa Sant Andrea, 137 Via Nazionale, Mazzarò (On coast off Hwy SS114), ☎ . This 5-star hotel was built in 1830 by an aristocratic British family. Charming rooms overlooking the bay.
- 4 Danger: Percorso pedonale Taormina - Mare (between Via Madonna delle Grazie and lower Taormina next to the railway station). Don't use it! It's dangerous. The path in its lower part is destroyed by a landslide. The rest of the path is still walkable, but its condition is extremely poor and unsafe.
Castelmola 5 is a village 5km above Taormina. It's built around the ruins of a Norman castle, which used to be the citadel of Taormina. The Interbus takes 15 mins, leaving Taormina M-F at 09:40, 10:40, then every 2h until 18:40, Sundays less frequently. You can also walk up the footpath, it's in need of repair but basically safe, unlike the path from Taormina down to the coast.
- Eat: options include Ristorante Parco Reale, Pier de Cat Bistro, Gallo Cedrone and Taverna dell'Etna.
- Drink: bars include Cosmopolitan Bar D'Allura Giuseppe, and the one everyone's heard about: Bar Turrisi, Via Pio IX 19, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Daily 9AM-2AM. This bar has a theme: penises. Quite a lot of them. An allusion to Greek antiquity, the owner says. Still, if it keeps drawing the visitors . . .
- Sleep: accommodation, all along the road up from Taormina, includes Villa Pace B&B, Hotel Villa Sonia, Villa Regina, and B&B Casa Bellavista. There are several other small B&Bs.
- Giardini Naxos - a popular resort just below Taormina. Enjoy its beaches, hike along the Alcantara and see its gorge.
- Mount Etna - Plenty of agencies offer day trips there, or with your own car you could reach either the Sapienza or Provenzana base stations. To walk to the summit, you must have a guide, warm clothing and stout footwear, clear weather, and a volcano that isn't erupting (which it does quite often).
- Catania is the regional transport hub, so you'll probably have to pass through it; it's worth a day to explore.
- The main attractions further south are Syracuse, Ragusa and Modica
- To reach the north coast, the quickest way is to blat along the autostrada A18. A more attractive route SS185 winds through the hills, with views back over Etna, and through the picturesque medieval town of Novara di Sicilia overlooking ancient Tyndaris and Abacaenum. From the coast either turn west for Palermo, or go a little way north to Milazzo the port for the Aeolian Islands, or turn east to the ferry port of Messina.