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Experience the Magic of a Half-Day in Taormina, Sicily

Updated: Apr 10

Jump into in a whirlwind half-day tour in Southern Italy and find yourself in ancient wonders, mouthwatering cuisine, and stunning scenery in Taormina, Sicily.
A view of the Ionian Sea from the top of a mountain in Taormina, Sicily. In the foreground are many prickly pear, trees, and lush grass. In the background is a deep blue sea scattered with boats and a clear blue sky.
A panorama of the Ionian Sea from Taormina, Sicily. Photo by Emily Fata.

Prepare to be charmed, intrigued, and a tad obsessed with Taormina, Sicily, a place where—let's face it—one visit is just not enough.

Nestled on the Southern Italian island's eastern coast, this picturesque town is like a siren call to travellers, luring them in with promises of ancient wonders, mouthwatering cuisine, and scenery so stunning it's almost unfair to other destinations. So, fasten your seatbelts (figuratively, of course, unless you’re being driven around by a local) as I embark on sharing the whirlwind half-day tour of this beautiful town.

The ancient Teatro Antico di Taormina, with the blue Ionian Sea and clear skies in the background.
The Teatro Antico di Taormina. Photo by Emily Fata.

Taormina, Sicily: Home to Teatro Antico di Taormina

Step back in time and immerse yourself in the grandeur of the ancient theatre of Taormina (Teatro Antico di Taormina), the second-largest in Sicily. Perched high on a hillside overlooking the azure waters of the Ionian Sea, this majestic amphitheater transports you to a bygone era of drama and spectacle—and, as we all well know, I love a good dramatic spectacle.

A woman standing on the top of stone steps in front of a red door of an old building. To the right is a terracotta urn and to the left is the deep blue Ionian Sea and clear blue skies.
Admiring the views from the top of Teatro Antico di Taormina. Photo by Vittoria Urzetta.

Built in the 3rd century BC, its sprawling tiers once echoed with the voices of Greek tragedians and Roman gladiators, drawing crowds from far and wide to witness epic tales unfold beneath the Sicilian sky. 

The stage, the orchestra, and the cavea are the three sections of the Greek-Roman theatre located in the Archaeological Park of Naxos and Taormina. Expert reconstruction indicates that the performers performed on the stage in front of the cavea, which was decorated with two orders of columns layered on top of each other. When it was excavated in the 3rd century BC from the solid rock of Mount Taurus, it was large enough to hold 10,000 seated spectators. In fact, you can still attend performances here today which, although I didn’t have the time to see one when visiting this time around, I would love to see in the future.

The Greeks who built the theatre are renowned for creating their most significant structures with the idea that nature will be an integral element of them. Similarly, the air and light seeping between the columns highlighted the natural landscape that was expertly incorporated into the theatre’s architecture. All areas have incredible acoustics because of the form they take. Later, the amphitheatre was modified for gladiator games in the latter part of the imperial era. Then, after that, it was no longer in use with the collapse of the Western Empire. The colossal columns and marble were taken out of the building (a true tragedy). Only in the 1950s did a significant restoration project improve certain original building components.

The blue Ionian Sea against the rolling mountains of Sicily. In the foreground is a tree.
The Ionian Sea, as seen from the top of Teatro Antico di Taormina. Photo by Emily Fata.

In the modern day, walking around the ancient Greek theatre instantly brings you back to a relic from a time when togas were all the rage and amphitheaters were the place to see and be seen. Make sure that while marvelling at the stunning theatre itself that you don’t forget to take in its panoramic views of Mount Etna, too—because nothing says ‘epic drama’ like an active volcano looming in the distance.

More Historic Treasures Beckon

Now, if you're anything like me, the only thing better than ancient history is ancient history with an extra heaping serving of medieval charm. Lucky for us, Taormina has no shortage of it all. Take a leisurely stroll through the labyrinth of alleys in the Old Town, where every cobblestone has a story to tell and every gelateria beckons with promises of sweet, sweet salvation. It’s no secret that I will happily eat my weight in fior di latte gelato, breaking only for pizza, pasta or the occasional grilled panino.

A woman in a blue and red pattered sundress stands in a stone alleyway. Around her is greenery.
Standing along a side street in Taormina, Sicily. Photo by Vittoria Urzetta.

As you walk through, admire the ornate façades of centuries-old churches (because who needs modern architecture when you've got bell towers that are hundreds of years old?) and lose yourself in a sea of artisanal shops selling everything from handmade ceramics to questionable souvenirs. And, yes, I bought some of said questionable souvenirs.

As you meander, just be sure to watch your step. Those cobblestones may be charming, but they're also a twisted ankle waiting to happen!

Nature's Splendour Unveiled in Taormina, Sicily

A stone fence along a path stands in front of bushes of pink flowers, cacti, and trees. Behind it is a clear blue sky.
The beautiful plants and florals within Parco Florence Trevelyan. Photo by Emily Fata.

Because Taormina isn't just about ancient ruins…it's also about nature!

Escape the hustle and bustle of town life and immerse yourself in the tranquil oasis of the Parco Florence Trevelyan, where birds are chirping, the wind is rustling through the tress, and, in the distance, the waves of the sea roll over the shoreline. Lose yourself in a fragrant blankets of blooming flowers, wander through shady groves, and marvel at the sheer audacity of nature (seriously, how do those flowers stay so darn perfect snd pretty?). As someone who is an unapologetic plant lady, this place felt like a paradise, and I was constantly asking my cousin to take photos of me with the plants to send size comparisons to my best friend back home.

In addition to this garden, there is also the nearby Isola Bella (meaning ‘beautiful island’), a tiny island just off the coast that epitomizes the beauty of Sicily. Dubbed the “Pearl of the Ionian Sea,” this picturesque islet is a testament to nature's whimsy, with its rocky shores and lush vegetation creating a scene straight out of a postcard. As you approach Isola Bella, you can't help but notice its diminutive size—it's more like a grain of sand than a pearl, really. But don't let its small stature fool you; this island packs a punch when it comes to natural beauty and charm.

A small two-storey stone open-air building ith steps leading up to a balcony. It is surrounded by bright green foliage and in the background are lush trees.
An old structure found inside of Parco Florence Trevelyan. Photo by Emily Fata.

If you’re feeling adventurous, there’s also the option to conquer Mount Etna, Europe's most active volcano and the only thing standing between you and bragging rights for life. Etna, in all of er majesty, isn’t too far away from Taormina! Strap on your hiking boots (or rent them, because let's be real, who has space in their suitcase for hiking boots?) and embark on a guided excursion to the volcano's slopes, where the air is tinged with the scent of sulphur and the ground rumbles beneath your feet. Marvel at panoramic views stretching as far as the eye can see, and try not to think about the fact that you're standing on a giant pile of molten rock (it's fine, everything's fine).

Gastronomic Delights Await

But wait, there's more—and, obviously, it’s about food!

A toasted sandwich on a yellow and blue painted hand-painted ceramic plate.
A delicious panino at Re di Bastoni Pub. Photo by Emily Fata.

Now, let's talk about the real reason I travel (kind of joking, kind of not). Sicilian cuisine is like a culinary symphony, with each dish more of an orchestral masterpiece than the last (unless you're lactose intolerant, in which case, maybe stick to the olives—or not, because I am also lactose intolerant and ignore it when I travel. Hedge your bets, my friends). Start your gastronomic adventure with a visit to one of Taormina's bustling cafés, where the air is thick with the scent of espresso and cannoli, and you can hear the sounds of vendors haggling over the price of their wares, people chatting, and water fountains spilling water from carved stone spouts. 

Order and apperitivo of some succulent olives, chips, maybe indulge in some creamy cheeses, and try not to drool too conspicuously as you eye up the freshly baked bread (it's okay, we're all friends here). Plus, an Aperol Spritz never hurt anyone. Or, you can do like we did (walk around all day until we were starving, to then stop for panini and a Fanta at an outdoor bar called Re di Bastoni Pub. Sandwiches are critical, because no visit to Taormina is complete without a carb-induced food coma.

A bright green monstera leaf with many perforations.
A massive leaf spotted just outside of Parco Florence Trevelyan. Photo by Emily Fata.

However, when you’re in Sicily, you can try anything from savoury arancini to pasta alla Norma (this is with eggplant, which is typical of this region) to sweet cannoli filled with enough ricotta to induce a food-induced hallucination. Each bite of anything you order will serve as a delicious reminder of why you came to Sicily in the first place. So, grab a fork and dig in—your taste buds will thank you.

All in All

In just half a day, Taormina manages to capture the hearts (and stomachs) of travellers from around the world. With its ancient treasures, mouthwatering cuisine, and breathtaking natural beauty, this charming town offers a taste of Sicilian splendour like no other. So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags (and your stretchy pants) and embark on your own sarcastic adventure to Taormina – because life's too short to take seriously, especially when there's cannoli involved.



Luna Stanley
Luna Stanley
Apr 13

This looks like an amazing adventure! I would love to visit some day, this is 100% on my bucket list.


Predrag Kovacevic
Predrag Kovacevic
Apr 11

Sicily is on my must see destinations list. Beautiful in nature and rich in historical and archeological heritage. Thanks you for these great photos.


Archana singh
Archana singh
Apr 11

I have been to Italy several times but have never been to Taormina in Sicily! There are so many great things to do, from hiking to history. Thanks for the detailed guide.


Great Beer Now
Great Beer Now
Apr 11

I still have not been to Italy, and that means not to Sicily, either. It still remains on my long and growing- not shrinking- bucket list.


Marysa Nicholson
Marysa Nicholson
Apr 10

Taormina truly is a gem of Sicily! So many great things to check out, from hiking Mount Etna to Taormina's history and charm. Thanks for the guide to what to see there!

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