Taormina Things to Do
monuments and museums
The most illustrious relic of the past is the theater. Begun in the 3rd century BC by the Greeks and expanded by the Romans, who enlarged the stage and added a partial roof (now destroyed). Reserved seating existed even in Greek times; a seat bears the inscription of the name of Philistide, wife of Hieron II of Syracuse. The world famous view of Mount Etna and the sea beyond the theater is breathtaking.
Magnificently situated, this theater is one of most famous Sicilian monuments in the world. It was built in the Hellenistic age and then almost completely rebuilt in the Roman period, when it became an arena for gladiatorial combat. From the cavea, carved from the side of a hill, the view takes in Giardini-Naxos and Mount Etna. The upper part of the nine-section theater is surrounded by a double portico. The theater originally had a diameter of 358 feet and a seating capacity of 5,000. Behind the stage area stood a wall with niches and a colonnade. Some of the Corinthian columns are still standing.
Today, the theater is the site of dramatic performances during the summer. The seasons alternate with those of Segesta, the site of Sicily's other large Greek amphitheater.
Among other Classical remains are the ruins of the odeon (for musical performances) and the naumachia (an artificial lake for mock battles). On Piazza Vittorio Emanuele (site of the Roman Forum), Palazzo Corvaia (14th-century) was built using stone from a temple that once stood there. The 13th-century Duomo (renovated in 1636) is a fortress-like building.
corso umberto I
Once you are back on dry land, head to the Corso Umberto I to browse the shops. The main street in Taormina begins at Porta Messina and ends at Porta Catania, a gate crowned by a building showing the municipal coat of arms. The street is lined with shops, pasticcerie (pastry stores), and cafes. Stop by the Wunderbar, famous for its glamorous clientele.
A medieval Byzantine (Orthodox) mosaic icon of the Theotokos (Mother of God) is perfectly preserved in the archway passage under the Clock Tower along Corso Umberto I leading into Piazza IX Aprile.
You may choose to head off to Taormina's public gardens, another popular attraction. Established in the 19th century, the gardens are impressive with their thick vegetation, hedges, and flower-beds. Entry to the gardens is free.
The Cathedral (San Nicolo') was built in the 13th century and has been altered over the centuries. The 17th-century portal is decorated with a medallion pattern, and over this are a small rose window and two windows with pointed arches. The nave has two side aisles and a wooden ceiling, as well as some interesting works of art. In Piazza Duomo, in the middle of which is a lovely Baroque fountain, is the Town Hall, Palazzo del Municipio.
A winding road leads to this village perched on a rock, about three miles from Taormina. Today you only see the ruins of a medieval castle, but in antiquity this may have been the site of the ancient acropolis of Tauromeniion. From Castelmola, you can enjoy one of the most famous panoramic views in the world, especially impressive at sunset.
palazzo dei duchi di santo stefano
This 13th-century building near Porta Catania is a masterpiece of Sicilian Gothic architecture. The influence of Arab masons is clearly seen in the wide black lava frieze alternating with white Syracusan stone inlay. The interior has a permanent exhibition of the works of sculptor Giuseppe Marzullo.
Toarmina's grandest building dates from the 15th century, although it was originally an Arab tower. Next to the palazzo are the Baroque Santa Caterina and the ruins of the Odeion, a small Roman theater.
The scenic Alcantara Gorge is located about a twenty minute drive south and west of Taormina on the Alcantara River off Route 185. Volcanic activity created the beautiful basalt formation.
Considered Sicily's oldest Greek city, Naxos is located just a few miles from Taormina, in the locality known as Giardini-Naxos, near Cape Schiso'. Little remains here except for structural foundations and the pavement stones of ancient streets, but Naxos was once a flourishing city, much larger than ancient Taormina. It was founded by the Chalcidenians as Sicily's first Greek colony in 735 BC.
Mazarro Beach, Taormina's main beach (also known as Taormina Mare) has a beautiful, clear sea and can be easily reached from town.
From the Bay of Mazarro, with its crystal clear waters, you can go on excursions to other sights along the coast: Capo Sant'Andrea, with the Grotta Azzurra (Blue Grotto), a spectacular marine grotto which can be visited by boat. The ride takes you to some gorgeous caverns, including the amazing Blue Grotto. This place is considered to be a diver's paradise because its water is so clean and clear.
To the south are the stacks of Capo Taormina and the beach at Villagonia, and to the north is Isola Bella, one of the most exclusive places in the area, partly because of its clear waters, and the beaches at the Baia delle Sirene and the Lido di Spisone. Further on is the beach at Mazzeo, a long stretch of sand that leads as far as Letojanni and continues up to Lido Silemi. Letojanni, about three miles from Taormina, is a busy and bustling small seaside resort. Locals and visitors alike come here to dine out in one of the many good seafood restaurants by the water.
taormina arte festival
The most well-known and important cultural event is the international Taormina Arte Festival. Every year, from the end of July to September, concerts, theater shows, and film performances are scheduled.