Taormina (Sicilian: Taurmina) is a town in the province of Messina on the east coast of Sicily.
Servizio Turistico Regionale di Taormina
Since 2011, the town service provider ASM (which runs the local buses, cable-car and parking lots) has been bankrupt. But it's been kept on financial & legal life-support ever since (ciao, welcome to Italy!), and in 2018 these services remain open.
OrientationThe main town of Taormina, which is what you've come to see, straggles along a hillside, 2 km up a hairpin road from the coast. The main access road is Via Luigi Pirandello (SP10), which leads to the bus station and Porta Messina at the east end of town. The pedestrianised high street Corso Umberto I stretches from here to Porta Messina at the west end. Bypass roads above and below carry the town traffic, while unseen and unheard deep beneath, the Messina-Catania Autostrada burrows through the mountain.
Above the main town, Via Leonardo da Vinci (SP10) continues to zigzag upwards, to Sanctuario Madonna della Rocca and the castle. And on it climbs, to end at the hilltop village of Castelmola. This is a separate township but it's such a tiny place, reached only by this road, that its facilities (such as they are) are described on this page.
The name "Taormina" is also loosely applied to the strip along the coast road SS114 below, notably to the railway station Taormina-Giardini-Naxos. Taormina town limits include the beach area of Mazzaro at the foot of the cable-car, and the tip of the peninsula where Via Pirandello starts its climb. Most package tourists stay down there, or in nearby resorts such as Giardini Naxos and Letojanni. Hoteliers down on the coast invoke the T-word to boost their prices, but for practical purposes - and considering the feel and identity of the place - they're altogether somewhere else. Stay in Taormina itself if you can.
The nearest airport is Catania-Fontanarossa. Interbus runs a direct bus between the airport and Taormina, roughly hourly 07:00-20:00. The journey takes about 90 min, fare €8.20 (€7.50 if bought online)
By busBus is the best public transport option, as this will bring you up the hill to the town centre
There are trains roughly hourly from Messina to the north and Catania to the south, both taking just under an hour. The problem is that the railway station Taormina-Giardini is down on the seafront, a steep 2 km below the main town along a hair-pinning, busy road. You'd have to transfer to the ASM bus or Interbus: the station is equally far from the cable-car.
By carThe exit from the Autostrada is just north of town. Follow road signs onto V Garipoli, which climbs to the long-stay parking lot of Parcheggio Lumbi, a five-minute uphill walk to the east gate of Porta Messina. Ascending V Pirandello from the coast road comes to the same place. There is a free shuttle bus (as of June 2018) from the car park into town. Parking costs €2 for 1½ hours, €8 for 3 hours, €16 for 24 hours, €25 for 48 hours and €6 for each additional 24 hours (Oct 2019).
Or, from the Giardini area further south on the coast road, you can ascend V Crocefisso, leading to the other long-stay lot Parcheggio Porta Catania just below the west gate of Porta Catania. €2 for 1 hour, €7 for 3 hours, €12 for 12 hours, €15 for 24 hours, €1-2 more in Jul, Aug, Easter and Christmas (Oct 2019).
If your accommodation is outside the pedestrianised area, you may drive on to reach it, by the anti-clockwise one-way system. (Miss your turn-off and you'll have to make another 3-km circuit.) If it's within, ring ahead for advice: it may be okay for you to come to the hotel and drop off, otherwise park in the closest long-stay and schlep. Parking tariffs are about 50 cents per hour up to 48 hours, thereafter €6 a day.
Cruise ships occasionally moor offshore or at nearby ports, and bus their customers up to Taormina. But these are tour itineraries, and not available to book for point-to-point travel.
On footMost of the centre of Taormina is pedestrianised, making it easy to wander around by foot.
By busASM runs four local bus lines:
- Linea verde (the "Green Line") runs between Madonna della Rocca next to the castle at the top of town; down through the centre, main bus station, and Lumbi car park; on down to the foot of the cable-car at Mazzaro; then south along the coast past the railway station, then a final turn uphill to St Vincent's Hospital. There are 8 services on Sundays but only four the rest of the week.
- Trappitello runs from central Taormina past Lumbi car park to the coast road and railway station, then south to the village of Trappitello. Five times a day M-F.
- Circolare rossa (the "Red Circle") loops round town centre and Lumbi car park. Roughly hourly Sunday, no mid-morning or afternoon buses midweek.
- Beachbus runs from central Taormina down to the coast, then north to Mazzeo, a short walk from Letojanni. Seven per day.
By cable car
Funivia TaorminaThe cable car runs every 15 min between Taormina town centre and Mazarro down on the beach.
address: Via del Teatro Greco, 1Ancient theatre of Grecian origin, but re-built in Roman brick in the 3rd century BCE. Impressive for the views and because the proscenium (the back-drop) survives, unlike in most amphitheatres.
A clock tower and gate to the southern part of Taormina.
Palazzo CorvajaMedieval palace, dating from the 10th century, that was built by the Arabs when they ruled over Taormina. The main body is an Arabic tower. It has also an inner courtyard where the Arabic influence can been seen in the architecture.
OdeonRemains of a small theatre built by Romans in 21 BCE.
address: Via Bagnoli CrociRestful gardens, populated by mock-oriental follies on the verge of tumbling down. The gardens are the creation of Florence Trevelyan (1852-1907), an English conservationist who also bought Isola Bella. She settled and married here and is buried in nearby Castelmola.
Palazzo Badia VecchiaThis fine Gothic tower used to host an abbey (Abbazzia).
Palazzo dei Duchi di Santo StefanoBuilt in a style similar to Badia Vecchia. Now it's a site of the Fondazione Mazzullo, which hosts a collection of numerous works of the artist Giuseppe Mazzullo.
NaumachieThe remains of a 120-m-long Roman structure. Probably it was a part of nymphaeum, with a monumental fountain. Now it is the foundation for a few buildings.
On the coast at the foot of town adjacent to Giardini Naxos:
Isola BellaThis is the tiny tombolo island seen below, now a nature reserve. You can paddle out to it but the museum is closed and the beach is sharp volcanic shingle, so it's probably best admired from the terraces up the hill.
address: Via Luigi Pirandello, 105Small museum, appears to be closed in 2018.
- Wander up and down the main street - Corso Umberto I taking in the sights
- Walk down from Castelmola village to Taormina (or vice versa if you're fit). This path is in decent condition, unlike the path between Taormina and railway station, which remains unsafe.
- A vintage self-drive excursion or a themed tour on a classic Fiat 500, starting from Taormina and Giardini Naxos area. The most popular excursions are themed on the Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather movie and on the Etna Wines Road. You can reach villages like Savoca and Forza D’Agrò. Contact 500 Vintage Tour - Classic car hire & tours - Taormina - Phone +39 3497234906 - Email: firstname.lastname@example.org - Website: 500 Vintage Tour
- There are plenty of souvenir shops.
Gelatomaniaphone: +39 0942 23900address: Corso Umberto, 7Gelateria with big portions, mostly happy customers, has dairy-free alternatives.
Ristorante Mirageaddress: Via Roma 7Customers have enjoyed the views of Naxos bay and Mount Etna, but are not always impressed by the food or service.
phone: +39 0942 683017address: Vico Giordano Bruno, 8Sicilian gastronomy. Prices are high.
phone: +39 0942 23453address: Via Bagnoli Croci, 84Good food and friendly service.
phone: +39 338 238 3732address: 47 Via Pergusa, Giardini-Naxos2-star hostel near beach.
phone: +39 0942 23372address: Corso Umberto, 81Central 2-star place.
address: 46 Vico B S PancrazioHas single, double and triple bed rooms starting from €25. Spacious, clean accommodation.
phone: +39 0942 628 698address: Corso Umberto 238 - Porta Catania3-star
phone: +39 0942 23112address: 224 Via NazionaleCliffside 3-star hotel overlooking the Bay of Mazzaró. Close to the transport link down to the beach.
phone: +39 0942 23790address: via Luigi Pirandello, 26 - 930393-star, outside the town center and a few metres from the bus station.
phone: +39 0942 23185address: Via Fazzello, 342-star hotel.
phone: +39 0942 625 802address: Viale S. Pancrazio 25-27Group of family-sized apartments with private terraces and facilities and the services of the nearby 3-star Hotel Jonic. Full kitchen facilities and home comforts are all provided in this structure.
phone: +39 0942 23841address: 16 Via Roma4-star, surrounded by its own extensive gardens. Central and quiet position. Own garage with valet parking. 21 spacious rooms and 6 junior suites with 24-hour room service, parking, garages, solarium, sport activities and shuttle service to the hotel beach. Free Wi-Fi.
phone: +39 0942 628 315address: Corso Umberto, 2243-star in the historical centre.
phone: +39 0942 643 131address: 168 Via Bagnoli Croce4-star hotel.
phone: +39 0942 652 033address: Via Nazionale, 1894-star hotel with spacious rooms on the beach. Features 3 restaurants, 3 bars and a wellness and beauty centre.
phone: +39 0942 24218address: Via Di Giovanni 67In a quiet location overlooking a terrace with evergreen plants, prickly pears and lemon trees. Each apartment is bright and spacious with a TV, radio and washing machine.
phone: +39 0942 23342address: Via Luigi Pirandello, 60 - 98039 TaorminaHotel Bel Soggiorno is in the centre of Taormina, in a panoramic position. Rooms and suites have a balcony or terrace overlooking the panorama over the Bay of Naxos.
phone: +39 0942 28513address: Via Leonardo Da Vinci4-star near Greek Theatre.
phone: +39 0942 627 0200address: Via Teatro Greco, 595-star plush place in extensive gardens. Kaiser Wilhelm II stayed here in 1906.
phone: +39 0942 626058address: Via Pirandello 814-star castle-like Sicilian villa.
phone: +39 0942 28153address: Via Leonardo da Vinci 604-star boutique hotel.
phone: +39 0942 52064address: Via dei Sei Mulini, Giardini Naxos5-star spa with indoor & outdoor pools.
phone: +39 0942 625 202address: Via Circonvallazione, 115-star hotel in centre with free Wi-Fi, a spa, a terrace with city views & an outdoor pool.
phone: +39 0942 23901address: Via Circonvallazione, 614-star hotel overlooking the sea from a great height, with outdoor swimming pool, restaurant and large meeting facilities plus access to the private beach of the sister hotel on the coast.
phone: +39 0942 51776address: 30 Via Crocifisso4-star historic villa at the foot of Taormina with a wonderful view of Giardini-Naxos Bay. Note there is another Villa Sirena on Via Pirandello.
phone: +39 0942 620 072address: 39 Via Tommaso FazzelloAn antique residence in the heart of Taormina surrounded by a typical Sicilian garden with pleasant scents. Antique furnishings, panoramic terrace with a splendid view.
phone: +39 0942 627 1200address: 137 Via Nazionale, MazzaròThis 5-star hotel was built in 1830 by an aristocratic British family. Charming rooms overlooking the bay.
Danger: Percorso pedonale Taormina - MareDon't use it! It's dangerous. The path in its lower part is destroyed by a landslide. The rest of the path is still walkable, but its condition is extremely poor and unsafe.
Castelmola is a village 5km above Taormina. It's built around the ruins of a Norman castle, which used to be the citadel of Taormina. The Interbus takes 15 min, leaving Taormina M-F at 09:40, 10:40, then every 2 hr until 18:40, Sundays less frequently. You can also walk up the footpath, it's in need of repair but basically safe, unlike the path from Taormina down to the coast.
- Eat: options include Ristorante Parco Reale, Pier de Cat Bistro, Gallo Cedrone and Taverna dell'Etna.
Drink: bars include Cosmopolitan Bar D'Allura Giuseppe, and the one everyone's heard about: phone: +39 0942 28181address: Via Pio IX 19This bar has a theme: penises. Quite a lot of them. An allusion to Greek antiquity, the owner says. Still, if it keeps drawing the visitors....
- Sleep: accommodation, all along the road up from Taormina, includes Villa Pace B&B, Hotel Villa Sonia, Villa Regina, and B&B Casa Bellavista. There are several other small B&Bs.
- Giardini Naxos - a popular resort just below Taormina. Enjoy its beaches, hike along the Alcantara and see its gorge.
- Mount Etna - Plenty of agencies offer day trips there, or with your own car you could reach either the Sapienza or Provenzana base stations. To walk to the summit, you must have a guide, warm clothing and stout footwear, clear weather, and a volcano that isn't erupting (which it does quite often).
- Catania is the regional transport hub, so you'll probably have to pass through it; it's worth a day to explore.
- The main attractions further south are Syracuse, Ragusa and Modica
- To reach the north coast, the quickest way is to blat along the autostrada A18. A more attractive route SS185 winds through the hills, with views back over Etna, and through the picturesque medieval town of Novara di Sicilia overlooking ancient Tyndaris and Abacaenum. From the coast either turn west for Palermo, or go a little way north to Milazzo the port for the Aeolian Islands, or turn east to the ferry port of Messina.