TAORMINA SICILY TRAVEL GUIDE
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One of the most stunning places I’ve ever traveled is for sure Taormina, Sicily and I was lucky enough to not only go once, but twice in 2023! With it’s incredible location and natural beauty surrounding it, there is a reason this quaint and charming town is nicknamed “Pearl of the Ionian Sea!”
I’ve traveled to Italy many times now but Taormina was one of the most unique places I’ve been. It offers the perfect mix of geology, historical legacy, archaeological sites, dreamy beaches, raging volcanoes and charming restaurants and shopping. According to the “Set-Jetting” trend from Expedia Group’s Unpack’ 24 report, TV shows and movies are inspiring people’s travel plans more than ever and my visits to Taormina are a prime example of that! I owe The White Lotus for inspiring my travel to this beautiful place and I’m so excited to share my travel guide on how to experience the best of Taormina here!
HOW TO GET TO TAORMINA
Some visits are worth the journey and Taormina is definitely that! There is no direct flight to Taormina so from New York we traveled to Rome and then a connecting flight to Catania, Italy. Once you land in Catania, it is a little less than a two hour drive from the airport to Taormina. Our VRBO host was wonderful and was able to connect us to a driver who met us at the airport and brought us right to our apartment, which was so helpful after a long journey. The train from Catania to Taormina is another great option!
Whatever route you decide to take to get there, finding the best deals and solutions was easy with Expedia, which I used to book all my flights for both my visits to Taormina.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT TAORMINA?
I have always been a strong advocate that there is no better time to go to Italy than in September. Less crowds and perfect end of summer weather that still allows you to hit the beach but isn’t super hot for exploring (see what I packed in my suitcase!). My past visits to places like Lake Como and Positano were also during this time of year and I couldn’t recommend it more.
When I visited in November, the weather was still warm (mid 70’s!), but most of the town begins to close for the season after October. From the beach clubs to the restaurants to the stores, it’s much more hard to plan your schedule during this time of year so definitely recommend booking before October.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN TAORMINA
If you’re looking for a splurge worthy hotel, there’s no better place than the real life White Lotus hotel, the Four Seasons San Domenico Palace. Allie and I were lucky enough to be hosted by Hotels.com and from the moment we arrived, we felt like we were transported to another world. From starting your morning with a cappuccino in hand on the balcony to a day under the blue and white umbrellas to ending with cocktails by the piano, every part of this property feels even more magical than the TV.
Another reason I loved the hotel was it’s incredible location in town. While we rarely left the property, when we wanted to go into town, we were less than two minutes away from shopping and restaurants.
Finally, the staff at San Domenico was truly the kindest and most helpful team I’ve ever had at a hotel. One of my favorite parts of our stay was grabbing a drink at the famous cocktail bar before dinner and chatting with the bartenders about life in Italy (and some White Lotus filming secrets!). The property features three restaurants and the pool and spa so there truly never feels like you need to leave!
For my first time visiting Taormina, we stayed at this charming VRBO beachfront rental that was ideal for our group of four. Much more quiet than staying in town, we loved being across from the water. We took morning beach walks and afternoon swims and loved being able to experience both the busy town and the quiet beach life. Whatever needs you need for your stay, there’s so many incredible VRBO’s to choose from when visiting Taormina.
HOW TO GET AROUND TAORMINA
I found Taormina very easy to get around once you arrive. While Uber isn’t an option here, the main area of Taormina has an area that you can easily catch a cab from, so we never had that issue when in town. However, if staying farther from town (like I did during my first visit), make sure to get the numbers of some of the taxi drivers so you can call ahead for a ride.
We also found the public bus a great option as there was a bus that picked us up near our VRBO every hour, so we could plan our schedule around that. There is also a cable car that can take you to the bottom by the water to the steep top for incredible views!
BEST THINGS TO DO IN TAORMINA
Spend A Day At A Beach Club
When in Italy, a day at the beach club is key to a dreamy vacation! Taormina has so many options along the water but we decided to visit Lido La Pigna, which came highly recommended from friends who had visited before. Call ahead to reserve a chair, where you can get drink and food service while soaking up the sun on the sandy beaches. You can’t beat an Aperol Spritz and pizza from your beach chair!
Shop For Local Souvenirs
I love bringing back a souvenir (or two!) to remind me of my favorite travels, whether that’s art, food or a Christmas ornament. Taormina had so many gorgeous shops, especially when it came to pottery. Sicily is famous for the ceramic heads that can be spotted all over town but it was the blue and white pottery I fell in love with! My favorite shop was called Blue Royal Ceramics right in town so highly recommend a visit there.
Another favorite shop that I went back to both visits was L’Agora Art Gallery. This quaint print shop had so many unique pieces and we all went home with one of their gorgeous fruit prints.
Explore Isola Bella
Isola Bella, or “beautiful island,” is a picturesque island surrounded by turquoise waters. During the warm season, you can come relax and rent a sunbed on the beach. To get to Isola Bella, you can either take the cable car or climb a steep flight of steps, then walk down the narrow strip of sand that connects the island to Taormina.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN TAORMINA
Even if not staying at San Domenico, booking a reservation is a must during your visit to Taormina. My first time to Taormina, we booked a lunch reservation at the poolside restaurant Anciovi. I highly recommend booking here so you can see the hotel in all it’s glory during the day, from the pool to the breathtaking views.
For a fancy night, their Michelin star restaurant Principe Cerami was an incredible meal – and experience. Multiple courses and the most attentive service, definitely recommend booking this for a special night. After dinner, head to the famous cocktail and piano bar in the lounge for one of their one of a kind cocktails.
Also as a reminder, during busy season, only hotel guests and those with dining reservations can come inside the hotel so if you’re wanting to visit, a reservation is a must!
Located right in the center of Taormina, this was the first dinner of my visit and was one of my favorite meals of the trip. A celebrity favorite, this authentic Sicilian spot features incredible wine pairings and local dishes for a truly special meal.
A Taormina must! Bam Bar is the perfect place for an afternoon espresso and a sweet treat, such as their famous granita and brioche rolls. Expect a wait but don’t worry it moves quickly so you can order one of their dreamy treats (make sure to get the fresh cream on top!).
Our favorite cocktail bar during our girls trip visit was the famous Morgana Bar. From the decor to the creative drinks, this popular tucked away cocktail bar is an absolute must visit when in Taormina. It can get quite busy and rowdy as the night goes on so come early to avoid cover and get a seat in the stunning space.
Next store to San Domenico Palace is every design lover’s dream of a restaurant! I visited this chic spot both times not only for the decor and details, but also because of their twist on classic Sicilian dishes. Make sure to get their arancini (a Sicily favorite!) and their chocolate dessert that is UNREAL!
A favorite of The White Lotus cast, this outdoor restaurant is tucked away in a magical garden and serves up some incredible seafood dishes and strong cocktails.
You can’t go to Italy without having pizza of course! I loved this spot tucked up in town for fresh pizzas during lunch, aka the perfect shopping snack!
When you’re in need of all the pasta dishes, head to this charming local spot in town. We each ordered a different pasta and a few Negroni’s and had the best evening.
Nothing beats aperitivo hour in Italy and this spot is the perfect spot to watch the sunset. Located in the famous Piazza IX Aprile, sit here with cocktails and snacks and listen to live music to feel like a true local.
Gelato every day is a requirement in Italy and while I didn’t have any bad gelato while visiting, this one stood out as a favorite if you’re a pistachio lover! This all pistachio store features some of the freshest pistachio gelato I’ve ever had and you can choose a variety of toppings and sauces to make it an insanely indulgent cone.