Located on a cliff overlooking the sea, Taormina is one of the most beautiful places in Sicily. Thanks to its amazing positioning and landscape, together with the historical and archaeological heritage, Taormina is a major tourist destination of the island. Over the centuries, many poets and writers fell in love with the city, from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to Guy de Maupassant, who said that here “you will find everything that seems created on earth to seduce the eyes, the mind, and the fantasy”.
Let’s find out here what to see in Taormina and surroundings.
The Ancient Theatre is probably the most iconic monument of the city and is definitely a must-see in Taormina. It is also the second-largest theatre in Sicily, after the one of Siracusa. The theatre was built first by the Greeks in the 3rd century for their dramatic and musical pieces. Then, in the 2nd century, the Romans modified and expanded the theatre to convert it into an arena for gladiators and beasts fights. Standing in the perfectly semicircular cavea, you can enjoy behind the columns the amazing view of Mount Etna and the Ionian cost below. The Theatre can accommodate over 5000 people; nowadays is used in summertime for concerts, plays and various performances.
If you wish to stroll in the center, your destination is Corso Umberto, the main street of Taormina. The two gates of the street- Porta Messina (on the north) and Porta Catania (on the south) – were part of the ancient fortification structures of the city. Walking along the street you can find lots of shops, boutiques, restaurants, and cafes.
An absolutely must-see of Taormina is Piazza IX Aprile, one of the most beautiful panoramic points of Taormina, where it is possible to admire the cost below and Mount Etna. It is probably the most known and beautiful square in the city, and also one of the best places where to take stunning pictures. Enclosed by two churches and two historical cafes, in this square, you can also admire the Porta di Mezzo, a.k.a as Torre dell’ Orologio (Clock Tower).
Near to the Porta Catania gate, there is Piazza Duomo you can admire the Cathedral of San Nicolo. Built for the first time in the XIII century, the church is a mixture of medieval and baroque style. Particularly important is the main door, rebuilt in 1636 in agreement with the style of the fountain in the square. It is a typical Latin cross church with three naves and three apses; the main nave is supported by six columns of pink marble of Taormina. The Cathedral is located in front of the city hall and a baroque fountain from the XVII century, composed of 4 sea horses and a crowned centaur.
A few meters far from Porta Messina, next to the church of Santa Caterina you will find Palazzo Corvaja. Located on the ancient Roman Forum, the architectural style of the building reflects the various dominations that occurred in Sicily over the centuries. In fact, the building shows still today the original Arab plant, to which were gradually added Catalan-Gothic and Norman details. In 1410 the palace hosted a historical meeting of the Sicilian Parliament. Between the 17th century and 20th century, it was the residence of the noble Corvaja family, hence the name. Today is the seat of the Tourist office, reference for all tourists. Inside, you can also find a museum of Sicilian arts and popular traditions.
The Public Garden is a beautiful pleasant oasis of tranquillity in Taormina. During the 19th century, it was originally a private garden, belonging to Lady Florence Trevelyan Cacciola, a Scottish noblewoman who married the city mayor of Taormina. She filled the garden with a great variety of exotic flowers and plants and several buildings to practice birdwatching; unfortunately, these constructions are no longer accessible for safety reasons.
In the enchanting bay of Mazzarò, there is the incredible Isola Bella. Surrounded by sea caves, this amazing islet is connected with the mainland only by a thin strip of sand.
The islet originally was as a gift for the city by King Ferdinand II; later, in 1890 Lady Trevelyan bought it, and built there a little house facing the sea. Like the gardens, she filled the islet with many exotic plants. After that, the islet belonged to several owners; after the bankrupt of the last one, the Isola Bella was put up for auction, until in 1990 the Sicilian Region bought it. Since 1998 is a natural reserve. From the center of Taormina, just next to a panoramic terrace overlooking the sea, you can take a staircase that will bring you down to Mazzarò, nearby Isola Bella.
Above Taormina, you will find Castelmola, a small medieval village listed among the Borghi più Belli d’Italia. Strolling in its littles alleys, you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the coast below and of the Etna. Some particularly interesting points to see are Piazza Sant’Antonio, the church of San Nicolò and of San Giorgio, and the ruins of the ancient castle. Castlemola is also famous for the almond wine, a sweet typical Sicilian wine.
If you are passionate hikers you can take from Taormina the ancient Saracen Path, that starts in the city center and arrives to Castelmola; along the way you can find the church of Madonna Rocca, dating from the XII century. It is a small chapel built in the rock, hence the name. Nearby this chapel, there are also the ruins of a Saracen Castle but, unfortunately, is not accessible. Madonna Rocca is another of the amazing panoramic point of Taormina, that will offer you an incredible view.
Founded in the VIII century B.C., Giardini Naxos is the first Greek colony in Sicily. Giardini preserves still today in the Archaeological park the traces of the Greek passage in Sicily. Furthermore, Giardini is particularly attractive for the sea and the many beaches clubs; during the summer nights the many clubs and restaurants and a must for all the tourists and the locals.
These are the main points of interest you must-see in Taormina and surroundings, but there are many other sites that you can see and visit nearby. For example, Mount Etna is just 1 hour driving from Taormina; we organize daily excursions departing from Taormina and Giardini Naxos. Furthermore, together with our department Sicily Day by Day we organize daily tours to the main destinations in Sicily and activities such as cooking classes and boat tours.