Approximately 50 kilometers separate Catania's cruise terminal and Taormina, which is 200 meters above sea level. An excursion to Taormina can either be booked on board the cruise ship or taken as an individual tour. Since trains and buses run regularly between Catania and Taormina, we recommend the individual excursion. Except for the tour guide you don't have to miss anything.
Information on individual arrival and departure
The trains of the Italian State Railways or the buses take about an hour to get to Taormina. In May we took the train to Taormina. We got off the train at the small Taormina Giardini station. From there we took the bus up to Taormina, 200 meters above sea level. On the way back we got on the regular bus to Catania at the bus station. Bus tickets can be bought from the driver or at the bus line office at the central bus station in Catania. Taormina's bus station is on Via Pirandello. From there it is only a short walk to the Porta Messina, the northern city gate.
Travel destination for artists and writers
Taormina stands for the special "Italian moments in life". It is not difficult to understand that originally artists and writers, and then luxury travelers, allowed themselves to be absorbed by Taormina. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was one of the prominent visitors to the city.
Sights between Porta Messina and Porta Catania
In front of the Porta Messina we pass the Anglican Church of St. George. It was built by the British colony in Taormina. Inside the simple church, plaques commemorate British soldiers who died in the war.
Anglican Church of St George
The Porta Messina is Taormina's northern city gate. Corso Umberto, Taormina's main pedestrian street, begins behind her. It ends at the southern city gate, the Porta Catania. Both gates were part of the defense system originally created by the Moors.
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II
Corso Umberto crosses Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II. Palazzo Corvaja, which was built on the site of the former Roman Forum, is located on it. The associated tower was built by the Moors between 902 and 1079. The cube shape is reminiscent of the Kaaba in Mecca. Today the palace houses the Museo Siciliano di Arte e Tradizioni Popolari.
The corso leads past representative, multi-storey townhouses with balconies and flower arrangements. In the houses there are mainly shops that offer a lot of what a tourist's heart desires. Side streets lead off from Corso Umberto.
Corso Umberto I
Square IX April
The Salesian Church of San Giuseppe, built in baroque style, is located on the majestic Piazza IX Aprile. It was built in the second half of the 16th century. We also recommend taking a look inside the church.
The dominant structure of the piazza is the Porta di Mezzo, the bell tower. He too was part of the fortress system. The tower was built in the 12th century and destroyed by French invaders in 1676. Reconstruction followed just three years later.
San Nicoló Cathedral
We continue along Corso Umberto and come to the Cathedral of San Nicoló. It stands on the remains of a church built in the early Middle Ages. Construction of the cathedral began in the 15th century. It was dedicated to St. Nicholas of Bari. The cathedral is often referred to as the fortress church. It consists of a main nave and two side aisles. The rose window above the main portal was added in 1636. The baroque fountain in front of the cathedral dates from 1635. The Centauressa rises above the double-shell fountain. The figure has the body of a Greek centaur. It is supposed to symbolize the mountain Monte Tauro.
Taormina - Cathedral of San Nicoló
San Domenico Palace
From Porta Catania, Via Del Ghetto leads to the southern outskirts of Taormina. The Fondazion Giuseppe Mazzullo is on the way. A permanent art exhibition with works by the sculptor Mazzullo has been set up in the Palazzo Duca di Santo Stefano.
Taormina - Mazullo Foundation
Dominican monks built a monastery on Taormina's southern outskirts at the end of the 14th century after a generous donation. When the last monk left the monastery at the end of the 19th century, the property fell back into private ownership as intended. In 1896 the monastery was converted into a luxury hotel. It developed over the years into one of the most famous hotels in southern Italy, which unfortunately was destroyed by bombing in 1943. Today the luxurious San Domenico Palace Hotel stands in the same place. The rooms have been furnished with antiques in the Sicilian style. The view of Mount Etna is free. In front of the hotel is a beautiful subtropical garden.
Taormina - San Domenico Palace Hotel
Taormina's ancient theater
On the way to the ancient theater, colloquially known as “Teatro Greco”, we stroll all over the city. The theater, built by the Romans in the 2nd century BC, stands on the remains of a theater previously built by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC. It is the second largest Roman theater in Sicily after the Syracuse Theater. The theater, which faces south-west and is built into the slope, is 120 meters long, 50 meters wide and 20 meters high. It offered space for around 5.400 visitors. The steps were carved into the rock. This distinguishes the theater from other Roman theaters, which were free-standing buildings. The stage was built from bricks.
Not only is the theater outstanding, but also its location. When the weather is nice, fantastic views of Mount Etna and the Gulf of Giardini-Naxos with Isola Bella are offered.
Taormina - the Gulf of Giardini Naxos
The Castello Saraceno, built in 1640 and somewhat dilapidated, rises above Taormina on Monte Tauro. It can be reached from the center via a steep stairway that leads past the pilgrimage church of Madonna della Rocca.
Taormina - Castello Saraceno on Monte Tauro
With the cable car to Isola Bella
Day tourists who want to get close to the Isola Bella beach can take the cable car down from Taormina to the Mazzaró district. The route runs over a length of 725 meters. The train offers beautiful views of the green landscape and the blue sea. The cable car station is on Via Pirandello.
Taormina - cable car station
We only know a few places that we like as much as Taormina. Besides the monumental Teatro Greco there are no extraordinary sights. We are overwhelmed by the entire ensemble of the place.
The best way to discover Taormina is to drift through the city. In the mornings Taormina is unfortunately flooded with busloads of visitors. But as soon as you leave the main artery of the city, Corso Umberto, you move in deserted alleys and streets. Wherever you look you can see beautiful houses, palaces, gardens, churches and much more. Taormina is well worth a visit.
Update May 2023