We booked a hotel room in Giardini-Naxos, for exploring Taormina and its surroundings as it was cheaper than in Taormina itself.
Giardini-Naxos is a little village with a long beach and a long history. The name already tells about its Greek heritage. It was the first Greek colony on Sicily and was founded in 735 B.C.
It’s not an exciting place, but the restaurants and the long beach only adumbrate what’s going on here in high season. In May it was really calm and the restaurant owners almost fell on their knees begging us to come eating at their place.
We started by visiting Taormina. We know the city’s name back from home in Regensburg. It was (or still is) a restaurant’s name. Since then, we have this place on our bucket list.
Taormina is well visited for good reasons. Most pictures we know from Sicily show Taormina and therefore, people want to see the Sicily they dreamed about. I think it was the most crowded city in Sicily in May. At least when we were there.
The city is located over the sea, has a beautiful Old Town and offers a great view at Etna. With all those visitors, it’s of course not a cheap place, though Sicily in a whole wasn’t expensive. But Taormina is nothing for small budgets even in May.
The city is located on a hill. You can park at sea level and take the gondola or the bus. Or you park near the Old Town and pay for your laziness like we did.
There are two city gates leading straight to Corso Umberto, the pedestrian zone of the city. If you’re searching for a restaurant, cafe or souvenirs, this is your place.
The name Teatro Greco is misleading: It was built in the 2nd century B.C. by the Romans. At the beginning, it was used to performing plays here. Later, after a rebuilding, it was also used for gladiator and animal fights.
It’s famous for its hole in the middle making the famous view to Etna (often you only see clouds) and the bay of Giardini-Naxos possible. Tip: Enjoy the best view early in the morning!
In the middle of the Corso Umberto, you’ll find the Piazza IV Aprile. A huge square with an great view over the sea. One can spend quite a while at this place.
Sicily without churches is unimaginable. There is San Nicolo, built in the 15th century and located in the centre of the Old Town. There is a beautiful baroque fountain in front of it, built in the 17th century and made it really photogenic. And there is another church; San Giuseppe built in the 17th century.
This little village on top of the Monte Tauro hill was founded in the 8th century B.C. and towers majestically over Taormina. It wasn’t easy coming up here with our little rental car. Streets are narrow and we had to share it somehow with busses.
Up there was even a parking garage. If you don’t want to risk driving the way up on your own, you can take the bus or hike (very exhausting, though).
It’s a cute little village and seen quickly. Narrow alleys, restaurants and cafes make this tourist place perfect. There wasn’t much going on here.
There is a little church, San Giorgio, built in the 17th century. There’s not much more to see but the real reason to come here is the amazing view over the bay. Everything shrinked to miniature size.
The view alone was worth coming here.
The name itself makes people already dream. You’ve seen a picture about this place? Well, that’s Isola Bella and one of the most photographed places on Sicily. It’s located in the Ionian Sea and belongs to Taormina. Amateur photographers all around the world thank Mother Nature for this beautiful masterpiece.
You’ll have an amazing view to the tiny island from the beach of Mazzaró. In 1998 the WWF declared Isola Bella as nature preservation area, as there are rare plants and animals living on the little island.
Etna is the highest and most active volcano in Europe. It’s located near Catania and you can already see it from Taormina. It belongs to the UNESCO World Nature Heritage since 2013.
You can come here by car, but have to walk after a certain point. We didn’t see the crater as we were too late to book a guide. Visiting the crater without a guide is prohibited. For good reason of course.
We were more than satisfied with the lava landscape. The lava stones are the reason for fertile soil in the region.
Taormina and its surrounding is definitely a must see on every Sicily journey.