Taormina is the place I most wanted to visit in Sicily. For years, I’d heard both travelers and backpackers rave about the beauty, charm and energy of the hilltop town, and of course I’d seen it shine on the HBO series White Lotus. I was a bit worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype, but I left completely obsessed with the seaside gem. Taormina sits on Sicily’s western coast, about an hour from Catania in southern Italy, making it the perfect start or end to a road trip around the island. Below is my complete guide to Taormina to help you plan your visit, including my favorite beaches, beach clubs, cliff jumping spots, viewpoints, restaurants, hotels and more.
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Lido La Pigna is my favorite beach in Taormina.
It wouldn’t be summer in Europe without a bit of cliff jumping.
JUNE THROUGH SEPTEMBER. This is the busiest (and most expensive!) time of the year to visit, but the trade off is sunny weather, long days and good summer energy. The hotel prices peak during this season, especially in July and August, so it’s best to book lodging months in advance before selection drops and prices skyrocket. September is probably the best balance of weather, crowds.
To reach this charming alleyway in Taormina, use Giammonarte in Google Maps.
These ceramic heads are called Teste di Moro, all based on a local Sicilain legend.
THREE TO FOUR DAYS. The amount of time you spend in Taormina really depends on how much time you want to be at the beach. These were some of my favorite beaches in all of mainland Sicily, and I would be perfectly happy hitting up a different beach club every day for a solid week. That said, three to four days is plenty of time to see the town, walk the sights, visit the Isola Bella, lounge at the beach clubs and eat at the best restaurants in town.
Isola Bella Beach. OUTFIT DETAILS: Frankies Bikinis one-piece swimsuit linked here.
Isola Bella Beach has sun beds and umbrellas for rent, but there are also free areas to lay out a towel.
BELVEDERE DI VIA PIRANDELLO
For the best view of the iconic Isola Bella, you’ll want to head to the Belvedere di Via Pirandello. It’s a small viewing platform that sits on the road that leads up to town from the beaches. The views from here are unobstructed, and quite lovely. Note that there are only a few parking spaces, and not much space on the road to pull over to wait until a space opens up.
Corso Umbero is the main pedestrian boulevard that runs through Taormina. It’s almost a full kilometer of boutiques, bars, fountains, restaurants, cafes and gelato shops, divided in half by the Piazza IX Aprile. The street is bustling with energy, especially during the summer months, and it’s the perfect place to hang in the evenings.
Built in the 3rd century BC, the ancient Greek Theatre of Taormina is the second largest of its kind in Sicily. It’s located within the town, near the end of the Corso Umberto, literally next door to the Grand Hotel Timeo. The theatre is a lovely place to explore, and doesn’t require much time. The most scenic view is from the top of the cavea, looking down at the stage’s Corinthian column ruins with the Ionian Sea in the backdrop. The Greek Theatre is a paid admission ticket.
Large sea cave that is a popular spot for divers, as well as boat tours. The water in the grotto emits a lovely shade of blue, and it sits protected from the current. Grotta Azzurra is located in Mazzaro, very close to the Isola Bella.
The Isola Bella was gifted to Taormina by King Ferdinand in the early 19th century, and then bought by Lady Florence Trevelyan who built a house and planted tropical plants around the rocky island. Isola Bella has since become a protected nature reserve, also home to the most popular beach in Taormina. If you don’t mind crowds, it’s a lovely place to spend a summer day. The water is calm and clear, and the island serves up quite the backdrop for a day of sunbathing. Additionally, there are sun beds and loungers for rent along the beach, as well as plenty of free areas to lay a towel.
LIDO LA PIGNA
The iconic Isola Bella is at the top of everyone’s must-visit list when they visit Taormina. Heck, it was at the top of my list! Turns out, Lido La Pigna was my favorite beach in Taormina. The beach has the best vibe – perfectly clear turquoise water, rocks for cliff jumping and loads of cute Italian umbrellas at the charming beach clubs. A great hang on a summer day.
PIAZZA IX APRILE
The dazzling checkered square that divides Taormina in two, Piazza IX Aprile is a fixture of the town. It sits half way down the Corso Umberto in an expansive open space where you’ll find picturesque churches, outdoor cafes and a sweeping panorama of the Ionian Sea.
Another amazing setting in Taormina that is courtesy of Lady Florence Trevelyan. A lush tropical garden surrounds the Villa Comunale complete with palms, cactus, ponds, flowering trees and Moorish structures. Villa Comunale is completely free to the public, best time to visit is the late afternoon before sunset.
The lovely Church of San Giuseppe is located in the heart of town.
Teste di Morro.
Charming decor lines the little streets in town.
Corso Umberto is the main pedestrian boulevard.
The ruins of the Greek Theatre date back to the 3rd century BC.
Here is a bit of orientation to the region to help you with lodging selection in Taormina. Most hotels are either located in the main town or down in Mazzaro near the beaches. Both areas are considered Taormina, but they are NOT close to one another. If you stay near town, you’ll be walking distance to the main sights, bars, cafes, restaurants and shops, but the beach is not within walking distance. Taormina’s town is located high up on a hilltop and to reach the coast, it’s a 15-minute drive or a trip down on the local gondola. Mazarro is the other area to stay – a seaside setting close to the Isola Bella, Lido La Pigna and all the beaches. If you stay here, you are not near the main town. It’s a 15-minute drive up the cliff, or a trip up the gondola.
Grand Hotel Timeo is one of the loveliest hotels on Sicily, and one of two Belmond properties in Taormina. It’s location couldn’t be more perfect, literally next door to the Greek Theatre ruins, a couple minutes walk from the main Corso Umberto. The hotel is the epitome of five star luxury – antique decor, ornate rooms, plush linens and the dreamiest views. Like most Belmond properties, the food is wonderful (worth making a dinner reservation, even if you’re not a guest). The hotel is home to a beautiful pool set in the serene landscaped garden, or a free shuttle takes guest to the private beach club of Villa San’Andrea.
Take one look at this cliffside pool and cave-access beach club, and you’ll be smitten with Hotel Capptaormina. The hotel itself is pretty standard, and a bit dated. A stay here would solely be to experience the epic pool and beach, both featured in White Lotus.
This converted townhouse is an amazing value for Taormina, centrally located on the Corso Umberto. Ten small rooms occupy the boutique hotel – all are simple, clean and very modern. There is a pretty rooftop terrace that serves up a lovely spot for drinks in the evening, although there are plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants just steps away from Hotel Taodomus.
This is one of the highest rated hotels in Taormina, and for good reason. The rooms are spacious, the views are sweeping and location is walking distance to town. Hotel Villa Belvedere is by no means cheap, but it’s far less than the Belmond properties and the San Domenico Palace, if you’re looking for something slightly more “reasonable.”
The lovely Hotel Villa Ducale sits perched on the cliffs above Taormina. The views from the hotel’s expansive terrace are divine, an amazing setting for breakfast in the mornings. The location is completely serene, but it’s a 15-minute walk down the stone steps to reach the Corso Umberto (or the hotel offers a complimentary shuttle).
Another beautiful boutique hotel located in Taormina town. The rooms are clean, modern and comfortable, and gardens are beautiful.
If you’re willing to splurge, there isn’t a more iconic stay in Taormina than the San Domenico Palace. This 14th century monastery was where White Lotus was filmed, and it’s even more spectacular in person. The hotel sits on the cliffs, right below the main town, overlooking the Ionian Sea. More than 100 rooms and suites occupy the hotel, some with private plunge pools.
Set in a beautiful 19th century brick villa complete with Morrish design cues, Villa Carlotta offers guests a selection of 28 rooms, suites and a private villa, several with panoramic views of the Ionian Sea. Decor is bright, colorful and chic – lots of character. The Corso Umberto is a short walk from the hotel, location is very good.
Belmond’s second Taormina property sits in a seaside villa perched over a quiet bay with Ionian Sea views. Rooms have a classic look to them, several with terraces that open up to the water. Villa San’Andrea has a private beach club with white sun beds and umbrellas utilized by guests of both Taormina Belmond properties.
The loveliest stay at Hotel Villa Ducale.
The little cafe sits in the heart of town, and there is always a wait. Bam Bar serves the best granita in Sicily, and it’s an absolute vibe to chill at one of the colorful outdoor tables in the early evening. The menu of flavors changes daily, favorites include peach, kiwi, raspberry and lemon.
CHAPEAU COCKTAIL BAR
Very cute cocktail bar with little tables and seats scattered along the stone steps that lead down the the Piazza Duomo.
One of the best surprises in Taormina. Madousa sits at the very end of the Corso Umberto, away from all the restaurants on the main drag. The tables are surrounded by lush greenery and fairy lights, an amazing setting for dinner in the evening. The food and drinks are both delicious, I particularly loved the fresh lobster linguine.
It’s a scene, but the ridiculous charm of Morgana Bar makesr it a must-visit for drinks in Taormina. The bar looks like a pink Moroccan riad with waiters running around in turquoise bowties and matching vests. Drinks are pricey, but very good.
OSTERIA DA RITA
A charming Italian eatery that serves a selection of fresh pastas including Carbonara, Pomodoro, Lasagna, the Sicilian Norma and Ragu, as well as a variety of seafood pastas. The fresh mussels in tomato sauce with garlic, chili and parsley is a highlight on the menu. There is always a line for dinner at Osteria da Rita, might be easier to get a table at lunch.
PIZZERIA VILLA ZUCCARO
A very good pizzeria that serves woodfire pizza, calzones and salads.
RISTORANTE LA NAUMACHIE
Upscale dining option with an artful and delicious selection of Sicilian cuisine including fresh pastas, seafood and meats. Reservations highly recommended in summer – try to get one of the outdoor tables next to the ancient walls (the ambiance will take your meal to the next level).
Located inside the Grand Hotel Timeo, Ristorante Timeo is one of my favorite restaurants in Taormina. The service is refined, and the food delicious. I recommend any of their seafood dishes – the linguine with lobster is particularly tasty.
I made many stops at this popsicle shop located across from the Fontana di Piazza Duomo. In fact, I ate this more than gelato while in Taormina. There are dozens of popsicle flavors to choose from including passion fruit, blood orange, pomegranate, pistachio and hazelnut (to name a few), and then you select a dip and a topping. Very refreshing on a hot summer day.
TRATTORIA DA NINO
Located just outside of main boulevard in Taormina, Trattoria Da Nino is wonderful little gem that offers a delicious selection of fresh pastas and seafood. Highly recommend while in Taormina.
Fresh mussels at Osteria da Rita, a favorite in Taormina.
All the market goods.
The tastiest popsicles at Stecco Taormina.
Bam Bar is a vibe (and a must for granite!).
My favorite granite flavor was peach.
For the most part, it’s very easy to get around Taormina on foot. The main town sits in a pedestrian zone with all boutiques, bars, cafes and restaurants within walking distance. The beaches are a 15 minute drive from town, but most hotels and beach clubs provide complimentary shuttles. Or, the gondola takes passengers from town straight to Mazzaro.
Isola Bella Beach.
Cliff jumpers at Lido La Pigna.
The best viewpoint of the Isola Bella from above is at Belvedere di Via Pirandello.
Give me all the Italian beach vibes.
The Catania–Fontanarossa Airport connects Taormina to several European cities including Rome, Munich, Amsterdam, Venice and Berlin, to name a few. Most visitors land in Catania, and head straight away to Taormina, about an hour’s drive. You will find almost all major car rental agencies at this airport. If you’re road tripping through Sicily, and arrive by car, there is a multi-story paid parking garage located at the edge of town, a minute’s walk from the Corso Umberto. It’s possible to leave your car here the duration of your stay in Taormina.