Sicily is a destination with its own unique character. There’s obviously a strong Italian influence but the island has only been “Italian” since 1860. So, while the food and language do overlap and have similarities with mainland Italy, the culture is uniquely “Sicilian”. And being a large island, the various regions of Sicily are also unique.
Taormina, is a captivating touristy hillside resort town located on the Eastern coast of Sicily about one hour north of Catania, where you’ll find the closest airport.
Why to go: Known as a bit of a “chi-chi” resort town, the main reasons to visit are the impressive ancient amphitheater and the amazingly breathtaking vistas. The town of Taormina is situated at the top of a hill right on the coast. So, in one direction you overlook the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea and in the other direction, you can see the top of Mt. Etna, Europe’s highest and most active volcano located just over an hour away.
When to go: Taormina definitely experiences a tourist “season”. The town is extremely busy in July and August but is very quiet between November and Easter. As with many destinations, the “shoulder” season is ideal – April, May, September or October.
How to go: It’s possible to arrive in Taormina with public transportation as there are regular bus and train lines. The center of town is pedestrian so even if you arrive by car, you’ll have to park on the outskirts and walk to the center. There are also shuttle buses that run between the center and the parking lots as well as to other spots nearby like the beach and the train station. During the summer, another option is the cable car that can take you from town down to the beach.
What to do: The first thing you’ll notice is the view. So, take in the scenery and wander down the pedestrian Corso Umberto for some elegant shopping. You’ll definitely want to visit the Greek Theater (which also has great views) too. And then just enjoy Sicily – relax at cafes/restaurants and experience the fantastic Sicilian cuisine.
What to eat and/or drink: Sicily is known for many typical local dishes, among them the seafood and amazing pastries. But don’t miss the Arancini (my favorite!), which are balls of rice with mozzarella in the center and fried. In addition, as with the Amalfi Coast (and, well, all of Italy really), don’t miss that delicious lemon flavored liquor – limoncello.
Where to make a detour: Taormina is but one town on the Eastern coast of Sicily and there are so many great places to visit in that area. Castelmola is another hilltop village with beautiful views located not far from Taormina. An excursion to Mt Etna is such an unforgettable experience – definitely not to be missed! And the towns of Catania and Siracusa are also worth the visit for their sights. If you do make your way to Siracusa (Syracuse) don’t miss the Ear of Dionysius which is such a unique experience.