Things to do in Taormina
This charming Sicilian town is more than just beauty; there are also plenty of things to do in Taormina, Italy! The center is mostly car-free which makes it a very relaxing place to stroll around discovering cute cafes and Sicilian ceramic shops. Plus, its clifftop location means there are stunning views on every corner.
Did you know? Although it is one of the more expensive destinations in Sicily, many museums and historic landmarks offer a half-price deal for Europeans under 25!
1. Discover Isola Bella
Isola Bella, which translates to ‘beautiful island’, is a stunning peninsula and nature reserve. It’s also one of the most iconic things to do in Taormina! Connected to the mainland beach by a thin strip of sand, Isola Bella is an idyllic place to spend an afternoon by the water.
From the beach, walk across shallow water (at low tide) to reach the peninsula. Once here, you can explore the protected area, home to rare plants and trees, and visit the museum in the house on the hill. The museum was closed when we visited, but you can check their website for updates and opening times.
There is an excellent view of Isola Bella and the beautiful surrounding bay from the viewpoint Belvedere di Via Pirandello. We recommend walking down the steps to the beach from here.
Facilities and Activities at Isola Bella
The area around Isola Bella is excellent for swimming as the water is crystal clear. However, the beach is both sandy and stony, so you might want to bring water shoes to save your feet!
For sunbathing, take your own towel or rent a daybed at one of the beach clubs. These clubs also serve drinks and food to go, so you won’t need to bring a picnic with you. Massage therapists stroll the beach, but make sure to agree on the price beforehand.
You can visit Isola Bella every day (except Monday) from 9 AM until one hour before sunset.
Once you’ve had your fill of the beach, you can also take a boat tour to explore the area’s bays, grottos, and caves. This coastline is one of the most special things about Taormina, Italy!
2. Villa Comunale di Taormina, Sicily
Villa Comunale is a public garden filled with beautiful trees, flowers, and cacti. It’s free to visit and offers some of the best views over the coast and Mount Etna. Interestingly, the remains of the villa and the gardens were cultivated by Lady Florence Trevelyan, a British aristocrat rumored to have fled the UK in the late 1800s after a scandalous affair with the future King!
The unusual buildings dotted around the garden were built by her as birdwatching stations and make for lovely photo spots.
We recommend buying a panini in town (StritFUD is the best!) and escaping the heat for a few hours in this relaxing and peaceful place. Explore the gardens, sit quietly in the shade, and enjoy a picnic lunch with a view.
Opening Times & Entrance Fee: Open daily from 9 AM until sunset. Free entry.
The Corvaja Palace was built in the 10th century by the conquering Arabs to defend the town. It’s also named after one of the oldest aristocratic families in Taormina, Sicily, who lived there from 1538 to 1945.
The beautiful building has a variety of architectural styles, including Arabic, Norman, and Gothic. These days, it’s home to the tourist office and the Sicilian Museum of Art and Popular Traditions, and well worth a visit!
Grab a gelato at nearby Don Diego Gelateria, and wander around the building to admire its old stone stairs, quiet courtyards, and fresco-filled halls.
This beautiful Greek-Roman amphitheater built in 3 BC is still used today for concerts, plays, and film festivals. Come first thing in the morning before the daytrippers arrive to wander around the ancient remains of this stunning stage. You’ll immediately be in awe of the impressive backdrop of Mount Etna and the sparkling Ionian Sea!
Although the theater is one of the top things to do in Taormina, it’s not a large area, so you won’t need more than an hour here. However, it is definitely worth a visit to appreciate the historical atmosphere and incredible views.
Getting there: It is easy to reach from the main street Corso Umberto and just a five-minute walk from Villa Comunale. You can do a guided tour or just explore by yourself, and there is a cafe with a terrace where you can relax with a coffee afterward.
Opening Hours & Entrance Fee: Open daily from 9 AM – 7:45 PM in the summer and from 9 AM – 4 PM in the winter. Free entry on the first Sunday of the month!
5. Enjoy the Cultural Ritual of an Aperitivo
The pre-dinner ritual of enjoying an aperitivo with friends in the evening sun is a highlight of Italian culture. While you’re in Taormina, head to La Locanda Dei Mori, a lovely cafe away from the main street, serving big colorful plates of salads, bruschetta, and pasta. Enjoy the slower side of Sicilian life with a refreshing cocktail. This Italian happy hour typically happens around sunset—a relaxing way to wind down the day and start the night! Just make sure to book ahead.
6. Piazza IX Aprile
The heart of Taormina, and referred to by locals as Taormina’s ‘living room’, the Piazza IX Aprile is the main square where everyone gathers. The square always has a lively atmosphere, with kids playing, musicians busking, and families meeting for dinner. The piazza also offers an incredible viewpoint over Mount Etna and the sea, which is especially stunning at sunset.
Wander through the square, which has two beautiful churches and an old clock tower, and outdoor terraces. Order an evening aperitivo to accompany the spectacular view, as one of the top things to do in Taormina!
7. Chiesa Madonna della Rocca
Visiting this tiny chapel perched high on the mountain above the town is one of the best things to do in Taormina! From the city center, it’s a 30-minute hike up steep stairs to the ancient church, which was built directly into the hillside. In fact, part of its roof and walls are actually carved from the rock itself! Come here at sunset for spectacular panoramic views over the coastline and beyond.
Opening Times & Entrance Fee: Open daily from 9:30 AM – 12:30 AM and 4 PM – 7:30 PM during the summer. During winter, it is only open during the morning. The chapel is free to enter.
8. Corso Umberto
Corso Umberto is the lively main street in Taormina that connects the old gates of Porto Messina and Porto Catania to the town center. Spanning half a mile, the street is home to beautiful old churches, palazzos, clothing boutiques, ceramic studios, and colorful gelaterias.
The area can get busy, especially during the summer. However, it is pedestrianized, and you can escape the crowds by heading off down the narrow alleyways that lead to quiet, pretty squares.
9. Duomo di Taormina, Sicily
The Duomo di Taormina is the town’s main cathedral and one of the top things to do in Taormina. You’ll find the magnificent building located in the pretty Piazza del Duomo off the main street. Built in the 12th century and nicknamed the ‘fortress cathedral’, it looks more like a military building than a church. This makes sense, considering that it was once used as part of the town’s defense.
10. Take a Ferry to the Islands
The Aeolian Islands off the north coast of Sicily are a stunning place to spend a day or more exploring. The seven volcanic islands are a UNESCO world heritage site and home to charming villages, unique black sand beaches, volcanos, and vineyards. Rent a scooter to explore the countryside, hike up the Mount Stromboli volcano (which erupts daily!), or sunbathe and swim in the clear blue water.
Ferries depart daily from Milazzo, which is a 1-hour 15-minute drive from Taormina, Italy. Alternatively, join an organized tour with return transportation.
11. Visit Mount Etna
Just one hour’s drive from Taormina is the incredible Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe at 3300 meters. Hike to the summit for panoramic views over the island, and explore volcanic craters, lava fields, and ice caves. What’s more, some of the best wines in Sicily are produced in this area, so if you have time, consider combining the hike with a winery tour and tasting on your way back to Taormina.
Half-Day or Day Tour from Taormina, Italy
There are lots of tours available depending on your time and budget. It is quite expensive, as you have to be accompanied by a guide to reach the summit for safety reasons. However, it’s well worth it! The tour usually includes transport up the volcano, return tickets for the cable car, and the cost of a 4×4 van, which drops you off at the summit hike starting point.
It is possible to explore Mount Etna independently, but you can only go as far as 2900 meters without a guide.
Tip: The best time for this trip is during spring or autumn when there are fewer tourists, and it’s not too cold. Make sure to book in advance, as it’s one of the best things to do in Taormina, Italy.
Getting to Mount Etna
It is a one-hour drive from Taormina to the car park at Rifugio Sapienza, also known as Etna South, which is located at around 2000 meters. You can park your car for free here, and there is also a visitors’ center. From here, you can either walk (although this stretch takes two hours and is not that scenic) or take the cable car up to the Mountain Hut, which costs 35 EUR (38 USD) for a return ticket.
Once you’ve reached the Mountain Hut, either walk up to Torre Del Filosofo (around 40 minutes), which is where the summit hike begins at 2900 meters, or you can opt to take a 4×4 (30 EUR / 32.55 USD return). However, make sure to double-check your tour details, as some don’t include these additional transport costs.
12. Visit Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park
The Gole Alcantara is a beautiful blue river that runs through a dramatic volcanic gorge and is only a 30-minute drive away from Taormina, Italy. Very cold fresh water flows through the canyon from the mountains, so it is the perfect place for a refreshing swim in nature in the scorching summer months!
Discover one of the lovely walking trails that worms its way along the top of the canyon. It leads through botanical gardens, a variety of local wildlife and plants to spot, and gorgeous views of the Alcantara. There are also lots of tours and activities in this area, including hiking, biking, and body rafting.
It gets extremely busy during August, so avoid visiting during this time if you want to enjoy these stunning natural surroundings without the crowds.
Opening Hours & Entrance Fee: 8 EUR / 1.50 EUR (8.68 USD / 1.63 USD), depending on where you enter. Open daily from 8 AM – 7 PM.
Best Cafes and Restaurants in Taormina
Taormina is Italian foodie heaven, with loads of incredible (and scenic) places to eat and drink. Try a traditional Sicilian summer breakfast of granita and brioche, eat fresh seafood by the beach, and slow down with an aperitivo at sunset. Here are some of our favorites:
- Ristorante Aranciara
- La Locanda Dei Mori
- Osteria da Rita (dal 1911)
- Osteria Villa Zuccaro
- Morgana Lounge & Bar
- La Napoletana
- Osteria Le Tre Vie
- Bam Bar
Remember that restaurants rarely open before 7 PM; 9 PM is the normal time for dinner, and you should never assume a restaurant is open despite their opening times on Google Maps. Book ahead for lunch and dinner as places fill up very quickly, even in the off-season.
Where to Stay in Taormina, Italy
Taormina has two main areas: the town on the hillside and the main beach area called Mazarrò. The town is very hilly, so if you don’t want to climb, getting a hotel in the historic center, close to Piazza IX Aprile and Corso Umberto, is better. Very few hostels are in the center, but you can find reasonably priced B&Bs and hotels. We stayed at B&B Teatro Greco 39, just three minutes from the theater and the main street.
If you’re all about the beaches, get a hotel in Mazarrò (which may be slightly pricier), and take the cable car up to town. For the real luxury Taormina experience, the Belmond Grand Hotel and Hotel Villa Belverde are some of the most sought-after hotels in the area.
How to Visit Taormina, Italy
The closest international airport to Taormina is in Catania, which is an hour’s drive away. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from mainland Italy to Messina, which is an hour away by train or car.
You can rent a car at the airport, which is the best option if you want to enjoy all the top things to do in Taormina, particularly if you plan to visit other places in Sicily.
It is an hour’s drive to Taormina, and you can park your car in the Lumbi parking garage, which provides a free shuttle bus into the center (it drops you off at this location). We paid 5 EUR (5.42 USD) for two and a half days.
By Public Transport
If you just want to visit Taormina, public transport is easier, as you won’t need your own transport in Taormina.
From the airport, take the bus to Catania center and jump on the train to Taormina from there. The train ride takes you through the countryside and along the coast, so it is a relaxing way to see the island. The entire journey from the airport only takes an hour and a half.
Taormina has very few cars, so it is enjoyable to walk around, and most places can be reached on foot. There is a cable car that travels between the town and the beach area at Mazarrò, which is worth a ride just for the lovely views!
How Much Does Taormina Cost?
Taormina is one of the more expensive places in Sicily due to its popularity, and it is especially pricey during the summer. If you are on a budget, opt for a hostel or B&B, make picnic lunches to take to the beach, and use public transport instead of renting a car.
Best Time to Visit
During the summer months, from mid-June to September, it is extremely crowded in Taormina, Italy. As expected, prices increase in line with this influx of visitors. However, this is the perfect time for visiting the beaches.
There is the option to come during the winter when it is very quiet, particularly as the weather is unlikely to drop below 15°C (59°F). However, many places close for the season during this time, and it is more difficult to climb Mount Etna because of the snow.
The shoulder seasons of spring and autumn are an ideal time to visit when the weather is lovely and warm. Best of all, there are fewer tourists, and prices are slightly lower. April/May and September are the most ideal months, as places will be open and activities available.