Things to do in Taormina.
When looking for Things to do in Taormina, the beauty of the town is one of its most striking features. Perching on a hill overlooking the Ionian Sea, its main feature is the Greek Theatre. The Greeks settled here in 735 BC and Taormina was their first colony in Italy. The theatre here is probably one of the most famous Greek theatres in the world and, a must see! Firstly, the best time to visit Taormina is spring and autumn as in the summer the town is packed. I came on the bus from Catania – a fairly easy trip with no changes. See my Bus from Catania to Taormina for where, when and how.
When reading the history of Taormina or Tauromenion as it was known then, it’s like a Who’s Who of Greek and Roman history. After the Greeks and Romans finished with it it had a period of relative peace, with only the occasional volcanic eruption. Then, the Arabs invaded in 962 A.D. and their rule lasted until 1078 A.D. when it was captured by the Normans. After the fall of the Normans, the French crown controlled the island. In the 17th century, the Spanish had a go at looking after the place.
Rather than build city walls, I think it would have been easier for the Sicilians to install some sort of revolving door to let the invaders in and out!
So, Sicily has been invaded by most people over the years the Greeks, the Romans, the Arabs, the Normans, the Spanish, the French, basically everybody and their dog has invaded Sicily at one point or another. What it does make for is some varied and surprising architecture. Indeed, you can even see a few Moorish influences if you look carefully.
In the late 19th and early 20th century, the town became an intellectual paradise for all sorts of artists and writers including DH Lawrence, Oscar Wilde, Frederick Nietzsche, who wrote thus spake Zarathustra here, and Richard Wagner. Also, Truman Capote stayed here for a year in the 50s.
The Greek theatre, Teatro Greco, is built, for the most part, of brick and therefore probably Roman date although the ground plan is of Greek layout. This suggests that theatre was rebuilt by the Romans on the older Greek theatre. It has a diameter of just over a hundred metres. Occasionally the town uses it for theatrical and operatic performances. Also, it’s the second largest in Sicily, after the one in Syracuse.
Set up high on the cliff, the theatre’s fantastic views of the surrounding area. Also, the backdrop behind the stage is amazing, it’s the majestic Mount Etna. In the far left on the above photo is Etna.
The town of Taormina is perched on the cliff for obvious defensive reasons. The Duomo in the town dates from the 13th century and was built on the ruins of a church. It was also rebuilt in the 15th 16th and 18th centuries. (Yeah, that’s Etna 45 minutes drive away, you can blame her for some of the rebuildings). And has quite a military appearance rather than a religious one with crenellations on the top.
Of course, the shops are geared to tourists. The main shopping street looks like it is immaculately dressed and pressed each morning. There are many, many restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops that it left me wondering exactly where the locals actually shop! You could buy medieval masks, pottery, T-shirts and puppets but you’d struggle to buy loo rolls. Also, the side streets off the main Corso Umberto are well worth an explore. Almost ‘chocolate box’ like in their appearance, if you enjoy a good alley, you’ll be very happy.
Below next to the tower in the picture is the Chiesa di San Giuseppe (Church of Saint Joseph). It’s a historic Baroque church built at the end of the 1600s.
To get down to the beach you can use the cable car which runs every 15 minutes and the price for a one-way trip is three euros. You can take the stairs down to the beach but it may make you puff! Because Taormina is built on the side of a cliff there are a lot of stairs down to the beach.
Places to Eat
There are lots of places to eat in the old town ranging in budgets. However, I opted for cheap eats at the Eni cafe, which is an old garage, just out of town near the bus station. It costs €8 for a main meal. It was pretty basic fries and chicken, there were mixed herbs over the food for taste, but for the money, it was fine. Also, a delightful chilled red house wine. Slightly peppery with salt on the lips so guessing it was local.
Was it the best meal I could have had? Of course, not by a long way! But it filled a hole and in my opinion, was slightly nicer and definitely cheaper than 20 nuggets at McDonald’s for €9.10. Total cost was €25 for a main meal, 3 large glasses of red and 2 bottles of water.
Things to do in Taormina – Conclusions
Taormina itself has a busy but relaxed vibe. It’s immaculately clean, well dressed with architecture and has fantastic little cafes nestled in side streets. Indeed, it’s everything you’d want for a short visit.
But spare a thought for the residents. When wandering along the High Street you can buy any amount of tourist tat but you would be hard pushed to buy your groceries!
How to get there from Catania
I got the bus from Catania to Taormina for the full how to.
Things to do in Taormina
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