Taormina, the Charming Cliff Top Town of Sicily.
Did you know that Taormina in Sicily is called the Pearl of the Mediterranean?
Well I didn’t, and after visiting this charming 5th century medieval town the word Pearl doesn’t do it justice. Sitting on top of a 200m cliff on the Ionian Coastline it offers a view and idyllic holiday location that has few rivals.
You can understand why carefree nomads with a passion for arts in the 1800s called this picturesque town home. Why not immerse yourself into a Taormina holiday and enjoy first hand a picture perfect Mediterranean location with the added bonuses of sun, shopping, local food, wine and continuous music.
Arriving at the Idyllic Coastal Town of Taormina
Arriving in the Port of Messina by cruise ship, our transport was by coach. After travelling through what seemed like a hundred tunnels and negotiating the same number of very tight hairpin bends we were there – up on a cliff 200 metres high!
Entering the town through the southern Catania Gate there were many colourful displays of Oleander, Bougainvillea and Hibiscus. (You need to travel in April – October to see this sea of colour).
The views of the coastline are spectacular and in the background you can see Mt Etna always mumbling warnings that she is still active.
However, it’s Etna’s grumpy disposition (and resultant lava spills) that has made the soil in surrounding towns, such as Taormina, so fertile. This means the lush countryside is literally covered with olive trees and subtropical flowers that can be seen in every direction.
Taormina has hosted many famous visitors (no…not me!)
The small town has hosted many famous visitors over the years such as Oscar Wilde, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, and Liz Taylor. Boomers will remember these names, but not sure about the Gen X and Y people. I must say all the name-dropping just added to the interest of the visit.
The Lure of the Taormina charm
It’s easy to understand why visitors head to Taormina in droves. This captivating town offers, charm and incredible architecture that is a mix of Arab, Norman and Gothic.
Walking along the main street – Corso Umberto 1 – you come across many small alleys, steep steps, artisan’s workshops and lots of typical al fresco restaurants. For the shopaholics there are a large number of high end shops similar to those found in any major city around the world.
The smallest and most famous alleyway in the town is called Vicolo Stretto meaning literally “tight alley”. You think it’s the entrance to a building and not a street that will lead to a restaurant. Three flights of stairs need to be climbed to reach the restaurant but the rewards are definitely worth the effort. The food is genuine Sicilian and full of flavour plus you are sitting on top of the roofs in Taormina’s main square!
Oh, life is definitely good in Taormina especially if you are lucky enough to be staying for a few days. This gives plenty of time to laze in the town squares and listen to the continuously played classical Italian music. Add to this the enjoyment of licking a gelato or sipping a glass of Fiano di Avellino (one of Italy’s best white wines). Or, maybe a famous Lemonchello liqueur will tempt you…..mmm, so many choices.
If it’s the beach that entices you on a sunny day, there’s even a cable car to get you safely down the high cliff.
Taormina and its Greek Roman Theatre
The infamous Taormina Greco-Roman Theatre is an eye opener. This Greek structure was mainly rebuilt in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD and theatrical performances are still held every year.
What makes the theatre particularly special are the views through the stone arches across to Mt Etna – directly across from the auditorium.
When you’re at the theatre, take a seat, close your eyes, and imagine you are among noble gentry walking up the royal staircase to your seat for a performance of orchestral tragedy or comedy.
Although… if you let your mind wander into the wrong era it could well be gladiator and hunting games on stage!
Taormina Porcelain is Oustanding
Walking back down to the town centre from the theatre its easy to be waylaid by the various shops selling local puppets, the famous bright Taormina porcelain, pottery, china and a huge range of souvenirs.
The porcelain is a popular buy and beautifully crafted in all shapes and sizes. Be warned, there’s the chance you will be tempted to ship a large item home to remind you of your enjoyable time in this medieval town.
The Dalmatian dog sitting in the doorway of one such shop was definitely my favourite.
Did you know? Folklore tells us that the spots on a Dalmatian dog represent the number of islands along the Dalmatian Coastline? Although as there are approximately 1,000 islands this is a bit of a stretch – makes for a good story though!
Taormina Public Garden
A visit to the Taormina public gardens is a must. This is one of the most panoramic and beautiful places in the city – the green area where hundreds of species of plants and flowers can be found. The lush vegetation with palms, cactus and flowers gave an instant cooling effect on the hot day we were there.
A Magical Marriage in Taormina
Ready to declare your true love to that special person in your life? Why not get hitched at one of the churches in Taormina followed by photos at the Corvaia Palace, central to town. Legend has it that telling someone you love them while standing on the courtyard steps ensures this love will last for an eternity. There you go – nowhere else in the world but Taormina.
The legend dates back to the 1300s so it definitely tried and true!
Why not get up Close and Personal with Mt Etna.
Now, for the adventure lovers amongst us, expert guides will lead you to the main crater of Mt Etna, the mightiest volcano in Europe. At 3,300 metres above sea level this promises to be an unforgettable experience. The summit is an awe-inspiring place.
The earth around rumbles continuously and sulphur fumes belch out of craters whose inky depths are never visible. The vastness of the smoking vent and the bubbling sounds coming from the massive chasm will leave you breathless. Or so I’m told – I didn’t do this tour but just wanted to share the details of a Mt Etna adventure!
When to Visit Taormina
Because Taormina is the most popular spot in Sicily it does mean lots of crowds during the summer season of June – August. For a quieter time, visit on the shoulder months of March/April and September/October. The locals say the weather is perfect at any time!
The paradise of Taormina will keep you entranced for days. There is:
- History – the list of palaces, churches, abbeys and sanctuaries is endless
- Architecture – a mix of Arab, Norman and Gothic
- Sunshine and beaches
- Al fresco lifestyle
- Shopping for local artisan items, brand name items and souvenirs
- The public gardens
- The opportunity to explore grottos, gorges and caves by small boats
How to get there:
- By cruise ship. (Although this does only give one day to enjoy everything Taormina has to offer).
- By plane https://www.expedia.com › Flights › Europe › Italy
Where to stay:
- There are a lots of hotels available in Taormina town and also many outside the walls that are only five minutes walking distance.
- Excellent B&Bs are available and are a cheaper option.
- Travel in the shoulder months of March/April and September/October to avoid crowds.
- When visiting the church make sure shoulders and knees are covered.
Boomers – make sure you add Taormina to your bucket list.