For Romanians Italy is a very popular and easy accessible country. There are daily low cost flights with prices starting as low as 9 Euros, so traveling there is as easy as it gets. And yet despite all this, I had never been to Italy. I think all my friends have, but for a while it wasn’t my priority. So here I was this year, wishing badly to fix this problem.
Here’s where my boyfriend stepped in and gifted me tickets to Sicily for my birthday back in April. We chose Sicily in the hope of warmer weather and maybe some swimming in the sea. And since the bets airplane offer was for Catana, we decided to stay in the closest city that was also popular: Taormina.
I will link here where we stayed and there will be a completely different post with all the delicious food we tried. But for now, let’s take a look at how you can spend (almost) a week in this gem of a town.
1. Stroll around Taormina
It’s the easiest, cheapest yet most beautiful thing you can do. The architecture is a dream, with the Ancient Theatre dating back to the third century BC. But there are beautiful buildings representing almost every century. The details are a dream and there’s nothing better than having a gelatto and taking it all in.
I couldn’t take my eyes from the churches you can find all over town or the balcony view between Chiesa din San Giuseppe and Chiesa di Sant’Agostino.
Another thing I loved were the ceramic decorations that embellished almost every building. Some had just two tiles with the home’s number painted on them. Others had an entire work of art displayed on beautiful ceramics glued together. But all had pine cones at the entrance which signify the host’s wish of health and fertility (yes!) for their guests.
2. Sunbathe at Isola Bella
You can’t miss this gem of a beach. Getting there is easy: take the funicular from Taormina and in 5 minutes you are in Mazzaro. From there, there’s a short walk to get to the actual beach. Watch out, the walk does include some stairs, which are not bad when going down, but are not a joy coming back.
The beach is pebbly, but it’s so beautiful! If your thing is getting a sun-bed and a cocktail you can do that. But I liked crossing the pebbly causeway to the island and laying there on my towel. You are right next to the water and shaded by the palms guarding the entrance on the island.
3. Visit the Isola Bella Nature Reserve
Since you are there, make sure to also visit the Nature Reserve. While it actually makes for a very short visit, it’s totally worth the 4 Euro entrance fee. Besides the plants and (if you’re lucky) the pretty lizards, you’ll also get a breathtaking view over the shore.
4. Have lunch in Mazzaro
We will talk more about the delicious food in Sicily, but for now I will mention that restaurants in Mazzaro were recommended to us and they didn’t fail. We were recommended Ristorante Il Barcaiolo, but we never managed to get there when it was opened.
There are also several options in terms of beach-beds, and while the view is so beautiful and the mood serene, the sea is not actually impressive. But give it a try nonetheless.
5. Stroll through Giardini Villa Comunale
This one’s perfect for a low energy day or for one where the sun is not quite right for beach time. It’s like a mini botanical garden, with lush vegetation, and cute little spots where you can take a minute. Bonus: another amazing view over the shoreline.
It also doesn’t hurt that it’s a short walk from or to the Teatro Antico, a must see while you’re in Taormina. Sadly we didn’t make it there. But as I like to say, there’s always next time.
8. Hike the Alcantara Gorge
It’s not a hike per se, but it makes for a good walk with some amazing views. Right as you enter the park you take an elevator that descends on the perfect spot the see the gorge. It’s the place where the water comes from between the huge rocks, relaxing into a turquoise creek. The more courageous took a swim in the pristine waters, that are still very cold, coming from the mountains. The rest of us took in the view and took the elevator up to the hiking trails.
I loved the lemon and orange tree orchard that we passed by. I really hope they harvest all those lemons for some delicious limoncello! We saw a little aromatics garden, where they grow herbs and where lizards hide from the visitors and the sun.
I also loved the several spots where you get a chance to catch your breath and take another view of the gorge, this time from above. The shade, the flowers and the sound of the water makes it all worth it.
In the end we stopped at the small gift shop and cafeteria. You can buy all sorts of spreads – the walnut and pistachio ones are amazing. I think they also sold olive oil, limoncello and some other drinks. But the cafeteria was the big surprise. I grabbed a slice of pizza that was average and we also got some ravioli with walnuts and cream. They were so amazing we had to have a second plate!
I loved my first time in Italy and Taormina so much! we really wished we could have spend more time and explore more of Sicily. I was expecting Italian food to be good and it didn’t disappoint. But as someone who doesn’t drink wine that much, I didn’t expect to love it there.
Everyone warned us that Taormina is expensive and can be crowded. It was expensive, but not prohibitive. And it was crowded, I think it’s a nightmare to drive around it. But as we mostly walked, we were not bothered by the crowds who were just as excited to be there as we were.