No visit to Sicily would be complete without taking the cable car up to the hill town of Taormina. It may be true that the town is buzzing with tourists, but there is good reason for this. There is lots to see and do in Taormina: a dazzling mixture of spectacular views, historic buildings, cannoli and ice cream. And it was voted one of “The 15 most charming small towns in Italy” by Conde Nast in 2019.
Greeks And Romans In Taormina
Like many towns in Sicily, Taormina was settled by the Greeks before the Romans arrived, and was briefly occupied by the Byzantines, Arabs, French and Spanish. It later became a favoured haunt of artists and intellectuals, including the English writer D H Lawrence who lived there for a while, and more recently it has been colonised by tourists. All of these visitors have left their mark upon the place.
But the first thing you notice is the views. From your vantage point on top of the hill you can see exactly why so many people have been attracted to the town. In one direction there is the coast, with its shimmering blue sea; on the other the vista stretches across the island to the snow capped peak of Mount Etna.
The Teatro Greco Of Taormina
Taormina is full of historic buildings, including several churches and the palazzi of the Piazza del Duomo.
But, for many visitors, the main attraction is the Teatro Greco, a massive open air theatre of Roman design (probably built on the site of an earlier Greek theatre). It stands on the highest point of the town, and the location was obviously chosen for its commanding views of the surrounding countryside. The theatre is still used today for film festivals and other performances.
When you have had enough of sightseeing, take a walk down the Corso Umberto I, the main street of Taormina. Ideal for people watching, it is full of smart shops, restaurants and cafés. Spend some time browsing the shops for the ceramics that Sicily is famous for, or just sit in a café and end your visit with an ice cream or some cannoli (Sicilian pastry tubes filled with cream).
The best time to visit Taormina is in the spring or autumn. It can get very hot and crowded during the summer, and some places may be closed during the winter.
You can get to Taormina by bus from the major cities in Sicily. If you are driving, remember that it is on a tall hill! A cable car goes up the hill from the beach area of Mazzarò, close to the popular beach of Isola Bella.