Taormina is probably the most well known town in Sicily aside from the capital of Palermo. It was already quite the popular destination, and its recent rise to fame as the main location for the wildly popular season two of The White Lotus has made it even more so. So, it’s no surprise to me that you might be wondering what’s out there in terms of things to do in Taormina!
Located in the northeast of Sicily, Taormina is a super conveniently located and stunning location to base your entire trip to Sicily, or to drop in for a day or two as part of a longer itinerary. First I’ll walk you through some FAQs that normally come up regarding Taormina, and then we’ll jump into the specifics of things to do in Taormina—feel free to use the table of contents to your advantage.
No matter how you plan your trip I hope that I can help you make the most of your time in Taormina, so settle in and get ready to plan the best things to do in Taormina during your trip to Sicily!
- Frequent questions about things to do in Taormina:
- Complete Guide to Taormina
Frequent questions about things to do in Taormina:
Is Taormina worth visiting?
It’s always a tricky situation with super popular destinations, because they’re popular for a reason, so you don’t want to just write them off outright. Taormina is home to some exceptional views, a beautiful beach, and an impressive Greek theatre, just to list a few of its gems. But of course, their popularity can seriously dull the shine that made them popular in the first place. So I always think it’s worthwhile to make an effort to visit, but don’t be surprised if it’s a bit frustrating—especially at peak times!
Now, if you’ve read my post about the best places to visit in Sicily, you may know that Taormina wasn’t exactly my favorite spot that we visited. However, that doesn’t mean I think you should skip it—I definitely still think Taormina is worth visiting, just with some caveats.
If you’re going in the high season (which spans essentially April-October), I would suggest you give Taormina a day or so maximum of your time, mostly just to see it and take in the views. It could also be worth trying to time your visit for early in the morning or the evening. The crowds are absolutely insane in the summer, to the point that it felt like we were walking through Disneyland.
If crowds don’t bother you then, by all means, ignore this. But if you, like me, feel like your experience is dampened by large crowds, long waits and being surrounded by other tourists, I just recommend that you proceed with caution. If you’re going outside of that time it should be a lot more manageable, and you could probably even enjoy basing yourself in Taormina.
What is Taormina famous for?
Taormina is partially famous because it’s an incredibly popular cruise stop, so you get a lot of people stopping off here for short stints. In the past year, however, Taormina has grown in notoriety and popularity due to it being the setting for season two of the very popular HBO show, The White Lotus.
Taormina is also very well known for its iconic and impressive ancient Greek theatre, which is not only one of the most famous attractions to visit, but also still serves as a venue for concerts to this day. You can take in a concert yourself if you’re lucky enough to visit between June and September.
Additionally, the natural wonders of Taormina do a lot to draw visitors to the town. Perched up atop the cliffside, Taormina looks exactly like the picturesque Italian towns you see all over aesthetic Pinterest posts and vision boards. Not only does that mean that you get some beautiful views of the town itself, but when you’re up there you’re also able to get some beautiful views of the sea and the surrounding areas.
The beach is also one of the most well-known draws of the area. Isola Bella is a tiny island just off the coast of Taormina that serves as a beautiful nature reserve inside of a cove. You can reach it on foot via a narrow sandbar that makes for a very cool visual.
Can you see Etna from Taormina?
Yes, you can see Mount Etna from Taormina! From the Piazza IX April on Corso Umberto, you can view Mount Etna in all her glory over the Giardini Naxos Bay. You can also see it from Taormina’s public garden.
The proximity of Mount Etna to Taormina means that if you are staying based near Taormina for your time in Sicily you can fairly easily set up a trip to tour the famed volcano.
Is Taormina easy to walk around?
Well, yes and no—it depends on what your concerns are! Taormina is very walkable in the sense that it’s not that large of a town, and it’s definitely easier to walk around the center than to take a car, for example, especially because the main street is pedestrianized.
However, because it’s perched up on a cliff, there are a lot of stairs and or hills to grapple with. It’s definitely possible to avoid much of that, for example if you stick to just the main road, or drive/take the funicular to the beach. It’s definitely doable for those who don’t love stairs or steep inclines, but just make sure to plan ahead!
How many days do you need in Taormina?
There’s really no right answer to this, and how many days you need in Taormina depends on the things to do in Taormina that appeal to you, and your overall itinerary. Personally, the two times I’ve been to Taormina (once in summer, once in winter) we only spent part of the day in Taormina and I felt like that was sufficient for me. However, I know plenty of people who have visited Taormina and spent three days or more there and loved it.
If visiting the beach at Taormina is important to you then I suggest giving yourself more than one day so that you can devote one day to Isola Bella and the crystal blue waters there, and leave the other day for staying on dry land and exploring the town.
Either way it’s most important to plan an itinerary that works for you, rather than one that feels like you need to spend a certain amount of time somewhere.
Is Taormina too touristy?
It depends on who you’re asking. If you’re asking me, then the answer is yes—I think that for most of the year Taormina is way too touristy. That doesn’t get in the way of plenty of people though, so don’t let it stop you! If you’re worried about the crowds, you can always aim to plan your trip outside of the high seasons. I visited for the second time in later March, and that definitely made a difference, although it was still definitely more crowded than where I was staying in Ortigia. You could also aim to visit Taormina early in the morning before the crowds pick up.
You could also manage this issue by choosing to stay outside of Taormina, and only coming in for a day trip to make it feel more manageable. We did this option and stayed in Savoca, which we loved and recommend so highly that we wrote a whole guide about it!
What is the best time of year to visit Taormina?
If you’re hoping to get the best balance of good weather and fewer crowds for your trip to Taormina, the best time to visit is May or October.
The weather will be best in Taormina between June and September. Personally, I would recommend aiming for the edges of this range, as it can get HOT in Sicily, and being there when it’s in the dead of summer can be physically uncomfortable (we went in August and nearly melted).
If your priority is crowd control, then I’ve mostly already covered that—aim for off seasons to get the least amount of crowds.
Is there a beach in Taormina?
Yes, there is a beach in Taormina, and there are also beaches all up and down the coast from Taormina—so your options are quite varied.
The beach in Taormina is called Isola Bella for the small island that’s just off the beach. It’s accessible by a narrow footpath of sand, making for a really picturesque beach setting. It’s worth noting, however, that given Taormina’s location up in the cliffs, it is a bit of a hike to get to and from.
If Isola Bella is too crowded for your liking, there are a few excellent lidos just to the north of Taormina. You can read more all about those (and my other top beach picks) in my guide The Best Beaches in Sicily.
Which is better, Taormina or Siracusa?
I think this is going to vary from person to person, and I think both places are worthwhile and you should make time for both if possible, but if you have to choose one, I think Syracuse is better.
Syracuse and Ortigia, in my opinion, are better located than Taormina, easier to get to/navigate within, and is significantly less touristy. There are more options for day trips in the south east of Sicily, and Syracuse is well located to reach Ragusa, Noto, and Modica. Syracuse is also significantly less touristy than Taormina, and fewer crowds means it can be easier to find places to eat and enjoy things “like a local”.
That being said, if you have the time to visit both towns, I suggest you do that for sure, and if you need some inspiration for Syracuse, check out my guide here.
Complete Guide to Taormina:
Where to Stay, What to See, What to Do & Where to Eat
Where to stay in Taormina
To be very honest with you, if you’re hoping to visit Taormina in the summer, my recommendation would be to stay somewhere near Taormina and visit as a day trip to avoid spending your entire trip weaving through throngs of cruise visitors. Not to mention that with popularity comes huge price inflation! Hotel rooms in Taormina during the high season are nearly double what you’ll find in other areas.
My top top options for places to stay near Taormina would be Savoca and Catania.
For those wanting an idyllic, hilltop Italian village to call home for a few days, Savoca is an excellent choice (and the one we made ourselves). You can read my full guide to how to say in Savoca here.
If you’re looking for a more centrally located spot to base yourself, the natural option would be Catania. I happy to love Catania more than almost anywhere else in Sicily. You can read about what makes Catania is so great here, and if that guide convinces you, I’ve compiled some of the most amazing (and affordable!) hotels and Vrbos in the city here.
If you’re certain that Taormina is at the top of your list of places to stay in Sicily, or if you’re visiting in the off-season, I have to admit that Taormina has some truly excellent hotels and vacation properties.
Here are a few of my top picks:
Before we decided against staying in Taormina, this gorgeous B&B located right off of Taormina’s main pedestrian thoroughfare, Corso Umberto, was on our shortlist!
You would never know from the street, but Relais 147 offers a complete oasis right in the middle of Taormina. Many of the rooms at this B&B open directly onto a cozily furnished terrace and there’s a jacuzzi in the garden.
Rooms here are all air conditioned as well (you’ll appreciate that in the summer!) and tastefully decorated as well.
Fortunately, this place is also very much on the affordable end when compared to the outrageous prices standard in Taormina during the high season. All in all, it’s an excellent choice!
If there’s one thing about Taormina, it’s that you shouldn’t choose to stay anywhere that doesn’t offer stunning views, because they’re literally around every corner! And Casa Aricò & Shatulle Suites doesn’t stop at the views – its roof terrace is luxurious and exceptional all by itself.
Tucked away in a side street, this B&B offers the perfect balance of proximity (still just five minutes from Corso Umberto) and calm. The interior of the property is every bit as welcoming as the terrace, and the rooms each have personal, unique touches that make the whole establishment feel curated and just special.
Past guests seem to agree – reviews rave about the “old-world” feel, art tucked into every corner, and meticulous attention to detail. Oh, and did I mention rooms here are less than $200/night through the entire year?!
If having a small kitchen and washing machine are more your speed, then this apartment offers the same great location, tasteful decoration, and amazing vibes of the two hotels I featured above. The terrace (just off the living room) looks right out over Corso Umberto, and even the indoor areas are absolutely flooded with energizing natural light.
Although this is only a one-bedroom property, it sleeps four and reviewers say that it is easily spacious enough for two couples.
My favorite thing about this place is that apparently the restaurant downstairs has live guitar music every night. Imagine sitting out on the terrace, with a bottle of wine, people watching the night away to live music! Sounds like a dream vacation to me.
What to see in Taormina
Probably the most famous of things to do in Taormina is the ancient Greek Theatre (Teatro Antico, or sometimes referred to as Teatro Greco) – a horseshoe shaped theatre that hangs over the sea and sky, with Mt Etna standing watching in the background. It’s the second biggest Greek Theatre in Sicily (Syracuse takes the title for biggest). During the summer, they have concerts and festivals there, so be sure to check the schedule. It can get pretty crowded, so if you don’t wanna get lost in a sea of people, try going early in the morning.
Located along the main beach area in Taormina, Isola Bella is a tiny but breathtaking nature reserve that sits nestled in a stunning cove surrounded by picturesque fishing boats. It’s accessible only by foot, and you have to cross a narrow sandbar to reach the island. It makes for an absolutely stunning sight both at sea level and from above, so do make sure to get a good view while up in the hills.
If you spend any amount of time in Taormina, you’ll quickly realize that getting down to the beach is a bit of a feat given that the town itself is perched high up on the cliffs! Luckily, Taormina has had an aerial tram / cable car to move between the town and the sea since the 1990s, and it’s sort of a fun experience in and of itself!
Isola Bella was once inhabited by Florence Trevelyan, who was responsible for the creation of one of Taormina’s most stunning public gardens, Villa Comunale. Set in an incredible location, the gardens have a range of beautiful tropical plants and delicate flowers while offering panoramic views of the coastline and the impressive Mt Etna. If you’re looking for a peaceful oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist crowds, this is the ideal spot.
If you’re looking for charming things to do in Taormina, look no further than the pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare that’s filled with boutique shops and quaint cafes. Start your journey at the historic Palazzo Corvaja, which dates all the way back to the 10th century, before heading southwest to Piazza IX Aprile. From here, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most spectacular panoramic views in all of Taormina. Across from the piazza is the beautiful Chiesa di San Giuseppe, an early 18th-century church that’s definitely worth a visit.
Next, make your way west and pass through the impressive Torre dell’Orologio, a stunning 12th-century clock tower, until you reach Piazza del Duomo. Here, you’ll find an ornate baroque fountain from 1635, featuring Taormina’s iconic symbol: a two-legged centaur with the bust of an angel. This fountain is a true masterpiece, and it’s definitely worth taking the time to appreciate it.
Now that you’re in the Borgo Medievale, Taormina’s oldest quarter, head over to the east side of Piazza del Duomo to visit the 13th-century cathedral that managed to survive the Renaissance-style remodelling that took place throughout Taormina by the Spanish aristocracy in the 15th century. Just north of the Corso is the stunning Palazzo Ciampoli, a 14th-century palace. Just to the south, near Porta Catania, stands the Palazzo Duca di Santo Stefano. Once home to the De Spuches, a noble family of Spanish origin, this 13th-century palace is now used as a function space, but its Norman Gothic windows and Arab accents still make it one of Taormina’s most beautiful and noteworthy buildings.
If you’re looking for some truly breathtaking views of Taormina’s coastline and the iconic Mount Etna, then look no further than Castelmola, a lovely hilltop village above Taormina that has stunning panoramas. If you’re feeling up to the challenge (I surely wasn’t, but I famously hate hiking) take the one-hour hike up the hill for some stunning sights. Alternatively, if you don’t have a car, you can opt for the hourly Interbus service (which costs €1.90 for a one-way ticket and €3 for a return trip), which will get you there in just 15 minutes.
Once you’re in Castelmola, make sure to stop by Bar Turrisi for some delicious almond wine and to check out its… interesting decor (dicks, the decor is just a ton of dicks, so, you’ve been warned). This multilevel bar is honestly so weird but somehow kind of charming, and it’s definitely worth a visit.
Things to do in Taormina
As you’ll be able to tell from the long list of things to see, visiting Taormina can end up feeling a bit overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. I am a huge fan of taking a walking tour as soon as I arrive in a new destination to help get my bearings and, usually, to have the chance to pick the brain of a local for their favorite spots.
Because of this, it’s no surprise that an excellent walking tour is very high on my list of things to do in Taormina. Thankfully, there are some excellent ones on offer here! Here are a few options based on your priorities:
- A 3-hour walking tour covering all of Taormina’s major sights, including entry to the ancient amphitheatre
- A food & wine focused walking tour of Taormina (with emphasis on the excellent wine!)
- A sunset walking tour of Taormina, ending on a rooftop terrace with an included aperitivo
- A shorter tour focused solely on the ancient amphitheatre (including admission)
- A Segway tour for those who prefer a little less walking
I’m not sure what it is about Taormina, but there are cooking classes galore on offer here. I’m not complaining though! Sicilian cuisine was one of the biggest draws for me the first time I visited Sicily, and it remains one of my favorite things about the island.
Here are some of the best reviewed (and most unique!) Sicilian cooking classes in Taormina:
- A mid-morning market tour followed by a cooking class and full lunch (FYI this is always my absolute favorite cooking class format!)
- A half-day pizza making class, including making dough from scratch!
- A cannolo cooking class that comes with recipes to take back home afterwards
My last big recommendation that absolutely has to go on a guide to Taormina (even if it’s not technically in town) is some sort of Mt. Etna experience! Whether you’re a traveller who prefers to get a know a place through adventure or one who prefers to take things in at a slower pace, here are a few excellent Etna-focused things to do in Taormina:
- A full-day tour covering all bases from hiking Mt. Etna in the morning, visiting a winery at lunchtime, and an afternoon visit to the Alcantara Gorge
- A 4×4 tour of Etna with light trekking
- A Mt. Etna food and wine tour
- A tour of two excellent wineries in the Etna foothills
Where to eat in Taormina
Bam Bar is nearly synonymous with Taormina at this point, and it’s pretty much impossible to consider getting granita anywhere other than Bam Bar. The only downside is there will almost always be a line during high seasons, but this one is actually worth waiting in. The brioche here is some of the freshest you’ll find, and every single flavor of granita is top notch. While I normally swear by pistachio granita, I found theirs to be a bit less sweet than I prefer, the Nutella granita however… I would die for that stuff. Definitely get it with cream on top and a side of brioche.
For those hoping for more of an American or British breakfast, Ape Nera offers a variety of food and drink options throughout the day, but they’ve landed in the breakfast column because they open before noon! Start your morning with a cappuccino, a smoothie, or granita and brioche. They also serve breakfast items such as croissants, scrambled eggs, and pancakes, as well as lunch options including panini, salads, and decadent cakes. Not a very common menu in Italy, so take advantage while you can (if that’s your style)!
Il Barcaiolo is a top choice for where to eat in Taormina that’s especially popular during the summer months. I definitely recommend making a reservation before you go. It’s open for lunch and dinner, but I like to recommend it for lunch because, aside from the delicious food, the setting is a huge draw. It’s beautifully situated in a cove by Mazzarò beach, surrounded by fishing boats. It’s very well known for its exceptionally fresh seafood dishes, so don’t miss out!
If you’re wanting to get off the beaten track, La Piazzetta is the perfect choice to hide away in for lunch. Located in the charming Piazza Paladini it’s a delightful spot to savor traditional Sicilian cuisine with a focus on seafood. The menu features classic dishes like pasta alla norma, and fresh grilled fish. The attentive service and inviting outdoor seating area surrounded by greenery enhance the overall dining experience. I recommend reservations!
Al Saraceno is another ideal lunch option for those who want to get out of the crowds that come along with the main pedestrian street in Taormina. Here you’ll find a lovely terrace with stunning views where you can enjoy tasty pizza and pasta dishes. The food is enough of a draw on its own, but the view really is what makes this place a must visit.
Pizzeria Villa Zuccaro is set in a charming 17th-century villa with a magical leafy garden patio. Here you can find traditional dishes as well as pizza – but the pizza is really what should be celebrated here, it’s incredible. All four pizzas we got were unbelievable, and the setting was so nice as it’s up and off the main drag.
For an intimate and romantic dinner setting, I recommend Osteria RossoDiVino. The restaurant is set in a cozy, candlelit courtyard and the menu is created daily and seasonally based on market offerings and the fresh catch from local fishers. Their wine list is also worth perusing, as it features a selection of natural and local wines from smaller producers. Make sure to book ahead!
Tischi Toschi is a small and acclaimed trattoria that offers creative and detailed dishes, which sets it apart from other touristy spots in Taormina. There are only a few tables available, so reservations are highly recommended, and in high season I’d consider them necessary. Their menu is regularly updated based on seasonal availability and features unique regional specialties. On top of all of this, the owners are so kind, and the dining experience itself was lovely and worthwhile. This was by far one of my favorite dining experiences in Taormina.
Tiramisù is a local institution in Taormina known for its down-home cooking and traditional dishes. Their wood-fired pizzas and classic pasta dishes, are always satisfying and the casual but warm atmosphere adds to the experience. Whatever you order, just make sure to leave room for their famous tiramisu.
Malvasia is an incredibly high quality restaurant with pasta to die for. Definitely be sure to try the ravioli, which seems to be the most popular dish on the menu. The menu changes frequently to showcase the freshest local ingredients, including seafood, meats, and vegetables sourced from nearby farms and fishing villages. Malvasia is the perfect place to indulge in a fine-dining experience that is both authentic and modern.
Teatro44 is an upscale restaurant that’s located off the beaten track, ideal after battling crowds all day. The menu is centered around seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, with dishes like homemade ravioli with goat cheese and truffle, and fresh seafood dishes. They also have a five course tasting menu.
For classic Sicilian food done well, head to Osteria da Rita. Large portions and stunning quality dishes are all served in a pleasant and friendly atmosphere. They’re open for lunch as well as dinner, and have a lovely outdoor terrace.
For everything else
For those with a sweet tooth, you have to visit Minotauro, a small pastry shop that is well loved for its delicious and fresh desserts. There are tons of pastries and cookies on display, but the real star of the show is the velvety ricotta cannoli that is freshly filled upon ordering and finished with fun toppings like pistachio, cinnamon, and candied orange.
Médousa is an all-day cafe/bar/bistro with an magical garden that makes for a romantic scene for aperitivo (3pm to 9pm), which is the best time to visit. They also offer tapas and coffee, or you can even opt for a full dinner if you prefer.
Rosticceria Da Cristina is the place you want to go for arancini in Taormina. It’s a casual little spot and they also serve pizza and other street food snacks, but trust me, even if you get some other things, you have to make sure you try the arancini.
Pasticceria Gelateria D’Amore is a delightful bakery and gelato shop that is another great option for anyone with a sweet tooth. The pastry selection includes traditional Sicilian pastries such as cannoli and cassata, as well as a variety of cakes and cookies. The gelato is also a standout, with flavors ranging from classic pistachio to more unique flavors like prickly pear and fig. The shop has a cozy and welcoming atmosphere, making it the perfect spot to indulge in a sweet treat while exploring the charming streets of Taormina.
One last gelato option is Bar Nove, cause you really can never have too much gelato in Italy. This is a special spot because it specialises in all things pistachio: granita, canoli, gelato, the list goes on. They source their pistachios from Bronte, which are some of the best pistachios in the world. It’s a non negotiable for pistachio lovers, especially if you can’t make it to Bronte yourself.
Pizzamania is a very casual pizza spot that boasts some of the best pizza in Taormina. You could come here at any time, hours range from 12- 11pm, but I think it’s ideal as a late night snack. The entire menu is sure to impress, but I personally recommend the pistachio option.
Al Grappolo d’Uva is a really lovely wine bar that’s located off the main roads, so it’s a bit less hectic. There are spots to sit outside and you can have a wine tasting, or just enjoy the antipasti and wine before dinner.