About Taormina beaches
Taormina is Sicily’s most famous, upmarket and expensive resort, and it’s all (or at least mainly) down to its fabulous location high up on Monte Tauro. The town’s beautiful old Greek amphitheatre provides perhaps the most impressive scenery in Sicily, with the brilliant blue sea and coastline down below and the majestic Mount Etna dominating the inland horizon. The place perfectly embodies Greek and Roman ideas of beauty, harmony and proportion and so seems to offer a true link from the modern world back to classical antiquity. Taormina is not cheap, and some would say it’s a bit pretentious. Still, its beauty can’t be denied.
There are two sets of beaches near Taormina. The nearest are the pebble beaches of Mazzarò, which are located just below Taormina and can be reached by cable car. The southernmost of these is the most crowded. Isola Bella, a popular islet, is located between the beaches. The area has several coves and grottoes that can be explored. A few miles further south, in Giardini-Naxos, there are long, sandy beaches that are more conducive to swimming.
Beyond the beach:
Taormina has plenty of attractions, but by far the most impressive is the old Teatro Greco (which is more Roman than Greek in appearance owing to a Roman first-century redesign). The views from there are absolutely magnificent – with the sea and the beautiful coastline on the left of the horizon and Mount Etna, with its still active volcano, towering up in the landscape to the right. The amphitheatre is also the site of an international film festival and several theatre productions every summer. Other things worth seeing include the Palazzo Corvaja, a building of Arabic origin which today houses the tourist office and a museum of local folklore; an impressive 12th-century clock-tower on Piazza IX Aprile; and the public gardens, which were created by Florence Trevelyan, a Scottish woman who settled in Taormina in 1899.
Mazzarò and Isola Bella by the sea below Taormina are excellent for kids, as there are coves and grottoes to explore and pedal boats for hire. All kinds of watersports are on offer as well – from wind surfing and scuba diving to fishing. For swimming and playing on the beach, Giardini-Naxos is the best choice.
The lava-clad, sulphurous upper slopes of Mount Etna are worth exploring. To save time and energy it is a good idea to book a whole-day trip with one of the tour operators in Taormina – 4×4 minibuses take you high up to some of the craters (although not to the main one on top). More urban explorations include Messina to the north and Catania to the south. The former is undoubtedly the prettiest of the two, but Catania is arguably more interesting, with plenty of history traceable in its streets and buildings. It also has Sicily’s busiest market and a good number of excellent restaurants serving traditional, local dishes.
Stay a night at San Domenico Palace Hotel on Piazza San Domenico. Built on the site of a 15th-century monastery, the hotel is one of the finest in Italy, offering opulence and luxury within a refined and classic context. Facilities include a superb restaurant, a piano bar and a heated pool with a wonderful view of Mount Etna and the bay below.