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Things to Do in Taormina

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Isola Bella
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The Italian name of Isola Bella contains both a truth and a misnomer: though worthy of being called beautiful, this tiny rocky outcrop along Sicily’s coast near Taormina is not actually an island. Located off the Lido Mazzaro beach on the Mediterranean Sea, Isola Bella is connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of sand that is often covered with water at high tide. The picturesque point was gifted to Taormina in 1806 by the King of Sicily and later purchased by the Scottish Lady Florence Trevelyan—her villa still sits on the highest point—until being taken over by the region of Sicily and made a nature reserve in 1990.

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Mt. Etna (Monte Etna)
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Set on the eastern coast of Sicily, Mt. Etna (Monte Etna) is among Europe’s tallest (and the world’s most active) volcanoes. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013, the volcano has shaped Sicilian history and continues to impact life on the island today. Visitors can explore the mountain’s smoldering volcanic craters and lava fields.

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Taormina Greek Theatre (Teatro Greco)
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One of Taormina’s most spectacular sights is its 2nd-century Greek Theatre (Teatro Greco), which, despite its name, is actually an ancient Roman amphitheater built in the Greek style. Sitting high above the coast, the theater has beautiful views over Taormina, the Sicilian coastline, and Mount Etna.

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Taormina Piazza Duomo
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Taormina is best known for its 2nd-century Greek Theatre, but this Sicilian city perched high above the eastern coastline of Sicily has a number of impressive historic attractions. One of the most important is the Cathedral (Duomo), set on a pretty square of the same name (Piazza del Duomo) along the main Corso Umberto I thoroughfare.

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Valley of the Temples (Valle dei Templi)
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Italy is rich with ancient Roman ruins, but Sicily’s Valley of the Temples (Valle dei Templi) is unique. Here, some of the some of the best-preserved ancient Greek ruins on earth dot the hillside outside of what was once the Greek city of Akragas, dating from when this area was part of Magna Graecia in the fifth century BC.

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Corso Umberto I
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The Corso Umberto I is the main street in Taormina, running from one end of the historic center to the other. This pedestrian-only avenue is, as you might imagine, lined with shops, restaurants, and hotels, all beckoning the countless tourists who amble by each day during the high season. But it’s not just a tourist street - locals enjoy strolling along the Corso Umberto I, too.

Taormina’s Medieval Quarter is one of the prettiest sections of the city, and Corso Umberto I cuts right through its middle. The clock tower that marks the start of the Medieval Quarter is actually in an arched tower that spans the Corso Umberto I. The particularly picturesque Piazza Aprile IX sits along the famous street, and it’s one of the most popular places to pause and do some people-watching. The view from the piazza over the water is lovely, and the piazza itself is a beautiful backdrop to whatever is going on.

Further down the Corso Umberto I is another piazza, the Piazza Duomo in front of Taormina’s cathedral. This is another good place for a pause - many hang out on or near the Baroque fountain at the center of the piazza.

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Villa Romana del Casale
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Just outside the town of Piazza Armerina in southern Sicily, the ruins of Villa Romana del Casale are home to the world’s largest collection of ancient Roman mosaics. These incredible designs date from the fourth century and were stunningly preserved by a 12th-century landslide before being unearthed in the 19th century.

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Alcantara Gorges (Gole dell'Alcantara)
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Following the path of an ancient Mt. Etna lava flow, Sicily’s Alcantara River carved intricate ravines and underground passages through the volcanic rock. The resulting Alcantara Gorges (Gole dell'Alcantara) are part of the Alcantara River Park, popular with travelers drawn to the beautiful rock formations and the refreshing river water, especially in summer.

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Corvaja Palace (Palazzo Corvaja)
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One of the most striking palaces in Taormina, Palazzo Corvaja is testament to Sicily's long history of successive invasions with its mix of Arab, Norman, and Spanish styles. This palace is an architectural highlight of the old town and houses the Sicilian Museum of Popular Art and Traditions, for a deep dive into the island’s culture and history.

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Piazza IX Aprile
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With its black-and-white marble checkerboard paving, ornate 17th-century facade of the Chiesa di San Giuseppe, and spectacular view over the Mediterranean Sea, Piazza IX Aprile is Taormina’s loveliest square. Take a break from strolling the main Corso Umberto I thoroughfare to bask in its quintessentially Italian atmosphere.

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More Things to Do in Taormina

Taormina Roman Odeon

Taormina Roman Odeon

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The Roman Odeon is an ancient theater in Taormina, Italy. It is small in size and was likely used for small-scale vocal and literary performances for the city's elite. This theater was built in 21 BC under the rule of the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus Octavian. It was discovered by accident in the late 1800s when a man was digging in his land. Excavations eventually uncovered the theater and found it to be very similar to the larger Greek-Roman theater in another part of the city.

The theater included a Greek temple, and the marble steps that made up its base have been preserved. The theater itself has also been well preserved over the centuries, and visitors can still see the red clay bricks that form the different sections: stage, orchestra, and audience. It could hold about 200 people. Today it is used for a variety of events, such as the setting for a nativity scene during the Christmas season.

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Santa Caterina Church (Chiesa di Santa Caterina)

Santa Caterina Church (Chiesa di Santa Caterina)

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Near the main street in Taormina is the Church of Santa Caterina di Alessandria, a 17th-century church dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria.

The church was restored in the 1970s, and it was during that restoration work that some of the layers underneath the modern church were found. Archeologists found a crypt as well as ruins dating back to Greek and Roman times - including the remains of a Roman theater. The church was officially reopened in 1977 after about 40 years of being closed.

The spartan exterior of the church gives way to a white Baroque interior. Statues of St. Catherine abound, including one that dates from the 15th century and was originally in an older church dedicated to the saint in another part of the city.

Some walking tours of central Taormina will include the Santa Caterina Church, but not all will include a visit inside.

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Mazzarò Beach (Lido Mazzarò)

Mazzarò Beach (Lido Mazzarò)

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Taormina is one of Sicily’s most popular beach resort towns, but the town itself is high above the water. The closest beaches are in the Mazzarò area, just below Taormina.

Mazzarò Beach (Lido Mazzarò) is a beautiful stretch of beach between two rocky promontories. The famous Isola Bella is on one side of the bay - you can walk to the tiny island at low tide via a sand bar, which gets covered at high tide. On the other side of the bay is a sea cave called the Grotta Azzurra - Blue Cave - in which the water glows in the sunlight.

Like many beaches in the area, Mazzarò is a pebbly beach rather than sandy. Its proximity to Taormina makes it among the most popular beaches along this stretch of the Sicilian coastline, and there are parts of the Lido Mazzarò that are free as well as others for which visitors pay a daily fee to get access to an already-set up beach chair and umbrella.

Those who aren’t spending a whole day at the beach can still enjoy the sights and sun of Lido Mazzarò. There are several boat tours along the Taormina coastline that include this pretty beach as well as interesting geologic formations such as the Grotta Azzurra.

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Taormina Old Town (Centro Storico)

Taormina Old Town (Centro Storico)

The town that we know today as Taormina is in an area in which there has been a settlement of some kind since the 8th century B.C.E. - but in the town itself one of the oldest neighborhoods is the old town, or centro storico.

Taormina’s historic core centers on the centro storico, with its picturesque cobblestone streets. The buildings themselves have been beautifully preserved, giving the whole quarter a postcard look. The main street in Taormina, Corso Umberto I, runs through the center of the old town from the Piazza IX Aprile to the Piazza del Duomo.

You can begin your tour of the old town from the Piazza IX Aprile and going through the arch in the 12th century clock tower. The tower was actually almost completely destroyed in the 17th century, and when it was rebuilt the clock was added. The tower serves as something of a gateway to the historic center, most of which dates from the 15th century.

Today, Taormina’s old town is a great place to wander aimlessly to explore the pretty streets and buildings, shop in the souvenir stores and boutiques, and stop for a bite to eat in one of the cafes or restaurants.

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Castelmola

Castelmola

A tiny coastal town in Sicily, Castelmola offers panoramic views over the Mediterranean Sea and Mt. Etna. Neighboring Taormina is 670 feet above sea level while Castelmola is higher up at 1,700 feet above sea level. Adventurous travelers hike uphill from Taormina to Castelmola to see its churches, visit a 13th century castle, and to taste local almond wine.

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Circumetnea Railway (Ferrovia Circumetnea)

Circumetnea Railway (Ferrovia Circumetnea)

If you are looking for a unique way to see the countryside surrounding Mount Etna, hop aboard the historic narrow-gauge Circumetnea Railway (Ferrovia Circumetnea). This scenic train ride takes passengers around the foot of Sicily’s famous volcano on a vintage mid-20th-century railroad car.

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Taormina Cable Car (Funivia)

Taormina Cable Car (Funivia)

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The Sicilian coastal town of Taormina sits high above the sea and beaches. The Funivia, or cable car in Italian, connects the town to the beaches at Mazzaro below. The 5-minute cable car ride is a quick and scenic way to travel from the hotels or restaurants of Taormina down to the seafront.

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Taormina Cathedral (Duomo) and Piazza del Duomo

Taormina Cathedral (Duomo) and Piazza del Duomo

Taormina is best known for its 2nd-century Greek Theatre, but this Sicilian city perched high above the eastern coastline of Sicily has a number of impressive historic attractions. One of the most important is the Cathedral (Duomo), set on a pretty square of the same name (Piazza del Duomo) along the main Corso Umberto I thoroughfare.

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Villa Comunale

Villa Comunale

For a respite from the heat and crowds of Taormina, retreat to the lush confines of the 19th-century English-style gardens of the Parco Duca di Cesarò, also known as the Villa Comunale. Unwind surrounded by colorful tropical plants and flowers, explore the tower and gazebo, and take in the view over the sea from the terrace balustrade.

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Taormina Cruise Port (Taormina Terminal Crociere)

Taormina Cruise Port (Taormina Terminal Crociere)

The chic Mediterranean town of Taormina on Sicily’s northeast coast is located high in the mountains—which means rewarding hikes and beautiful views. However, for visitors arriving at the Taormina Cruise Port (Taormina Terminal Crociere) who want to stay closer to town, Taormina’s medieval center is full of unique shops, historical monuments, and sidewalk cafés.

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