Your broad and charming guide to Italy
“Should you only have one day to spend in Sicily and you ask me ‘what is there to see?’ I would reply ‘Taormina’ without any hesitation. It is only a landscape but one in which you can find everything that seems to have been created to seduce the eyes, the mind and the imagination.”
Guy de Maupassant, 1885, from “Towards the Golden Skies,” diary of a journey.
Taormina is placed on the Tauro hill at 200 meters height next to the Ionic river. Thanks to its location, from this city you can admire a wonderful landscape made up by the highest European Volcano (called Etna), by a beautiful blue sea and by many smelling citrus plantations placed in the plain below.
Taormina has a characteristic historical centre: its most important street is Corso Umberto I defined by two arches called Porta Messina (Messina Door) and Porta Catania (Catania Door) and full of many shops and cafes. Crossing this street you can reach all the main squares of this city.
This city offers you prestigious architectonical natural and archaeological locations and elements to visit and to admire.
In the past Taormina fascinated many poets, writers and intellectuals like Johann Wolfang Goethe, Guy de Maupassant, Henry Faulkner, Paul Klee,Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams, someone of them lived here for a very long time. Even several Hollywood stars spent here their holidays like Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Audrey Hepburn and Liz Taylor with Richard Burton.
You can easily visit Taormina by foot just in one day: at the end of Corso Umberto I there is the IX Aprile Square where you can admire the Church of Sant’Agostino, the Church of San Giuseppe and the “Porta di Mezzo” with its striking Watch Tower. Staying in this square you can admire all the Messina Gulf spending some time in one of the elegant open-air cafes that will surround you.
In Taormina there are many constructions that testify the presence in this territory of different ancient cultures, the most important monuments you can visit in this wonderful city are:
The Badia Vecchia
This is the most characteristic monument of the medieval city. It is a XIV century Gothic building that looks like a fortress thanks to its battlements. Today this is the seat of the Regional Archaeological Museum where you can see some finds like sculptures, ceramics, finds belonging to the Teatro Antico, ancient tableware and other historical objects.
The Santo Stefano Duke Palace
This is a XIV century Sicilian- Gothic building also characterized by Norman- Arab influences. This sort of fortress is made up by three floors and by beautiful capitals and wonderful biforas whose inlayed frames are made up by stones formed by lava. Today it is the seat of the Fondazione Mazzullo where you can find many works of this Sicilian artist.
The Corvaja Palace
The initial part of this medieval palace was built by the Arabs during their domination. It was a cube shaped tower used to defend the city. Successively Corvaja Palace was added to this tower becoming the seat of the Sicilian Parliament. This palace was transformed throughout time maintaining its mixture of different styles: the Arab one (the tower), the Norman one (the XV century room used for the Parliament’s meetings), and the Gothic one (the shape of the façades windows). In its courtyard you can see a bas-relief representing the birth of Eve, the original sin and the man condemned to work. Here there is the Sicilian Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions where you can admire many handcrafted artistic works made between the XVI and the XX century like wooden sculptures, ceramics and Sicilian carts.
The Villa Comunale (Public Park)
At the end of the XIX century this park was the private garden of the English noblewoman Florence Trevelyan who was keen about botany and ornithology. Even now that it belongs to the Taormina municipality, you can find in this garden some rare grasses and some eccentric constructions that look like Chinese pagodas called “Victorian follies” and due to the original fancy of this noblewoman.
The Teatro Antico Greco-Romano (Ancient Greek-Roman Theatre)
This wonderful monument will leave you breathless. This Greek theatre placed on the Tauro hill is considered one of the symbols of Taormina. It was successively enlarged by the Romans and then partially destroyed by the Arabs. From this important archaeological place you can admire all the marvels surrounding Taormina: the Etna, the Naxos Bay, the crystalline Ionic sea and Castemola. Today it is one of the biggest theatres in Sicily, the second one after that of Siracusa. This monument is today the seat of the event called Taormina Arte: an international festival of Cinema, Theatre and Dance.
This is a small theatre built with clay bricks for the Emperor Ottaviano.
After the Teatro Antico, the Naumachie is the oldest construction of this city. This 130 metres long imposing wall dates back to the 1st Century before Christ and contains some niches where in the past there were the gods statues. It is a ruin of an ancient Roman spa placed near the centre of the city.
The Ciampoli Palace
This is a XV century construction whose style testifies the importance of the Aragonese historical period for this city.
Among the various XV, XVI, XVII century constructions it is possible to quote: the elegant XVI century Floresta House; the main door and the rose window of the ex Church of S. Domenico with its cloister and its convent (that today is a hotel) where you can note all the Renaissance splendour; the Taormina Castle near the Madonna della Rocca. In the Duomo square you can see the ancient fountain built in 1653 and bringing the symbol of the city: the Minotaura.
The most striking churches you can visit in Taormina are:
The Church of S. Agostino
This church was built in 1486 and now it is the seat of the Taormina public library.
The Cathedral Dome
This Gothic church was built during the XV century having the aspect of a fortress. It has a Latin cross structure with three naves. This church ceiling is made up by wooden girders carved according to the Arab style.
Church of San Pancrazio
This church was built during the XVI century on the ruins of a Greek temple. Its internal space is made up by polychrome marble and by Taormina stone keeping a beautiful fresco representing the San Pancrazio martyrdom. Unfortunately, this wonderful church, dedicated to the city Patron Saint, is often closed.
However, Taormina is famous also for its sea: even if it is not directly placed on the cost the Mazzarò, Isola Bella and the Naxos Gardens beaches are well connected to Taormina and so easily reachable from the urban centre.
Mazzarò can be reached by cable-car o by foot. It is a beautiful inlet delimited by the Sant’Andrea Cape. After this Cape there is the other wonderful famous beach of Isola Bella that has now become a Natural Reserve.
The Naxos Gardens are placed at the bottom of the city: they represent a renowned Sicilian lido and, in the past, they were a Greek colony. Today you can still admire the ancient city walls and the ruins of some ancient districts. The other archaeological finds are preserved in the Archaeological Museum of Naxos.
Here there are many modern lidos and hotels where you can spend your holidays scuba diving to watch this beautiful sea bed or making boat excursions to visit the several caves and inlets of this coast.
If you love nature, you should visit the River Park of the Alcantara where you can cross the Alacantara river being surrounded by enormous basalt rocky gorges.
On a high ground there is a very nice little village called Castelmola that is just 5 km far from Taormina. You can reach it going through some winding narrow streets that will lead you to the ruins of the ancient Norman castle of this village. This place deserves an excursion for the incredible beauty of its landscape, for its delicious pastries and for its typical almonds wine production.
The traditional local breakfast is made up by a delicious coffee Italian ice called “Granita” garnished with fresh cream. You can drink it eating a typical Sicilian croissant or the famous cannoli.
Staying in Taormina you can choose among several traditional first courses like pasta dressed with a sauce made up by tomatoes, capers, basil and anchovies or a delicious lemon risotto.
As a second course you can choose char-grilled meatballs wrapped in some lemon tree leaves or swordfish and blue fish (like tunas, mackerels, sardine, and anchovies) cooked in different ways according to the several traditional Sicilian recipes.
As a dessert you can choose a citrus fruits mousse drinking a glass of Castelmola almonds wine that should be served frozen with a citrus fruits peel to exalt its taste.
These are all the events organized in Taormina all the year long:
From the 07th to the 10th of October 2009
From the 26h of October 2009 to the 31th of December 2009
From the 1st of July 2009 to the 31th of August 2009
From the 13th to the 20th of June 2009
From the 23th of May 2009 to the 07th of June 2009
How to arrive in Taormina
From Palermo you should take the A19 Palermo-Catania highway and then go on through the A18 highway until Taormina. From Siracusa go through the 114 main road until Catania and then take the A18 highway to the Taormina exit. From Agrigento take the 640 main road towards Caltanisetta and then go on through the A19 highway until Catania, finally take the A18 highway until Taormina. From Trapani take the A29 highway towards Palermo, then go on through the A19 Palermo-Catania highway and finally through the A18 highway until Taormina.
Coming from the Italian peninsula you should take the A3 Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway to the Villa San Giovanni exit. Here you can reach Messina on a ferry. From Messina you should take the A18 highway that will rapidly lead you to Taormina.
Taormina is placed on the Messina-Catania line where there are frequent train rides for both the two directions. Coming from Palermo or from other Sicilian cities you should change train. Some trains that directly arrive to Taormina ( through Napoli) leave from Rome: the trip lasts 9-10 hours.
The International Catania Airport is 50 km far from Taormina. This airport is connected to the main national and international cities. Every 20 minutes the shuttle service will bring you to the Catania railway station. It is also available a direct bus service Airport-Taormina by Etna Trasporti.
…Enjoy your stay in Taormina!