TAORMINA, SICILY: RESTAURANTS AND ATTRACTIONS

The best Taormina restaurants and attractions are around every corner in this ancient city, the gateway to Sicily. 

It is a great place to absorb your first impressions of this culturally fascinating island.

Taormina bay, a top Taormina attraction

Taormina attractions have been drawing visitors for centuries. 

It is a gracious, inviting city packed to the brim with culture, natural beauty, and the mouthwatering cuisine that helped make Italian food world-renown. 

I found Taormina restaurants to have some of the best food in Italy…and that’s really saying something!

Taormina – A brief history

The region surrounding present-day Taormina has a rich history, with evidence of early habitation by the Siculi, an Italic people, during the Iron Age.

As the Greeks ventured into Sicily in the early 700s BCE, the Siculi still thrived in the eastern Sicilian region.

The Greek influence persisted through the Roman occupation, extending its cultural dominance for centuries.

In 241 BCE, the Romans solidified their control over the entire island, marking Sicily as the inaugural Roman province.

This period saw Sicily emerge as a vital grain supplier to Rome, with Roman governors overseeing the island’s affairs and constructing splendid villas—some of which remain open for exploration today.

Once such residence is the nearby Villa Romana del Casale, a beautifully preserved Roman palace and fine example of Roman mosaic artistry.

Dancing girls mosaics in Villa Romana del Casale
Dancing girls mosaics in Casale

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Taormina continued to be one of the most important towns of Sicily.

Because of this strength and importance, it was one of the last cities retained by the Eastern Roman Empire of Byzantium.

Once the Roman Empire fell entirely, the city was conquered successively by the Muslims who ruled until 1078, the Normans, various Spanish crowns, and  France in 1675.

Taormina was part of the Two Kingdoms of Sicilies under the Bourbon dynasty until 1860.

In modern times Taormina has retained vestiges of each of the cultures that conquered it.

Traces of Muslim, Norman, Roman and other cultures can be seen in the city’s ruins, architecture and art.

Taormina’s pleasant weather, culture and idyllic location on a hill overlooking the Ionian Sea has made it a modern day attractive destination.

Prominent celebrities have visited the city and extolled its virtues far and wide making it an even more desirable destination.

Among these are Oscar Wilde, Nicholas I of Russia and Friedrich Nietzsche (who wrote his Thus Spoke Zarathustra there).

More recent visitors have included Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner and Bertrand Russell.

This is a town with a romance and an environment that beckons and beguiles. It attracts the rich and famous as well as the curious backpacker.

Taormina Sicily offers a great way to connect with history, culture, and natural beauty.

From the vibrant main square, Piazza Duomo, to the serene Lido La Pigna, every corner is worth visiting.

Whether it’s the first thing you do or a side street you decide to explore, the town’s allure, enhanced by exotic plants and a late 1800s ambiance, is sure to captivate.

Best Taormina Attractions

From the ancient Greek theatre and the iconic clock tower to the crystal-clear waters of Isola Bella Beach, Taormina seamlessly blends historic charm with modern appeal.

Roam the main streets adorned with historic sites like Corso Umberto and Piazza del Duomo, or ascend to new heights via a cable car journey for panoramic views of the Ionian Sea.

Whether you’re exploring the picturesque Alcantara Gorge or indulging in wine tasting sessions, Taormina offers a perfect fusion of the “best places” and “best things” to create lasting memories.

Mount Etna

Mt. Etna, is Sicily’s live volcano and one of the world’s most active.

The volcanic soil is very fertile and supports the orchards and vineyards on the mountain slopes.

In 2013 UNESCO declared Mt. Etna a World Heritage Site. 

 

Corso Umberto

Corso Umberto is a major Taormina attraction.

This main pedestrian street with medieval buildings on either side of the street, doesn’t even seem real.

It feels more like what a pedestrianized Sicilian street would look like if Hollywood designed it.

It’s too perfect; narrow little alleyways end in an ocean view, al fresco tables with checkered tablecloths sit underneath leafy vines dripping wisterias.

Cafes and cute boutique shops selling a wide variety of souvenirs and Sicilian specialties line the sidewalk.

The street stretches about one kilometer from the old town gate of Porta Catania to the other, Porta Messina.

It can take you a few minutes or an entire day to absorb the street’s charm.   

Piazza Aprile IX

Right in the center of Corso Umberto is the beautiful Piazza Aprile IX, or April 9th Square named after the date when Garibaldi began his conquest of Sicily to make it part of Italy and unify the entire country.

Although just a beautiful plaza, it is one of Taormina’s principal attractions and meeting places.

The piazza boasts a spectacular view of the impossibly blue Ionian Sea and Mount Etna.

This is an ideal spot to take a break in one of the laid-back cafes, savor a coffee and absorb the atmosphere.

The piazza is always lively with artists painting the views and musicians playing classic Italian songs in the shadow of the age old local church.

At night the stores remain open and the crowd is just as lively.

Spontaneous dancing breaks out and it is not unusual to hear the mellow notes of an aria from a popular opera drifting on the wind.

Piazza Aprile IX, Taormina attractions
Piazza Aprile at night

Teatro Greco

The Teatro Greco (Greek Theater) is the mother of all Taormina attractions.

This perfect horseshoe-shaped theater is sublimely situated high above the Ionian Sea with Mount Etna stoically situated in the background against the blue sky.

The theater was built in the 3rd century BC. The building materials, brick, is Roman but the design is mostly Greek.

This leads experts to believe that it was originally built by the Greeks and rebuilt by the Romans on the original site.

In summer, the Teatro Greco is still used to stage all types of performances.

Can you imagine?! A theater that is thousands of years old that was so perfectly designed and built that it is still in use today. I find that amazing.

The theater is the second largest theater in Sicily (after Syracuse) and the most spectacularly situated Greek theatre on Earth. You cannot miss this!

Insider tip: Make sure to visit early in the morning to avoid the crowds and get the best tourist-free photos.

The Teatro Greco, a major Taormina attraction
The Teatro Greco

As the first city in Sicily coming from the Italilan boot, Taormina was also my first experience with real Sicilian food, a unique category of cuisine with strong flavors and a focus on seafood.

Time and time again the typical Taormina restaurants just blew me away with their tastes and ambiance.

Isola Bella

You can experience the enchanting allure of Isola Bella, an idyllic islet nestled along the shores of Taormina.

Connected to the mainland by a slender ribbon of sand, this hidden treasure beckons with its clear waters and abundant greenery.

Immerse yourself in the refreshing embrace of the azure sea, wander through the rocky inlets, or indulge in the simple pleasure of soaking up the Mediterranean sun on this picturesque corner of Sicilian paradise.

More than just an island, Isola Bella offers an immersive exploration of the unspoiled magnificence that characterizes Taormina.

Villa Comunale

Amidst the urban buzz, you can immerse yourself in the tranquil oasis of Villa Comunale, a botanical symphony that bursts with vibrant flowers, fragrant citrus groves, and winding paths overlooking the Gulf of Naxos.

This lush park beckons you into a serene retreat, where each step unravels a kaleidoscope of colors and scents, creating a sensory journey that harmonizes with the natural splendor of Taormina.

Castello Saraceno

Climb to the summit of Taormina and explore Castello Saraceno, an ancient fortress with a rich history, nestled atop Monte Tauro.

The medieval walls echo with stories of battles and mysteries, granting sweeping views of the Sicilian scenery.

Delve into the timeless charm of the castle, where each stone narrates a unique tale.

The vistas from Castello Saraceno not only encapsulate the spirit of Taormina’s history but also unveil a mesmerizing panorama extending from the Ionian Sea to the towering peaks of Mount Etna.

Top Taormina Restaurants

It is time to step into the enchanting world of Taormina, where every cobblestone street echoes the ancient tales of its charming past.

Dive into a culinary journey with me, unraveling the symphony of flavors that defines Taormina as a haven for passionate food enthusiasts.

In this captivating town, the architectural tapestry mirrors the diverse cultures that have shaped Sicily over the last two millennia.

Just as the streets weave stories of history, the local cuisine tells a tale of culinary fusion.

While it is rooted in Italian traditions, the gastronomic offerings also bear traces of Greek, Spanish, French, and Arab influences, creating a delightful mosaic of flavors waiting to be savored.

Whether you’re seeking the perfect place for a romantic dinner or a vibrant spot with views of the sea, Taormina’s restaurants, nestled amidst ancient theaters and historic buildings, promise an unforgettable culinary experience.

Ristorante al Duomo

On of the top Taormina restaurants, Ristorante al Duomo emerges as a culinary gem, offering a captivating experience for discerning tastes.

The restaurant boasts a panoramic terrace that affords breathtaking views of the Duomo, providing the perfect backdrop for an extraordinary dining venture.

Delight in a gastronomic journey where Sicilian delicacies are artfully prepared, showcasing a modern twist on traditional flavors.

Immerse yourself in the lively ambiance as skilled chefs meticulously craft dishes that pay homage to Taormina’s abundant culinary legacy.

Otto Geleng

Otto Geleng beckons for those seeking a taste that seamlessly blends innovation with tradition.

This chic eatery stands as a testament to the redefined landscape of Sicilian cuisine, presenting a curated menu where each dish unfolds a unique story.

From delectable seafood creations to savory pasta delights, Otto Geleng invites patrons to embark on a gastronomic journey that vividly captures the diversity and richness of the region.

This is truly one of the most delightful Taoermina restaurants.

Osteria Rosso Di Vino

Within Osteria Rosso Di Vino, one steps into a realm of timeless elegance where tradition seamlessly intertwines with sophistication.

The celebration of Sicilian authenticity is evident in this charming establishment, which places a significant emphasis on locally sourced ingredients.

Engage your senses in a symphony of flavors, from aromatic wines to delectable dishes that capture the true essence of Taormina.

Al Saraceno

Envision a dining experience at Al Saraceno, where the gentle lull of waves serves as your soundtrack.

This seafront gem captivates with its panoramic views and a menu that highlights the richness of the Mediterranean making it one of the best Taoermina restaurants.

An unforgettable culinary journey awaits, featuring fresh seafood, locally sourced produce, and a touch of Sicilian flair.

For those in search of coastal culinary perfection, Al Saraceno stands out as a must-visit destination.

They also make a killer pizza!

Pizza from Taormina restaurants are the best

It is a delightful establishment where the Sicilian passion intertwines with the art of crafting pizzas.

This charming eatery encapsulates the heart of Taormina’s culinary scene with a menu featuring an array of wood-fired pizzas and Sicilian delicacies.

Indulge in a relaxed evening, relishing the harmonious blend of crunchy crusts, premium ingredients, and the inviting embrace of Sicilian hospitality.

Traditional Taormina cuisine specializes in seafood but all dishes are represented.

For a more budget friendly and delicious option, try Pizzeria Porta Messina and Pizzeria Nina.

Osteria Nero D’Avola

In the heart of Taormina, Osteria Nero D’Avola invites you to experience a harmony of Sicilian flavors.

Discover the richness of robust Nero d’Avola wines and indulge in enticing dishes inspired by local traditions.

This osteria captures the essence of Sicily, offering a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Allow the culinary artistry of Osteria Nero D’Avola to transport you deep into the heart of Sicilian gastronomy.

Trattoria Tiramisu Restaurant

You can explore the delectable offerings of Trattoria Tiramisu Restaurant, a charming haven where culinary dreams are realized especially for those with a sweet tooth.

This trattoria not only features its renowned namesake dessert but also presents a menu that highlights the delightful sweetness of Sicily.

Indulge in decadent pastries and savor artisanal gelato, as each bite transports you into the diverse and flavorful realm of Sicilian desserts.

Da Cristina – Antica Rosticceria

Da Cristina – Antica Rosticceria warmly welcomes you to experience the rich tapestry of Sicilian traditions,.

This authentic establishment pays homage to Taormina’s culinary legacy, presenting enduring delights from the world of rosticceria.

Some of the best Taormina restaurants for traditional Sicilian food include: Trattoria Don Ciccio, Malvasia and Grotta di Ulisse.

Insider tip:

One of the top travel tips I always talk about is “always eat at least a few blocks away form the tourist areas.” Food in tourist areas tends to be below par and expensive.  This certainly applies to Taormina restaurants.

The restauranteurs reckon tourists don’t know any better and they are unlikely to return so there is very little risk in displeasing a tourist. 

In the case of eating around Corso Umberto, Taormina’s main drag, I have to make an exception. 

We tried Terrazza Angelo, in the heart of Corso Umberto and were pleasantly surprised.  I can say that was one of my favorite Taormina restaurants.

We went for the spectacular view and ended up loving the food.  Highly recommended.

And if you need hotel recommendations, we suggest either the Athena Charming Rooms or the Hotel Continental. Both are really close to the beach and have amazing views. 

In a Wrap

One of the less but most important aspects of Taormina restaurants and attractions is the seamless integration of historical charm with modern allure.

Taormina’s allure lies not just in its picturesque landscapes or delectable cuisines, but in the harmonious coexistence of ancient history and contemporary vibrancy.

The town’s restaurants, nestled amid historic buildings and along cobblestone streets, offer a unique blend of traditional Sicilian flavors and innovative culinary techniques.

Similarly, its attractions, from the ancient Greek theatre to vibrant piazzas, weave a narrative that transcends time.

This ability to preserve and celebrate its rich history while embracing the present contributes significantly to Taormina’s distinct charm and enduring appeal.

Check out some of the best places to stay in Taormina in all price ranges.

In Italy, they add work and life on to food and wine. - Robin Leach Share on X

Driving in Italy

Just a note if you are going to rent a car in Italy.  Make sure it is a compact one to easily fit through the narrow streets that were never meant for automobiles.

At the very tip of the Italian boot in Reggio Calabria is the town of Villa San Giovanni.

Here is where you take the car ferry to Messina in Sicily. The car ferry takes 30 minutes and costs about €35.

The crossing itself is smooth sailing, and actually getting the car onto the ferry is another story.

You have to drive the car through these narrow and steep up-hill ramps and sharp corners; like an obstacle course.

It takes longer to stow the car than it does to sail to Sicily, so make sure your car is suited for the Italian streets and ferry.

Driving in Italy can be a challenge for other reasons too.

Once when we were looking for our hotel we diligently followed the traffic signs but continued to go around in a circle.

After the fourth try, we found a policeman and asked for directions.

Just as had happened in other parts of Italy, the policeman directed us to go against the traffic.  A “piccola infrazione” (small infraction) he called it. “Otherwise you’ll just go around in circles”, he said.

I wanted to ask if it wouldn’t be easier to just change the sign but decided against it.

From the food to the archaeology to the winding streets to the medieval town, Taormina attractions and restaurants will delight you.

Make sure to check out these reference materials to have a good grasp on the area before you visit.

What Taormina restaurants and attractions are your favorites? Would you feel comfortable driving in Italy?  What car would you rent? Let us know in the comments. 

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Talek Nantes

This blog was created to inspire your travels and to explore experiences in fascinating locations. What you will find are thoughts on how to immerse yourself in local culture, food, history and people. On your way to these adventures I hope to provide you with useful information to help you get there. Come see the world with me!

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