“Were a man to spend only one day in Sicily and ask, “What must one see?” I would answer him without hesitation, “Taormina.” It is only a landscape, but a landscape where you can find everything on earth that seems made to seduce the eyes, the mind and the imagination.”
SO WROTE Guy de Maupassant after visiting Sicily in 1885. Indeed, for the past two centuries, artists and actors—from Goethe and Picasso to Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren—have been drawn to this charming little town. Yet long before it was part of the Grand Tour, Taormina inspired the Etruscans, Phoenicians and Ancient Greeks. It’s hardly surprising: with its rustic charm, magical views and Etna’s magnetic forces permeating the air, this is one of the most enchanting places on earth.
Any mention of Taormina conjures images of the Greek Theatre—an archeological treasure right next door to Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo. It mystifies in the solitude of early morning and regularly hosts concerts come sundown. If you get the chance to attend, take it: this stunning setting comes alive to the sound of music.
It’s just a short stroll through the cobblestone streets to the heart of town. Piazza IX Aprile is a gorgeous square with cafés and gelaterias. Wander into its two ancient churches and take in Taormina’s diverse architecture. Nearby Corso Umberto offers a perfect slice of retail therapy, whether you’re after the latest Italian fashions or locally made handicrafts. Head to Bam Bar for mouthwatering Sicilian treats. The granita is not to be missed.
Want to discover more of the area? Hire an Ape Calessino and let its three wheels take you to every corner of town. You’ll want to drive up to the village of Castelmola, where the main square boasts sprawling coastline panoramas. Pick your favourite spot for lunch—the views are a perfect accompaniment.
Getting to and from the coast is easy with the cable car that runs from Via Nazionale to Mazzarò Bay. Spend day after day blissfully resting on the private pebble beach at Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea—there are plenty of lovely waterside restaurants to discover. Our own Restaurant Oliviero is difficult to beat; the chef’s signature couscous with fresh local fish offers a true taste of the island. If you want to explore more of the Sicilian coast, we offer wonderful excursions: visit the volcanic Aeolian islands, or set sail aboard a traditional Sicilian boat.
Of course, Taormina is a great launch for seeing the rest of Sicily, too. Film aficionados may well want to hire a classic Fiat 500 and visit sites from the Godfather films. If you’re searching for a more traditional adventure, Mount Etna is a thrilling experience. The craters are reminiscent of Mars and the views are nothing short of spectacular. Sample some of the local honey and stop in at the Planeta winery. The bottles are full-bodied thanks to Etna’s unique mineral rich soil. After all that exploring, you deserve to sit back and enjoy a glass or two. Salute.