Taormina

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Piazza del Duomo in Taormina

Another easy side trip from Catania is the trendy town of Taormina. With the return of Sicily’s sunny weather, we had a perfect day to ride the train there. Depending on which train you get, the ride takes about one hour or a bit more. We had amazing views of Mt. Etna and the sparkling beaches along the way. This side of Sicily is also lush with orange and lemon orchards as well as large nurseries growing all sorts of palms and other trees and plants.
On this side of Etna, we could easily see the steam rising out of it’s cone. It seems even closer when you’re in the town of Taormina. One of the best views is from the Greek Theatre, with it’s seating facing Etna. It was modified a bit by the Romans so they could switch from plays to gladiator fights, but currently it’s used to stage the Greek Tragedies and other musical events during the summer season. It’s a beautiful setting.
After visiting the theatre, we had an easy walk to the main public garden nearby. There were no tourist groups in the garden—just a few Taorminans enjoying this quiet corner of the town. It was a well maintained garden with fun topiary, wide walkways, beautiful old stone walls and structures and plenty of benches for resting and enjoying the panoramic views of the sea below.
Taormina has a maze of narrow streets to explore. It’s full of small shops that carry anything from ceramics to t-shirts and tourist trinkets. Then, on the main drag, Corso Umberto I, you can find haute courtier and all of the popular name brand stores, like MaxMara and Gucci. We still can’t figure out how people can afford the cost of high fashion here in Italy.
Taormina has quite a few charming piazzas. Each one has a beautiful church and ample space to sit and enjoy the incredible views of either the Ionian Sea or Mt. Etna. There are plenty of restaurants with outdoor seating and decent food. But we noticed a Panificio on a side street and decided to try it. Their sign said Lavorazione Artigianale, which means that they cook the traditional way. We tried two different varieties of focaccia and bought their homemade biscotti for a picnic on the piazza. It was a fantastic lunch for 5 euros and the biscotti were the best we’ve had, so far. There are places like this all over Sicily, but we are starting to get better at picking out the ones that have better food. This one is called Murabito Cristina, and it’s on Via Strabone, 2.
If you want to take a serious hike, Taormina has a scenic stroll straight up the hill to the Santuario Madonna Della Rocca. The trail is basically made of compact sand with stone particles and solid stone steps. It’s quite steep and provides a great workout after a light lunch. The reward is another outstanding view—this time of the town and the water below. But the church itself is being restored and isn’t open to the public right now. Needless to say, we didn’t run into many other tourists on this trail.
I think it would be fun to spend a night in Taormina to experience their passeggiata and see the Greek Theatre and other monuments lit up. But, even during the low season in March, it had quite a few busloads of tourists—the most we’ve seen so far. So if you visit, avoid the summer high season of this popular hill town.
Below are some views from our hike up to the Sanctuary.

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About msraaka

I am a writer, ESL teacher and desktop publishing consultant living in the Pacific Northwest. After our first visit to Italy, my husband Bob and I have found ways to spend more and more time there. We love the people, the language, the food, architecture, art and the history of this amazing place.
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