As one of the top destinations in all of Sicily, planning a Taormina day trip from Catania is a very popular option for those looking to get the highlights out of this historic place without sacrificing a good portion of their Sicily itinerary.
Located only about an hour from the city of Catania, Taormina is easy to reach from Sicily’s second-largest city and is compact enough to see within the span of only a few hours.
Known for its impressive Greek-Roman Theatre, striking seaside views and being the filming location of season 2 of HBO’s The White Lotus, Taormina attracts flocks of tourists each day and it’s not hard to see why.
The town itself is absolutely beautiful and the pedestrianised city centre is one of the most “tourist-friendly” in Sicily. Coupled with beautiful nearby coastline and its location in the foothills of Mt Etna, Taormina is truly a breathtaking destination.
Though this town can get incredibly busy, spending at least one day in Taormina is an essential addition to any trip to Sicily!
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How to Get to Taormina from Catania
Taormina is located only about 50km (~30 miles) north of Catania and it is easily reached in under an hour from the city. There are several ways to get to Taormina that can be worth it depending on what you’re after for your day in this town.
By Organised Tour
For those who aren’t keen to travel independently, the best way to get to Taormina from Catania is via an organised tour. There are lots of tour options available that will not only include the highlights of this hilltop village but also take you to some other sites along the way.
This full-day tour from Catania will pick you up from your accommodation before taking you to explore the lava caves and extinct craters of Mt Etna. You will then have a few hours in the afternoon to explore the highlights of Taormina.
Alternatively, this small-group tour also includes a stop at Mt Etna (where you can explore the lava caves and ride the cable car) before taking you to explore Taormina in the afternoon. It also includes pick-up and drop-off in Catania. You can also organise a similar private tour if you prefer not to go in an organised group.
If you want to visit Taormina independently, then going by train is an excellent option. There are lots of trains that run between Catania Centrale and Taormina daily and the journey time is roughly an hour depending on the train you take. You can view schedules here.
Keep in mind that the train station in Taormina (Taormina-Giardini) is located at the base of the hill – a few kilometres from the Taormina centre. This should not deter you, however, as there is a shuttle bus that will take you directly from the train station to the city centre.
The bus is red and called Taormina Link. Tickets are €1.10 each way and you can purchase them directly from the driver — make sure you have cash as they did not accept cards when we were there!
You can catch the bus back to the station from the town centre in the same place that it lets off. The shuttle bus takes about 10 minutes from the station to Taormina proper.
Another great option to reach Taormina is via bus, particularly if you’re trying to reduce your costs in Sicily. Buses tend to have a similar price to train tickets and leave very frequently – and a bus journey takes roughly an hour in total.
The main companies between Catania and Taormina are Etna Transporti and Interbus and you can purchase tickets online or at the bus station. In the summer months, it’s probably a good idea to purchase tickets in advance. You can view schedules here.
The central Taormina bus station, contrary to the train station, is located much closer to the town centre at the top of the hill, so there is no need to grab a shuttle bus.
Getting to Taormina by public transit is easy and there is no need for a car while in Taormina itself, however, it can give you a lot of flexibility to make some stops along the way – particularly to Mount Etna and the wineries surrounding it.
The drive from Catania to Taormina is about an hour in total, however, especially in the high season, you may have trouble finding a place to park in the town centre itself.
So if you plan on visiting by car in the summer months, consider getting to Taormina as early as possible in order to beat the crowds.
You can browse options on Rentalcars.com which compares prices for several different car hire companies.
Taormina Day Trip Itinerary
If you’ve taken the train or the bus, your first point of entry into Taormina will be through the Messina Gate, a beautiful gate that was once part of the old city walls. Walking through this gate is a great way to set the scene for how old Taormina really is.
The main draw of a visit to Taormina is undoubtedly the ancient Greek-Roman Theatre. An imposing amphitheatre, this is an incredibly popular site to visit and get packed very early on.
In fact, if you don’t purchase skip-the-line tickets in advance (which you can do online here), be prepared to spend quite a lot of time waiting in a queue in order to enter.
Entry into the theatre is €12 per person and will allow you to see and climb all over this incredible structure.
Another of Taormina’s top attractions are the beautiful Public Gardens, located on a cliff’s edge where you can see stunning views of the sea amongst a lush backdrop of palms, flower bushes and plenty of benches to relax on.
The public gardens are free to enter and are an incredibly tranquil place to take in – especially considering how packed and crowded the centre of Taormina can be.
The gardens also provide a great view of the Chiesa Madonna della Rocca, a historic chapel built into the cliffs above Taormina. If you’re feeling adventurous or up for a climb, you can make your way up there to see it up close and tour the interior.
Belvedere di Via Pirandello
Wandering around the edge of the city, you will end up at the Belvedere di Via Pirandello – a viewpoint that can give you panoramic views of the sea and the scenery below the town.
From here, you can get an excellent view of Isola Bella, the beaches and the coastline surrounding Taormina. There are benches where you can sit and enjoy the views for as long as you’d like.
Weaving back into the centre of the town, you cannot miss a stroll along Corso Umberto when on your Taormina day trip. This cobbles, pedestrianised street is the main artery in Taormina and it is lined with countless shops, cafes and restaurants.
It can be incredibly busy, but for those who are interested in browsing some of the souvenir shops or simply love a bit of hustle and bustle, you’re sure to enjoy wandering along Corso Umberto.
Piazza IX Aprile
Along Corso Umberto lies Piazza IX Aprile, the main piazza in Taormina and an absolutely essential stop on any day trip to the town.
This piazza is like many in small Italian towns – it is lined with cafes and restaurants, there are a few benches to enjoy, you may enjoy a street musician and there is a grand church as a focal point (in this case, the Chiesa di Sant’Agostino).
The square also boasts great views into the valley and surrounding area and makes for an excellent place to kick back and people watch – with the number of people who flock to Taormina each day, there is a lot to take in here!
Keep in mind that the main cathedral of the town, the Duomo di Taormina, lies a few hundred metres from the main piazza in its own small square.
After a morning of exploration, it’s time to head out for lunch. It can be tricky to find a great restaurant in Taormina as many places are catered more toward the crowds and, while they may have fine quality of food, often the prices are quite inflated comparatively.
If you want a great place for a bite to eat, we highly recommend heading to La Locanda dei Mori. This little eatery is located on a quaint and quiet side street. They have plenty of bruschetta options along with salads and homemade wine and drinks to enjoy.
For those looking for something a bit more active, then you may be interested in this food and wine walking tour. There you can sample traditional Sicilian specialities with some local wine pairings.
And if you’re interested in learning Sicilian cooking techniques for yourself (the ultimate souvenir, if you ask me!), then consider taking this Sicilian cooking class!
Make your final stop on your one-day Taormina itinerary be the iconic Isola Bella. Located below the Taormina centre, this small island is sometimes referred to as the Pearl of the Ionian Sea and it is a striking and beautiful part of visiting this town.
Once owned by English conversationalist Florence Trevelyan, the island was purchased by the Region of Sicily and turned into a nature reserve in 1990. As such, only a handful of people are allowed on the island at one time.
You can reach the island via cable car from the Taormina centre. The cable car is €3 each way and runs about every fifteen minutes. You can also opt to take the staircase down the hill and only catch the cable car to save your energy on the way back up.
Have More than One Day in Taormina?
Taormina makes for a very popular base in the east of Sicily and there is a lot to do should you plan to spend a bit more time in the town – especially if you’re interested in exploring the surrounding area.
Obviously, Taormina is situated in the shadow of Mt Etna and it makes for a great base for visiting this iconic volcano.
If you’re interested in seeing Etna for yourself, this full-day tour will allow you to visit and trek around the volcano all day. Alternatively, this sunset tour of Etna is a great choice for those who don’t want to spend an entire day trekking around the volcano.
For those who are more interested in food and drink than active adventure, then this small-group tour to Etna’s world-class wineries is a great option.
Where to Stay in Taormina
Hotel Continental – This lovely hotel is located in the centre of Taormina within easy walking distance of the main piazza and the Greek theatre. They have a range of bright and comfortable room, beautiful sea views from their on-site bar and they offer breakfast each morning.
Casa Turissi – For those looking for a bit of luxury in Taormina, you can’t go wrong with this 4-star bed and breakfast. They have a number of great rooms on offer, an excellent location in the centre of the old city and even have an airport shuttle.
Hostel Taormina “Homstel” – If you’re sticking to a tight budget or travelling solo and looking for a good social atmosphere, then this hostel is a great option. They have a great, central location and they have both dorm beds and private rooms available.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Taormina hotels!
Whether you only have one day in Taormina or more, there is no denying that this is a popular and exciting place to visit in Sicily.
Are you planning a day trip to Taormina? Have any questions about visiting? Let us know in the comments!