The most notable landmarks of Taormina
Taormina is a beautiful hilltop town that offers plenty of charming spots to take in the Sicilian island vibes, with sweeping Ionian seascapes and Mt. Etna serving as backdrop. Teatro Antico is the heart of the town where the main walking street of Corso Umberto leads you to most of the interesting landmarks and dramatic viewpoints. The most notable landmark is the Roman-Greek Theatre, with ruins and stage pillars that perfectly frame the blue waters of the Ionian. If you fancy a swim in the calm waves, head down to the coves and pebbled islet coast of Isola Bella. Historical churches dot the main street and rocky hillsides above, and there’s cool spots to head to after the sunsets.
Taormina’s landmark gateway
You can take in Taormina’s blend of antiquity and modern buzz at this arched stone gateway. It’s also where you can start strolling down Corso Umberto, the main walking street, and reach the viewpoint square of Piazza Aprile midway. Porta Messina is one among 2 of the once fortified town’s portals, the other being Porta Catania that’s around 800 metres on the southwestern end of the Corso.
A lonely but magnificent 10th-century structure
This grand Medieval stone fortress-like building’s just a minutes’ walk down from Porta Messina. It has an inner courtyard featuring old Christian reliefs and arched windows with a bit of Arabic influence. Palazzo Corvaja now functions as a museum and art gallery, frequently holding painting and multimedia exhibitions. From the outside, it stands large and tall, retaining much of its ancient architectural features, in contrast to the surrounding modern buildings within the piazza. This partly makes it popular for pre-wedding shoots.
Taormina’s charming main street
From either of the town’s 2 stone portals, you’ll find yourself walking along the pedestrian-only shopping haven of Corso Umberto. It’s a pleasant cobblestoned route lined with flowers, but can be get quite busy with the summer crowds. This can be good if you like people watching, there’s plenty of cafés along the course where you can sit and enjoy a coffee. Speciality shops range from fashion to jewellery, while most have displays filled with souvenirs. It’s charming during sunset time, with fewer tour groups.
Piazza IX Aprile
Pause for a scenic seascape
Halfway down Corso Umberto, you’ll come across this spacious and beautifully chequered-tiled piazza. It can provide you with a pause and relief from the usually crowded street, with a prize view as its bonus. From the piazza’s southern side, you can take in the sweeping seascape of the Ionian Sea. The other sides are bordered by historical landmarks, namely the baroque San Giuseppe church, the Church of St. Augustine, and the striking fortress-like clock tower. The square’s gorgeous, both day and night.
Watch an opera at an ancient landmark set against the Ionian Sea
A 6-minute detour from Porta Messina, Taormina’s ancient Teatro Antico (Roman-Greek Theatre) is spectacularly set against the Ionian seascape, with the silhouettes of Mount Etna in the background. It’s a wonderful sight on its own, featuring the intact stadium, terraces and preserved stone walls, together with the ruins of an ancient temple and the stage’s large columns. It still hosts a variety of operas, as well as shows and concerts today.
An urban oasis with magnificent views
If you’re looking for some serenity to go with the Taormina’s lovely sea views, head down to this small park that’s around 4 minutes’ walk from Piazza IX Aprile. The beautiful Villa Comunale offers quiet and lazy strolls, away from the common crowds of Corso Umberto. The well-manicured gardens have bronze sculptures and fountains among flowerbeds and shrubs, and pathways around the cliff edge allow you to take in the views of the bay and parts of the coastal town below.
Mazzarò-Taormina Cable Car
Steady journey with birds’-eye-views
A fun way to enjoy an overview of the town and its seascape is from the air, by Taormina’s funivia (cable car). It connects the town’s historical hub to the coastal area of neighbouring Mazzarò. Besides enjoying a steady ride with great aerial views, after arriving at Mazzarò you can also easily reach the idyllic islet and beach of Isola Bella within a 10-minute walk down Via Nazionale.
Isola Bella Beach
Taormina’s most beautiful islet and bay
Head down to Isola Bella Beach if you’re looking to spend some time soaking up some rays or wading in the calm blue waters of the Ionian Sea. The beach forms a natural causeway at low tide, connecting to the rocky limestone islet of the same name. It’s pretty, but very gravelly, with large pebbles and practically no sand. Most sections of the beach are public with sun loungers and paddleboards for rent. You can also find a natural museum here to learn more about the beach’s history.
Santuario Madonna della Rocca
Panoramas from a 17th-century church built into a cliff
This historical chapel is built into rocks above the town. It has a cliff-edge courtyard from where you can take in scenic vistas, with the Greek theatre and bay in view. It’s peaceful and quiet, offering a quiet escape distanced away from the town crowds below. Most buses from town stop here along the way up to the neighbouring town of Castelmola, and you can even walk up the steps from Corso Umberto (but don’t forget your sunscreen and drinking water in the summer).
Where to Stay
The Ashbee Hotel
Set just a short, albeit hilly, walk to town, the well-located The Ashbee Hotel offers classy service and drop-dead gorgeous views of the Mediterranean Sea. Set in a 1908 villa built for an English colonel by renowned Arts & Crafts architect Charles Robert Ashbee, this sumptuous retreat is small by Taormina’s standards, just 24 rooms and suites but big on service.
Inspired by the house’s history, the owners aim to mix the best of British and Sicilian tradition: discreet waiters serve Prosecco from silver ice buckets, the restaurant’s bay windows look out over citrus groves, and elegant antiques mingle with flashes of Italian exuberance (striped wallpaper, marble columns, red glass chandeliers). The Ashbee Hotel is a real heaven in the center of Taormina.
All guests should check out the organic and locally sourced breakfast buffet, featuring an array of Sicilian sweet and savory dishes. This year, the property became a member of The Leading Hotels of the World. For foodies, the glamorous The Ashbee Hotel, with its acclaimed One Michelin Star, St. George Restaurant by Heinz Beck (oh yes, the 3 Michelin star Chef of La Pergola in Rome), is a delightful gem where you can enjoy your lunch and dinner (plan for about two hours for the full gastronomic experience) with the best food in town.