3-Day Itinerary in Taormina: The Pearl of Sicily

Advisor - Kaya Flostrand
Curated By

Kaya Flostrand

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  • Italy

  • Sicily

  • Luxury Travel

  • Boutique Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • Arts & Culture

  • Beaches

  • Honeymoons

  • Birthdays

  • History

  • Hiking

  • Small Town

outdoor restaurant in a historic building in a hillside town
Curator’s statement

Perched 200 meters above sea level, the small town of Taormina has drawn visitors since Roman times when patricians and senators started to flock here during the winter months to benefit from the mild climate. Today Taormina is on everyone’s lips due to the international success of tv-show “White Lotus.” The second season of the show was filmed almost in its entirety in and around Taormina, with the historical Four Seasons’ San Domenico Palace serving as the backdrop to the drama and practically taking on a character of its own. Hollywood’s fascination with Taormina is nothing new however. A favorite with the likes of Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner, Elisabeth Taylor, Truman Capote and Woody Allen, the pull of this enchanted corner of Sicily has only grown stronger through time. Its streets lined with pastel colored houses are so pretty it almost pains the eye. The turquoise views of the crystal clear waters of the Ionian Sea contrast with the looming presence of the volcano Etna in the background, ever the reminder of the great natural forces at play on this island. Taormina has everything you could wish for in an Italian getaway; food, wine, history, culture and gorgeous landscapes. Let me plan your visit to Taormina and it will likely result in a life-long desire to return.

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Where to stay

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San Domenico Palace, Taormina, A Four Seasons Hotel

Perched on a rocky promontory high above the Ionian Sea, this 14th-century convent with panoramic views of Mount Etna offers fine dining and local experiences.

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  • When you book Four Seasons through Fora, you will enjoy exclusive Four Seasons Preferred Partner benefits. Your advisor will be pleased to give you more details.

Grand Hotel Timeo, A Belmond Hotel, Taormina

Sicilian-style hillside property with upscale rooms and suites offering views of Mount Etna and the coast.

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  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Mazzarò Sea Palace

Located in the bay of Taormina, this luxury hotel on the seafront boasts 70 contemporary bedrooms and suites with private terraces overlooking the ocean.

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Day 1: Arriving in Taormina

a coastal town nestled into the hillside with colorful stone buildings and green trees

If this is the first stop (or your only stop) of your Sicilian itinerary, you will want to be flying into Catania Fontanarossa (CTA) airport. There is public transportation available but the seamless way to get there is by private transfer. For other parts of Sicily I recommend getting a car, but not for Taormina as it is definitely a pedestrian destination with a funicular at your disposal when you do not feel like climbing those charming but oh-so-steep streets.

After having checked in to your hotel, I suggest going for a stroll to start taking it all in. If it’s not yet aperitivo-time sit, down for your first ‘granita’ at legendary Bam Bar. It will likely not be your last one; this local delicacy was introduced by the Arabs and it is a shaved ice of sorts. It comes in a multitude of flavors, from the obvious coffee and strawberry to the unique ‘granita ai gelsi’, mulberry granita in English. Don’t pass on the whipped cream, the play of textures is half the fun.

After having sampled this culinary gift of the Gods, walk over to Palazzo Corvaja on Piazza Badia. Bearing the marks of Normannic, Arabic and Gothic architecture, this building is in itself a testament to the fascinating history of Sicily. Construction started in the 1300s and it was privately owned by the homonymous family until 1945. Today the building houses the Sicilian Museum of Art and Popular Traditions, as well as the Tourism Office.

No Italian town is complete without a ‘duomo’ and Taormina is no exception. What is unique to this ‘duomo’ however is that it looks more like a fortress than a church. Possibly a reflection of Sicily’s history with conquests and occupations. The inside, however, is more traditional.

Following a bit of culture, I suggest you sample some more local foods and go for an aperitivo. If you are not staying at the San Domenico, you will for sure want to check out their Bar & Chiostro for a drink and some light nibbles from their tapas menu.

For dinner a trip to Taormina is not complete without a reservation at popular Tischi Toschi - Sicilian slang for emigrants who have lost their ability to speak proper Sicilian when they return to the mother(is)land. This is a high quality trattoria that has even earned a mention in the Michelin Guide.

If full on Michelin-starred dining is your thing head to Otto Geleng in the Belmond. This 16-seat restaurant allegedly serves up one of the most unique dining experiences in all of Sicily. If you are not yet satisfied, go for some drinks and live music at Casamatta.

Day 2: Sand, sea and an ancient theatre

ancient outdoor theater made of stone at the top of a mountain range

Although the recommended hotels all offer stunning pools, a dip in the beautiful waters of the Ionian Sea is a must. If you want to stick with a “White Lotus” theme, you should visit the beach club, La Cambusa, in nearby Giardini Naxos. This little beach town is actually where the original founders of Taormina fled from to form a new town on the Monte Tauro, roughly in the year 400 BC.

Today you can get there easily. Just rent a bike from one of the many bike rentals in Taormina and in 20 minutes you will be there. Stay for the day or choose to party into the evening; the beach club transforms into a lounge and night club at sunset.

If you are lucky enough to be in Taormina on the right night, however, you might want to head back in time to catch a concert at the Teatro Antico. In the summer of 2023 you can catch Enzo Ramazzotti, Jimmy Sax or Andrea Boccelli live on what might be the world’s most spectacular stage. This Roman style theater, which at the most could hold 10,000 spectators, was inaugurated in 301 BC as a stage for traditional theatrical performances, but was later adapted to host gladiator games. After the Fall of the Roman Empire the theater was left in ruins until it was restored in 1955. Whether you go for a concert or not, I recommend you do a guided tour and learn about the fascinating history of Taormina’s most famous attraction.

Day 3: The volcano and the vineyards

rolling hills at sunset with a volcano in the distant mountain range surrounded by clouds and smoke

By now you might be curious to explore the Etna National Park. There are multiple tours that depart from Taormina and depending on your degree of interest and fitness level you are bound to find something that suits you, whether it be trekking the slopes or contemplating the landscape aboard a jeep.

A visit to the Etna is easily combined with a tour of one of the many wineries in the region. The climate (much cooler than by the sea), the eruptions and ensuing ash rains, coupled with the volcanic minerality of the soil, makes this one of Europe’s most exciting wine regions. The well-known Planeta family has several wineries across Sicily, and a fabulous resort in Menfi, out west, but that is for another guide. Once on the Etna you should visit their Feudo di Mezzo estate. They produce 6 wines here in addition to their Brut Metodo Classico. If you are someone who enjoys some good quality sparkling wine, this one will surely blow you away.

Once you are back in town it is time for an aperitivo, the Daiquiri bar in front of the Duomo makes a good Negroni, or you could have a Spritz. Make sure to tuck into an ‘arancino’ or two, the snack of choice for Sicilians and visitors alike. It is a fried and stuffed ball of rice, the size and color of an orange (hence the name). Fillings may vary but I have yet to try an ‘arancino’ I didn't like.

For dinner you can round off your Taormina trip with a dinner at the unpretentious, yet beautiful Trattoria da Nino. I suggest passing on the omnipresent ‘spaghetti alle vongole’ and instead try a local specialty such as ‘spaghetti ai ricci ‘(sea urchins), or bottarga (cured fish roe). Either way the view from the terrace is bound to add a special flavor to a meal in this restaurant.

Day 4: Arrivederci, Taormina

a center square with black and white checkered tile floors and a stone church

At breakfast you might want to leave room for another granita at Bam Bar before you head to the airport or onwards for the next leg of your Sicilian trip. How about the Aeolian Islands, Siracusa and Ortygia or the baroque cities of Val di Noto? Or the allure of distant Pantelleria?

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Deb Swacker's guide, A Memorable Sicily Travel Guide.

Advisor - Kaya Flostrand

Travel Advisor

Kaya Flostrand

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Italy.