An international destination, Taormina is one of the wonders of the world, to be seen at least once in a lifetime
Always de rigeur on the European Grand Tour, over the centuries, Taormina has earned itself the reputation of being an obligatory stop-off point, thanks also to illustrious figures such as Guy De Maupassant or Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who were intrigued by the unique combination of sea, classical ruins, medieval buildings and lush natural beauty.
Taormina (“Taurmina” or “Taummina” in Sicilian) is perched on a hill at 200 metres above sea level, suspended among rocks and seductively coloured bays. It was already inhabited by an Italic tribe, the Siculi (Sicels), before the Greeks landed here in 735 BC, founding Giardini Naxos, at the mouth of the River Alcantara (where a volcanic, fluvial canyon, the Gole dell’Alcantara is situated – not to be missed under any circumstances!).
In Taormina, you’ll suddenly feel as if you’re on a natural terrace looking over Italy, its continent and islands stretching out before you.
Enter by the Porta Messina, and from here, proceeding along Corso Umberto I, you can admire all the attractions of the historical centre, beginning with Palazzo Corvaja, followed by the 17th-century Church of San Pancrazio, up to Piazza IX Aprile. Starting from the Porta di Mezzo, on the other hand, you’ll find yourself in the medieval quarter, surrounded by Romanesque and Gothic buildings, like the magnificent Palazzo Duchi Santo Stefano, or dating from the Norman domination, like the old abbey, the Badia Vecchia.
Strolling along Corso Umberto I, it’s not hard to see why Taormina was recently dubbed the Sicilian Portofino: the succession of high-end designer boutiques along the street are just too tempting for the luxury shopaholic.
The most appreciated and celebrated sight in the town is undoubtedly the outstandingly well-preserved Greek amphitheatre, partially excavated into the mountain. It is the second largest in all Magna Grecia (the first in terms of size is that of Siracusa) and had already been restructured in Roman times. From here you get a privileged view of the world: not only is the theatre itself astonishing and fascinating, but the view you get from its steps is to die for.
Another important Roman jewel is the Odeon theatre, situated in the northeastern part of the town.
At the end of Corso Umberto I is to be found the Cathedral, with its medieval façade, while the door is in the Baroque style. There are also some intriguing artworks and architectural details inside to be explored and admired.
If you’re overcome by heat exhaustion, we have the solution: head for the Villa Comunale, with its delightful public gardens that reveal a harmonious balance between the hand of man and lush natural beauty. The Villa was once the home of a wealthy English noblewoman, an enthusiastic ornithologist – hence the pagoda viewing point, feeder and nesting places.
If you’re an intrepid, indefatigable explorer, you might want to visit the lofty Church of Madonna della Rocca, a sanctuary located a mere 300 steps up from Via Circonvallazione.
For lovers of the sea, however, to conclude your visit in style, we recommend descending to Giardini Naxos, the locals’ favourite beach, or to Isola Bella, a tiny island linked to the mainland by a strip of sand, a charming, almost poetic place. Five kilometres from Taormina, we find Castelmola, with its picturesque setting (Insta-envy guaranteed) – well worth visiting is the medieval castle and well worth drinking is its amber almond wine.