The 20 top things to do and see in and around Taormina

Taormina is always part of the best travel itineraries when it comes to a visit to Sicily. It’s a must-visit location, especially if you want to enjoy the luxurious side of the island since here you can find some of the best luxury hotels in Sicily.

Come to Taormina and experience the most elegant town on the east coast of Sicily, which has attracted a glamorous crowd since the 1960s.

Taormina is a beautiful hilltop town on the East coast of Sicily. Perched 204m high, it boasts some of the most impressive views of the island and even in the whole of Italy, with the sparkling Ionian sea stretching as far as the eye can see, and the mighty Mount Etna providing a constant striking yet humbling presence.

The town possesses an abundance of old-style charm and oozes romanticism from every corner. There’s no wonder it is widely considered the pearl of the Ionian Sea.

Taormina is not only pleasing to the eye but also a fascinating destination with a rich history and many tales to tell.

We, as luxury travel planners based in Taormina, are proud to know the area like the back of our hand. For this reason, we have compiled an ultimate guide to Taormina and around for sharing our knowledge with you so that you can begin dreaming up your next visit to this special place.

To book any of the experiences mentioned here, or if you’d like help crafting your perfect itinerary in Sicily, get in touch with our team of experts who are proud to share their knowledge and ensure your visit to Sicily is as magical as you imagined.

For many other travel experiences in Sicily and to discover our top hotel list make sure to read the post: 10 exclusive tours for luxury travel in Sicily and Best hotels in Taormina.

Visit the Taormina Greek Theater

The Ancient Theatre in Taormina (constructed in the third century BC) is an unmissable monument and a pristine example of Greek ruins. You will be transported back in time, and see for yourself the spectacular natural scene for which the amphitheater serves as a frame.

Its unique location overlooks Mount Etna and the bay of Giardini, making it truly one-of-a-kind.

The Theatre is so special that it has been chosen in recent years, as a wedding venue for an unforgettable celebration and as a venue for major social events. In September 2021 the Theatre was chosen for the Ferrari Cavalcade 2021 that ended with an elegant dinner in the most iconic monument of Sicily.

Due to its spectacularity, the amphitheater is the most-visited attraction in town. As such, you will want to avoid peak times if you want to enjoy it at its best.

We think the best way to see it is with our exclusive private tour so that you can enjoy the theatre in all its grandeur and be humbled by its stature without distraction.

As you wander around the site during sunset, you will feel humbled and immediately understand why the Greeks chose this spectacular location. Your guide will provide insight into the history while allowing you to roam in peace and take it all in while capturing a memory that will stay with you.

View of ancient theatre Taormina

Stroll at the Corso Umberto and stop by the many churches and little streets

The Corso Umberto in Taormina is the main street where you will find plenty of boutique shops stocking must-buy Sicilian products, from perfumes to ceramics, jewelry, and food items.

In the summer months, the Corso comes alive and its worth taking an evening stroll or ‘passeggiata’ just to feel the buzz. But beware; in August you will need a little patience! It’s worth taking a detour off the main Corso to explore the small, charming alleys and little streets. These are seriously photogenic spots!

The smallest one is Vicolo Stretto, but in others, you will find steps decorated in ceramics and large, colorful Sicilian-style pots.

Strolling past the charming old churches, you may be lucky enough to spot some cheerful newlyweds and their guests dressed up in their finest. It’s also delightful to sport some charming old wedding cars parked up around the main piazza.

Enjoy the view of Etna from the Taormina public gardens

The public gardens in Taormina are enjoyed by locals and visitors alike as a place of calm and reflection. They are appreciated during an evening stroll or during the afternoons by those seeking respite from the blazing sun.

This is a nature-filled Mediterranean paradise, yet the collection of lush florals and tropical botanies, combined with old monuments and buildings give this park an oriental feel, making this a peaceful and unique place that’s surely worth a visit.

The garden also possesses hints of an English style, since it was conceived by Lady Florence Trevelyan, an English noblewoman who was a cousin of Queen Victoria.

The photo opportunities in the public gardens are second to none, with one of the best views downhill towards the bay and across the expansive and sparking Sicilian sea.

Snorkel or take a yoga class at Isola Bella beach

While visiting Taormina, make sure to visit the unique island of ‘Isola Bella’. On the ‘beautiful island’ you are surrounded by a vast variety of flora and fauna while surrounded by the unique rocky coast of Taormina.

Thanks to its unique nature and geographical form, the island has been declared a monument of historical and artistic interest and value. Make your way through rocky, tree-lined paths as you make your way to our designated panoramic terrace, prepared just for you with everything you need for a peaceful, invigorating yoga session.

Practicing mindfulness on this special botanical island is an opportunity to connect with yourself and nature at the same time. Surrounded by the sounds of the waves, we challenge you to find a more tranquil location. Our expert yoga teacher will guide you on a journey to become at peace in body and mind.

Snorkel lovers should take the chance to delve under the turquoise waters and explore the hidden surface of this unique nature reserve.

During our exclusive snorkel tour, you can take a private boat ride, stopping to jump off and explore the waters and life underwater, and finally to enjoy a delicious waterfront dinner consisting of the freshest of fish.

View from yoga at Isola Bella

Kayak or SUP along the Taormina coast

Taking out a kayak or stand-up paddle is one of the best ways to see the rocky Taormina coastline made up of several charming bays.

This is a perfect way to escape the busy beaches in the midst of summer and feel a sense of freedom as you drift in the endless blue and navigate gentle waves. Explore the lush terrain of the marine reserve that is Isola Bella, dip your head into fascinating caves, and see rock formations resembling various animals and objects!

Depending on your confidence and preference, you can choose to go out with an instructor or guide or to simply take an adventure alone or with friends.

Relax at the luxury beach club Tao Beach

Taormina’s beach locations are as charming as its town. If you want to experience luxury and relax in a private and cool place then don’t think twice and go to Tao beach club, considered to be one of the most luxurious beach club in the area.

Set on a private, sandy beach, this is a luxury club with all the comforts you need for the ultimate relaxation day by the sea. At this location, modern design and furnishings meet the classical backdrop of the Taormina coastline.

Enjoy a full day lounging on an elegant sunbed or cabana as you are waited on with towels, drinks, snacks, massages… anything you need!

And when hunger strikes, you can venture just a few steps to the stylish restaurant that fuses contemporary dining with the culinary traditions of the island. In the evening, head to the exclusive terrace and say ‘salute’ to a beautiful day, as you sit back and sip a cocktail and watch the sunset.

Taste the famous granita at Bambar

You cannot let your trip in Sicily pass without having tried granita!

This typical Sicilian dessert (or breakfast) is made of water and typically fresh fruit, coffee, or nuts, which are blended together and frozen. However, a place that serves traditional granita will have their own secrets to creating the perfect version. You can ask them what it is, but don’t expect to find out!

For the ultimate granita experience in Taormina, head to the iconic café that is Bam Bar. This is a Taormina institution that throughout the years has served their famous ‘Granita con brioche’ to pop stars, politicians, and actors known around the world! Lemon is the most traditional flavor, but here at Bam Bar we recommend the peach!

Other flavours typically include almonds, coffee, pistachio, strawberry, and kiwi. Whichever one you choose, make sure to also order a brioche and try dunking torn-off pieces into the ice. Delicious!

Visit Casa Cuseni

Casa Cuseni is an impressive villa, built-in 1905 as a home for the English watercolor artist Robert Kitson. These days, it’s open to the public and serves as the prominent art museum of Taormina.

The knowledgeable staff is available to give guided tours of the house and tell you all about its special history. In fact, it has such historic and artistic value that it has been officially named as an Italian National Monument.

Inside, there are a number of Greek artifacts and artworks by Robert Kitson plus other artists who have spent time in the house. Those who have passed through and left their work here include Pablo Picasso, Cecil Hunt, Salvador Dalì, and Henry Moore.

When Kitson died, he handed down the house to his niece Daphne Phelps, who subsequently moved from England to live in the house. She took care of it and stayed there until she died in 2005. Daphne wrote a charming novel named ‘A House in Sicily’, which is a fun memoir of a young British woman starting life anew in Taormina.

The garden of Casa Cuseni is worth experiencing in equal measure. A combination of Mediterranean and African botanies interspersed with English flowers makes for a uniquely calming and harmonious atmosphere.

Visit Taormina’s arts and tradition Museum

Another venue worth visiting is the Museum of Art and Popular Traditions, situated in Palace Corvaja. This is the place to go if you want to see art and objects related to Sicilian traditions and hear the captivating stories behind them.

The museum is home to some fine examples of local Sicilian craftsmanship, allowing you to gain insight to the traditional techniques of pottery and sculpture. Most of the collection belongs to the antique dealer Giovanni Panarello. It’s also a great place to see and discover the story of the Sicilian puppets.

The building itself is worth pondering: its arched windows hint towards the Arabic influence in Sicily, while the Norman central hall and gothic features are a reminder of the fusion of cultures that are evidenced in the structures and monuments throughout the island.

Enjoy the sunset from the Belmond Timeo terrace

Set in the heart of Taormina, next to the Ancient Greek Theatre, the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo serves up views that have enchanted those in the know for over a century. The hotel boasts an impressive literary terrace, which is open to non-guests.

With spectacular views across the coast towards Mount Etna and beyond, this is the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset with a drink in hand. Probably the most luxurious hotel in town, with one of Italy’s most dramatic and classic backdrops, here you can spend an evening soaking up all the senses of Sicily.

Walk along the less known Taormina hiking trails

Thanks to Taormina’s hilltop position, it’s possible to explore locations that are slightly off the beaten track. There are hiking routes available for varying abilities, but all are guaranteed to provide wondrous views and charming surprises along the way.

One of the best routes to be enjoyed by all is the hike from Taormina to the neighboring village of Castelmola. Perched 5km above Taormina at 529m above sea. As you make your way up the track, your first main stop will be at the Madonna della Rocca church.

Then make your way back onto the path and head up to the medieval village of Castelmola. Pause for some refreshments before making your way back down. The round trip by foot takes around 2 hours.

If you are looking for a more challenging hiking route, you could start at Castelmola, make your way to Portella del Giasso, onward to Monte Venere, and then back to Castelmola. This loop takes around 4 hours.

Taking on one of these hiking trails is a rewarding adventure and the perfect way to work up an appetite.

Our tips: When it comes to hiking in Taormina, we recommend avoiding the high summer temperatures that can be felt in August. If you are looking to take a hike during the hot months, we recommend starting off first thing in the morning or in the early evening. Make sure to wear comfortable trainers or hiking shoes, as some of the terrain will be rocky.

See Taormina from above from Madonna della Rocca church

Madonna Della Rocca is a small, charming chapel that’s situated between Taormina and the neighboring village of Castelmola. This tiny church was built into the rock in around 1600. The architecture is humble and rustic from the outside, but it’s worth peeking inside at the stone ceiling and traditional interior.

Enjoy a moment of peace and reflection in this spiritual location, as you pause to appreciate the views down toward Taormina and the sea. There is a day dedicated to Madonna della Rocca, and it’s still celebrated in Sicily on the third Sunday of September.

Have dinner in a Michelin restaurant

One of the many things that make Taormina a great holiday destination is the abundance of quality restaurants. Among these, there are several standouts, which offer guests more than just a great meal but an unforgettable experience.
Among our favorites include:

  • Otto Geleng at the Belmond Villa GH Timeo
    Roberto Toro, the Executive Chef of Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is an Italian food ambassador and a great believer in the values of the Mediterranean Diet. At Otto Geleg, Toro has crafted a menu to tell his story of Sicily. Drawing on tradition as his main inspiration, he revisits its different expressions to include many personal and contemporary interpretations that emphasize Sicilian products. It’s this originality and finesse that has played a part in the restaurants earning a mighty Michelin star.
  • La Capinera
    At La Capinera, chef Pietro D’Agostino has numerous experiences as an ambassador of Sicilian cuisine around the world. He personally chooses all the ingredients that end up on the table, with special regard to organic and gluten-free food lines. The restaurant oozes simplicity and elegance, and you are guaranteed simple yet sincere dishes that enhance each and every carefully chosen ingredient.
  • St. George by Heinz Beck
    This magnificent restaurant, situated in the commendable Ashbee hotel, is now headed up by the young and bright-eyed chef Delfo Schiaffino. With every plate, he uses the local ingredients available to him to showcase contemporary Sicilian dishes with consistent quality and flair. A meal at any of these highly regarded establishments will allow you to experience the quality and range of Sicilian cuisine and will surely not disappoint!

Experience Taormina nightlife at Morgana luxury lounge Bar

If you are looking for the top spot in Taormina to experience an elegant cocktail in an elevated and Instagram-worthy location, then Morgana Luxury Bar is surely the place to go.

Owner Guido Spinello has carved out an exclusive corner of the town that attracts a combination of locals, Italian visitors, and tourists seeking a glamorous spot. Each year, the interior receives a decorative overhaul, and its opening each summer is widely anticipated in the town.

The bar boasts an immaculate outdoor area where you can spend a balmy summer evening lounging on the pristine striped sofas, sipping original cocktails with friends old or new. In normal times, Morgana is the go-to spot to dance the night away to resident DJ’s and it attracts famous names and celebrities who have been drawn to spend their holidays enjoying Taormina’s exclusive side.

Make sure to try one of the thoughtfully crafted cocktails, conjured up by drinks expert Christian Sciglio.

Morgana Bar Taormina

Learn how to make cannoli

Sicily is a dreamland for those with a sweet tooth. There are plenty of sweet treats to try, each with a firm place within the Sicilian cuisine. But probably the most famous of Sicilian sweets is the iconic cannoli. A must-try while on the island, this delicious dessert is comprised of a fried pastry outer, filled with sweet ricotta cheese and traditionally decorated with candied fruits or chocolate chips.

The most traditional flavor is plain ricotta, however many cannoli-makers have broadened their offerings to include flavors such as hazelnut, pistachio, coffee, chocolate, Nutella, or even Limoncello.

While in Taormina, we recommend going further than trying one, but actually try your hand at making one of the famous cannoli.

Laboratorio Pasticceria Roberto provides just the opportunity. The Chemi family has been proudly making delicious Cannoli since 1989, and Roberto learned from his father Michele, who is regarded as Taormina’s historic pastry chef.

Contact the friendly staff at Pasticceria Roberto to enquire about booking a place on a cannoli-making session.

Things to do around Taormina

Once you have enjoyed all there is to offer in town, it is worth venturing out of Taormina to explore other treasures of the island. While in Sicily, we recommend moving around in order to experience the unique combination of authentic, historical, and cultural, and luxury.

Discover Castelmola one of the most beautiful villages in Italy

Castelmola is a small and charming village perched above Taormina at 1,736 ft. we have in the past years chosen as a perfect event venue for our guests’ very special events.

The village got its name from the fact it is built upon the foundations of a Norman castle. We can still admire the remains at the highest point of the village. Its narrow residential streets and handful of local shops and bars with cheerful owners make Castelmola an idyllic place to spend an evening.

We recommend heading up before sunset so that you can make the most of the unobstructed view down to Taormina and across to the coast and Mt. Etna. There’s no wonder this charming medieval town is one of the most popular locations chosen by couples for a traditional and authentic wedding location in Sicily. While there, be sure to visit some of Castelmola’s iconic bars dating back to the 1700’s.

One is Caffè San Giorgio, where you must try the traditional sweet almond wine. This Castelmola institution boasts visits from the rich and famous including Sophia Loren and Winston Churchill!

How to get to Castelmola from Taormina

While the brave will surely try it, the walk up to Castelmola can be a challenge, especially in the summer heat. If you are spending your trip sans-car, don’t fear: there is a regular bus running between Taormina and Castelmola. Check the Interbus website to plan your journey. Or we can organize for you a tour including also the visit of Taormina on board of a Sicilian style painted FIAT 500!

Visit Ortigia and the Neapolis archaeological Park (Siracusa)

About 2 hours drive from Taormina is the beautiful small town/island of Ortigia located in the city of Syracuse. The city of Syracuse has a notable Greek influence, since they colonized it in 734 B.C. During these times, Syracuse was the most powerful city in Sicily, and at one point was thought to be the largest city in the Greek world.

The historical center of Syracuse, Ortigia, is particularly charming. Wander around the ancient streets and take a moment to appreciate how the sun reflects off the light-stone buildings. This is somewhat of a rarity in Sicily where the typical, darker baroque architecture is usually found. Make sure to visit the Piazza Duomo and Chiesa di Santa Lucia.

While in Ortigia, one of the best experiences you can have is a private cooking class with a local ‘Mamma’, who will guide you through every stage of making delicious and traditional Sicilian dishes, from choosing the ingredients at the local market, to serving yourself with pride while sipping a glass of local wine. All while enjoying a remarkable view of the cathedral.

Make sure to not miss the Neapolis archaeological Park.
Here you can see the impressive Greek and Roman amphitheater. Explore the ruins and caves that will give an insight to how the Romans used the available rock to build such structures with limited resources.

Nearby is the Ear of Dionysius, a unique cave that is famous for its acoustic properties. Its tall, ear-like shape provides the conditions for even quiet whispers to be amplified. Go and try!

Cathedral of Syracuse

Visit Mount Etna and do a wine tasting

When staying in Taormina, you will spend each day under the watchful eye of Mount Etna, Europe’s largest and most active volcano. When we are asked about the must-do things to do outside of Taormina, we recommend getting up close to this mighty natural beauty that creates such a striking landscape on the East coast of Sicily.

We recommend spending a day with an expert guide, who will lead you up through Etna’s slopes to explore the variety of flora and fauna and witness the unique colors and contrasts that will make you feel you’ve been transported to another world. But in particular, wine lovers cannot afford to miss it.

The fertility of Mt. Etna’s soil makes it ripe for the growth of an array of products, including the best of citrus fruits, nuts, and olives. But the makeup of the volcanic soil creates ideal conditions for the growth of delicious grape varieties and the production of unique Sicilian wines. Allow our team to advise you on the top quality and enchanting wineries where you can enjoy a feast for all the senses.

If you, instead, want to experience it from above and have a real exclusive way to seeing it, make sure to book out Mount Etna helicopter tour. With this tour, you will see Etna as not many do.

Visit the Alcantara Gorge

For an adventurous excursion outside of Taormina, an excellent day can be spent at Gole Alcantara, a beautiful Botanical and Geological Park in the area of Motta Camastra; around 30 minutes drive from Taormina.

Spend the day being immersed in nature as you explore this scenic gorge, with its spectacular rock formations separated by a fresh, flowing stream.

Whether you choose to explore this natural gem alone or with a guide, come prepared for an action-packed day of hiking, climbing and swimming. Alternatively, if you prefer to simply admire the natural setting, you can reserve your energy by accessing the gorge by lift and taking in the views.

The Alcantara Gorge makes for a refreshing setting to spend a day in the Sicilian high summer: even on the hottest of days, the waters are fresh, to say the least!

Take a tour of the Godfather locations

A visit to Sicily is not complete without a visit to some of the famous sites from the movie that really put Sicily on the world’s radar. Visit Savoca and Forza d’Agró, where some of the main scenes of Francis Ford Coppola’s iconic film were set.

You will immediately be charmed by the authentic old charm of the place and understand why these towns set the perfect Sicilian scene.

In these ancient towns, time appears to stand still, and the typical baroque architecture is cracking at the corners while standing firm. The best way to experience the Godfather locations in Sicily is by taking an exclusive tour like the Godfather private tour we organize for our guests.

Let an expert guide show you the most iconic spots and hear some secrets and stories about the films, and find out how much of a true representation of Sicily it is or not!

Spend the day wandering around and discovering the history and traditions of the town, peeking into churches and monasteries, and stopping for refreshment at the famous Bar Vitelli. You can sit in the same exact spot where Al Pacino delivered the news to Appollonia’s father that his name was Micheal Corleone.

Another must-visit location is the unforgettable Castello degli Schiavi, where a number of scenes from the Godfather trilogy were shot. The owner of the house will welcome you with enthusiasm and talk passionately about its history while pointing out some noteworthy memorabilia that appeared in the trilogy. You will surely be the envy of your film-lover friends.