Dating back to the 6th century BC when the Greeks first settled here, the town of Taormina on Sicily’s north-east coast is no stranger to foreign visitors. Yet 2017 was a historic year for this beautiful, cliff-top location as Donald Trump and other world leaders dropped into town for the 43rd G7 summit. Already well established as a holiday destination and long regarded as a popular spot by many celebrities, Taormina suddenly found itself the focus of the world’s media which has done the town’s tourism industry no harm whatsoever.
Some cruise ship passengers will find that their Sicilian itinerary includes a visit to Taormina from the nearby holiday resort of Giardini Naxos whilst others will be arriving on shore excursions from the Port of Messina to the north. No matter how you get here, just make sure you that you do as Taormina is one of the lesser known gems of Mediterranean ports of call.
Port of Taormina
Larger ships visiting this region of Sicily usually dock at the Port of Messina which lies 55km to the north. Smaller vessels can anchor in the bay of Giardini-Naxos to the south of Taormina then tender their passengers ashore. The arrival point on the waterfront is usually close to the Zona Archeologica which was Sicily’s first Greek settlement.
Shuttle buses are usually made available for passengers who want to travel the 7km into Taormina and visit the town’s famous Ancient Greek Theatre. Alternatively, shared taxis wait at the dockside to transfer passengers to Taormina and public buses are available from the resort’s Recanati bus terminal. Once you arrive in Taormina all tourist attractions are easily accessible on foot.
Transport to Taormina from Catania Airport
Passengers who are beginning or ending their cruise in Taormina (Giardini Naxos) will most likely be travelling through Catania Airport which lies 67km south of Taormina.
There’s a direct bus from the airport to Taormina otherwise new arrivals can take a bus into Catania then travel by train to Taormina-Giardini station. Private transfers from Catania Airport to Taormina can be pre-booked and tend to be more economical than expensive taxi services.
Main Tourist Attractions
Arriving onshore at Giardini Naxos you’ll find a stylish holiday resort with easy access to some lovely local beaches. With plenty cafés and restaurants to choose from you could easily while away a few hours here but it would be a shame not to head up the hill into the beautiful town of Taormina which has a history dating back to 400 BC.
The main street in Taormina is the narrow Corso Umberto which is home to many souvenir shops, designer boutiques, stylish cafés, restaurants and art galleries. As you wander along this street look out for the 12th century Torre dell’orologio clock tower next to the Piazza IX Aprile. This landmark once served as the northern entrance to the town and today marks the entrance to the town’s medieval quarter where the main historic sights are located including the Cattedrale di Taormina on Piazza Duomo.
The town’s main tourist attraction is the Greco-Roman Amphitheatre which stands on a hill just east of the town centre. Originally built by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC it was rebuilt by the Romans who used it for gladiatorial events. Today it serves as an idyllic venue for hosting concerts and theatrical performances. Visitors to the archaeological site are treated to panoramic views of Mount Etna in the distance.
Insider Tip: Unfortunately, too many restaurants in Taormina are overpriced establishments geared largely to the tourist market. A recommended lunchtime venue is Pizzeria Villa Zuccaro (Piazza Carmine, 5) which serves excellent pizzas and is popular with locals.
Another local attraction worth a visit is the tiny island of Isola Bella which stands on a small island below Taormina. Visitors can take a cable car down from the town then walk out to the island which has a tiny beach. Just 3km above Taormina is a stunningly beautiful medieval village called Castelmola from where there’s a natural terrace offering stunning views in all directions. There is a steep path up to the village but in the heat of the Sicilian summer a short bus journey from Taormina bus station or a taxi are far more appealing.
Shore Excursions Beyond Taormina
Most cruise ship passengers visiting Taormina are more than happy to spend a relaxing day wandering around the beautiful town with perhaps a visit to the Greek Amphitheatre. Others like to take this opportunity to visit Mount Etna which lies just 60km south-west of Giardini Naxos. Standing at more than 3300m this is the largest and most active volcano in Europe which is visible from Taormina. Cruise lines and private tour operators provide transport to Rifugio Sapienza on the mountain’s southern slopes. Visitors to this base camp can take a cable car up to 2900m from where jeep excursions and guided walks are available on the volcano’s crater.
Other places of interest near to Taormina include the village of Savoca which will be familiar to fans of the Godfather Trilogy. Bar Vitelli in Piazza Fossia looks unchanged since it was frequented by Michael Corlione (Al Pacino) in the movie from the 1970s. Savoca is only 20km to the north of Taormina along the coast and is accessible by public bus or shared taxi. Cruise lines and local travel agents also include visits to the village on their range of ‘Godfather Tours’.
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct is the most established and respected airport transfer provider in Europe and northern Africa. Our friendly local drivers will ensure your safe, economical, and convenient passage to and from the cruise terminal, airport, or major train station of your choice with a minimum of fuss. Book your transfer with our easy to use online booking system and leave the rest up to us!