Travel Diaries: Taormina

Taormina is a beloved ancient city with a charming personality. It is located in the province of Messina on the east coast of Sicily, situated with stunning views of the Ionian sea and Mount Etna. Strolling through Taormina is magical, as you experience the sound of church bells and people in the piazza living their best ‘dolce vita.’

Taormina is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sicily. It has a ton of souvenir shops and stores that sell ceramic dishes with intricate Sicilian Majolica designs. You can locate many of these quaint shops by strolling along the street ‘Corso Umberto,’ which stretches from the gates of Porta Messina to Porta Catania.

Conveniently right off of Corso Umberto is the central piazza in Taormina called Piazza Aprile IX, where you can find the church of San Giuseppe. This baroque-style church dominates one end of the piazza, and the other side has a magnificent view of the sea and Mount Etna. Like any typical Italian piazza, it’s full of bars, coffee shops, restaurants, and people leisurely enjoying each other’s company.

Just a short walk from the piazza is one of Taormina’s main attractions, the Greco-Roman amphitheater. This astonishing structure was built in the 3rd century BC and is the second-largest Greek amphitheater in Sicily (after the one in Siracusa) and can accommodate around 5000 guests. Since the Greeks loved building their structures with a view, the amphitheater in Taormina was no exception. After the rise of the Roman empire, the structure was remodeled around the 2nd century AD to be used as an arena for gladiators.

Today, the amphitheater is still being used to host some of the world’s greatest opera concerts and theatrical shows. During the daytime, it’s open to the public to tour and costs about 10 Euros for admission. With this, you can imagine how the ancient locals entertained themselves, and you can feast your eyes on breathtaking panoramic views of the Italian coasts. It’s completely worth it!

Sicily is known for its Arancini or ‘Italian rice balls.’ You can find them in almost all restaurants or shops. The traditional arancini are stuffed with ground beef and peas in a light tomato sauce. They make a variety of types of Arancini, including ones with mozzarella and prosciutto cotto (ham) or others filled with mushroom. It’s fun to try different combos and pick your favorite!

For dessert or a midday snack, grab a granita! A granita is a semi-frozen dessert made with ice, water, sugar, and fruit or natural flavoring. Sicily is the home of granita, and it was invented in the middle ages when snow was collected from the mountains by the nivaroli (snow hunters).

The snow was kept fresh for the summer months in nivieri, a stony ice store built in natural caves. Once summer arrived, lemon juice and other fruit syrups were mixed into the snow and enjoyed as a refreshing snack. Now, the granite in Sicily are exceptionally fresh and prepared directly from whole fruit and ice, making it a refreshing and delightful treat.

Lemon and almond are the original flavors, but bars now offer a ton of new flavors ranging from all types of fruit to Nutella or coffee. Granita has become popular throughout southern Italy and is typically served in a glass.

In Sicily and now adopted in a few southern Italian areas, you often have the option to enjoy your granita with a fresh brioche, which many locals prefer for breakfast.

If you are staying in Calabria and want to travel to Sicily for a couple days (or vice-versa), it’s effortless to take a ferry that goes from one of the major ports in Calabria to Messina. Not only is the ferry inexpensive, but it’s convenient because you can often bring your car onboard depending on the type of ferry you choose.

Thank you for taking this virtual journey with me through the gorgeous city of Taormina! Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and follow my page on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest at Simply Signorina.

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