Before we recently visited Taormina, everyone we’d spoken to always had limitless praise for it’s beauty and wonder. Rest assured no matter how many times someone tells you about it’s beauty it still doesn’t stop you being blown away by the quaint shops selling antiques and the Greek Theatre with stunning views of the southern Mediterranean. We had hired a car on our 5 day trip because we thought we wouldn’t be occupied enough in the town but in hindsight 5 days probably is just about perfect so see everything you’d want to. Taormina is perched around 250m above sea level on a hill, to get to the sea there is a frequently running cable car. Everything I mention here is within walking distance of Taormina.
We were staying in the beautiful Hotel Villa Carlotta which was a stones throw from the centre of the town. The first destination we came across was by chance, if Emily hadn’t been her inquisitive self and taken a left turn we would have totally missed the public gardens.
Taormina Public Gardens
Having an annual membership to the Historic Royal Palaces and spending many sunny afternoons strolling around Hampton court and Kew, most gardens I come across are very lacklustre. These gardens however, were very different. I speak on behalf of many travellers to Italy when I say that one of the big attractions is the history. Everywhere there are glimpses of civilisations gone by, the hills around Taormina are covered in ruins and even within the gardens there are some ruins that are dappled by the sunlight from the surrounding trees.
It’s a very tranquil place, partly due to the fact that is also serves as a war memorial to those who lost their lives during the first and second world wars.
There is a artillery gun, torpedo as well as a statue. The garden extends for around 600m in length and around 200m across with one side overlooking Mt Etna and across Giardini Naxos. I suggest walking through the gardens at around 6pm and then sitting on a bench and watching the sun pass behind Mt Etna.
Isola Bella also known as the pearl of the Ionian Sea is a small island just off the coast of Taormina. It sits across from a small rocky beach that has a few tavernas on the waterfront. Once a private island owned by an importer of exotic plants, the island has a very diverse array of horticulture and wildlife. There are a few species of lizard found only on the island and no where else in the whole of Sicily.
There is an entanglement of paths and doorways made from stone, which are incredibly heavy. There is a 4 euro charge to see the island which is well worth it. The waters around the island are also teeming with life. Even in May when the waters are cold, I was snorkelling amongst thousands of fish of all shapes in sizes. One recommendation before visiting is that you have a suitable pair of shoes that can either get wet or are designed for rocky beaches. You don’t want to be one of the many tourists struggling to cross the rocky shore barefoot.
Across from Isola Bella are the blue caves (grotto) which are one of the most popular diving spots on the island. Boats depart from outside the tavernas on the beach take you right into the turquoise cave for a couple euros as well as around Isola Bella. It’s a short trip but the caves are very beautiful, I wouldn’t recommend going if it’s not sunny, as i don’t imagine they will be as blue on a cloudy day.
The greek theatre sits above the town and looks over both the strait of Messina and Mt Etna, down towards Catania. It’s one of Sicily’s most prized archeological sites and it’s second largest theatre. A lot of the theatre is brick which was built by the Romans however the design and foundations are from the 7th century BC. In the entrance there are stones with Greek inscriptions. The walls surrounding the theatre are crumbling, there are people to stop you climbing on them as they do make for a fantastic photo opportunity.
Concerts, plays and film festivals are commonly shown here so you too can experience the emotions of those who sat in your seat 2700 years before you!
Gelato is by definition ice cream which is made in a traditional Italian fashion including, milk, cream, sugar and flavourings which are commonly fruit purees. Temperatures in mid summer reach 34 degrees celsius and gelato makes for an amazing refreshment. There are shops dotted around all over the town. Perhaps use it for energy before you climb the Monte Tauro.
You’ll notice while wondering around the town that there is a castle perched above, sitting somewhat precariously on a rocky outcrop. You can actually make a 40 minute climb up to it but at the time we were there wasn’t open, however you’re still greeted with a magnificent view of the rooftops of Taormina and of course the deep blue mediterranean.
Spoilt for Choice
Taormina is a town every traveller dreams about, it has accommodation, restaurants and bars to suit all budgets. It’s thriving with commerce, it’s a great place to buy Italian clothes are you get it at a tax free price, with on tax being paid on items over 150 euros. Out of all the places I’ve visited in the last year Taormina ranks as one of the best, I thoroughly suggest you check it out!