what to do in taormina greek roman theatre

What to do in Taormina, Ionio’s Pearl

Taormina is without a doubt one of the most beautiful seaside villages in Italy! Strategically located, you can get in no time to Catania, Messina and enjoy and adventurous trek on mount Etna or the mesmerizing landscape of Alcantara Gorge (my favorite!). The village has a lot to see and do for every type of traveler, so let’s see which are the best things to do in Taormina.

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Visit the Greek Theatre

I’ve seen many ancient theaters around the Mediterranean Sea, including the nearby of Syracuse, but with certitude I can say that Taormina’s Greek theatre is probably my favorite. Why? Because of the beautiful view on the Sicilian coast and of course mount Etna.

The theatre was built around the III century BC, then Romans restored it a few centuries after. Nowadays the location has preserved its undeniable charme and is definitely a must see when visiting eastern Sicily.

Our tip? Come admire the sunset from there. The ancient ruins with mount Etna behind and the sun setting behind makes it an unforgettable experience!

what to do in taormina greek roman theatre

Explore the Village

Surprisingly Taormina’s center isn’t on sea level. Very close to the Greek Theatre, it’s where the magic happens, artisan shops and typical restaurants are only a part of the charm of this lovely burg.

Even though tourism in Sicily is often associated with summer for its wonderful beaches, Taormina lives of autonomous life. Thanks to its beauty and worldliness, the village is very popular throughout the year.

If you are spending the night in Taormina you will have also many chance to find a good hotel there.

what to do in taormina seen from the greek theatre

Stroll in Corso Umberto I

Where the magic happens! Corso Umberto I is the lively and colorful street that connects Porta Messina to Porta Catania, the burg’s gates. It’s where you will find all the shops and restaurants (have I mentioned the artisan gelato yet? We loved it!).

Along this road you will also find many of the must-visit attractions in Taormina, let’s see them!

Admire Piazza XXV Aprile

Celebrating the end of WWII, Piazza 25 Aprile (Square April 25) is the beating heart of Taormina. Situated along Corso Umberto I, the square is framed by iconic buildings: the baroque church of San Giuseppe, the clock tower, and the former church of Saint Augustine that now hosts a public library.

I haven’t mentioned its strength yet: the panoramic terrace that has a breathtaking view on the surroundings.

what to do in taormina piazza 25 aprile clock tower

See the Duomo di Taormina

The very imposing Duomo of Taormina may look more as a fortress than a church. Built in the 12th century, during the century it has been renovated many times. The beautiful entrance dates back to the first half of 1600.

Some historians say that the Duomo has a piece of the Greek theatre. In fact the six columns sustaining the nave were probably taken from the theater of Taormina. When exploring the duomo search for the Byzantine Madonna, a beautiful Eastern-Orthodox-style oil painted icon.

The thing I loved the most about this church? Even though the duomo is in a tourist location, there are many religious services taking place there, and if you are lucky enough you may witness a fabulous Sicilian wedding.

what to do in taormina duomo

Visit Isola Bella

Did you know? Isola Bella literally means Beautiful Island in Italian. This little promontory is connected to mainland by a short stretch of land, which is one of the most famous beaches in the area. Although I won’t recommend it if you are visiting the area from June to September (yes I know that’s a long period), but there are many many locals and tourists and finding a spot may be difficult.

On the island there is a villa that you can visit for a small fee and get the access to the panoramic terraces, the view is very nice from up there.

what to do in taormina isola bella

Wander in the Public Garden

Taormina’s public gardens are in a beautiful area nearby the Greek Theatre. The shadowed walk is a nice break after a day spent at the beach or a getaway from the crowded center of Taormina.

The gardens have beautiful views on the Southern coast and mount Etna. It’s another great spot to admire the sunset.

what to do in taormina public garden
Photo of the beehive house inside the public garden by Merlijn Hoek.

Visit Alcantara Gorge and Mount Etna

I highly recommend visiting Mount Etna and Alcantara Gorge (the links are to our specific guides) on two separate days and on your own so that you have more time to truly appreciate these incredible natural wonders.

With that said if your time on the Eastern cost is limited there are some excursions from Taormina, that will let you briefly see both locations. This full day Mount Etna and Alcantara Gorge tour includes an excellent lunch and wine tasting in addition to picking you up from the hotel you’ll be staying.

alcantara gorge guide alcantara river basalt columns

Sail on a boat tour

The crystalline waters of the Ionian Sea are full of sea creatures (like dolphins) and the landscapes are amazing. Sailing on a boat tour to explore the natural caves, snorkel amid the fishes, or simply taste good wine and food can be an excellent idea to see the coast from another point of view.

As I mentioned above, Taormina is perched on a hill. The meeting points of the boat tours are either in nearby Giardini di Naxos (see the dolphins tour or the White Lotus tour) or on the beaches in the North of Taormina (check out this 3 hours tour with wine and food tasting), just remember that when you’re booking.

Take a Cooking Class

Italian cuisine is often considered one of the best in the world. But did you know it’s very regional? Sicilian cuisine is a stratification of all the different cultures that over the centuries crossed the island.

Learning to cook some of the traditional dishes is a great experience to also connect with locals while having fun. Which dish would you like to cook?

pasta fresca cooking class

Go on a Shopping Spree

I just can’t end this post without talking about the colorful local shops selling sweets, food, and traditional crafts. Whether you are buying souvenirs or not they are a joy for the eyes, or the mouth!

My favorite food to try? As an Italian I can safely say that Sicilian sweets and pastries are among the best (and most caloric!) in the world, just try cannoli siciliani, you’ll thank me later! 😉

A worth buying souvenir? If you have enough place in your luggage I absolutely loved the ceramic Moorish heads and the legend related to them. Another great idea may be an object crafted from lava stone.

In short – The legend of the Moorish Heads

The legend tells that a Moore merchant coming to Sicily fell in love with a girl. Their love was very passionate but the Moore had a family waiting for him back to the East. When the girl found out she cut her lover’s head and used it as a vase for basil.

Watered by her tears the basil grew so strong that the girl’s neighbors started being jealous. Ignoring the real origin of the vase they asked ceramists to replicate the wonderful head-shaped vase.

FAQ about Taormina

How long should I stay in Taormina?

A full day is enough to visit the main attractions and enjoy Taormina’s lifestyle, unless you want to spend more time on the neighboring beaches. The village is ideal to explore Sicily’s Eastern coast because of its central position, in no time you can be in Messina, Mount Etna, or Catania. Although accommodations might be more expensive than in other neighboring locations.

Is Taormina worth visiting?

I really understand all the hype for this charming village, it’s one of the cutest in Sicily, and I’m a sucker for the views! So yes, it is worth visiting even just for the ancient theatre and a stroll on Corso Umberto.

One last word about the Ionio’s Pearl

That’s right Taormina’s nickname is la perla dello Ionio (Ionio’s Pearl) one more reason to visit it right? Are you planning a trip to Eastern Sicily? Steal our 5 days itinerary! And don’t forget to check out our Travel Guides about Italy, we divided them by region to make your research easier.

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