Beaches Near Taormina
To reach Taormina’s best and most popular beach, Lido Mazzarò, you have to go south of town via a cable car (tel. 0942/23605) that in theory but often not practice leaves from Via Pirandello every 15 minutes (3€ each way, 10€ day ticket, 50€ weekly ticket for nonresidents, spring and summer only) between 8am and 8pm (from 9am on Monday). The soft, finely pebbled beach is one of the best equipped in Sicily, with bars, restaurants, and hotels. You can rent beach chairs, umbrellas, and watersports equipment at kiosks from April to October. To the right of Lido Mazzarò, past the Capo Sant’Andrea headland, is the region’s prettiest cove, where twin crescents of beach sweep out to the minuscule Isola Bella islet.
North of Mazzarò, the long, wide beaches of Spisone and Letojanni are more developed but less crowded than Giardini, the large resort beach south of Isola Bella. A local bus leaves Taormina for Mazzarò, Spisone, and Letojanni; another heads down the coast to Giardini.
Taormina gets high praise for its gorgeous views, but for connoisseurs of scenic outlooks, the real show takes place in the village of Castelmola, an eagle's nest 3km (2 miles) northwest of Taormina, and about 300m (1,000 ft.) feet higher. The Ionian Sea seems to stretch to the ends of the earth from up here, and you’ll be staring right into the northern flanks of Mt. Etna. For the full experience, make the trip up on foot, following routes that begin at Porta Catania and Porta Messina (the tourist office or any hotel desk can give you directions); the Porta Messina trail passes a section of the Roman aqueduct and the Convento dei Cappuccini, where you can pause for a breather. Either route involves an hour or so of fairly strenuous walking, but once at the top, stop at Castelmola's Bar Turrisi (Piazza Duomo 19; tel. 0942/28181; daily 10am–midnight, until 2am weekends) for a glass of vino alla mandorla (almond wine) and a look at its peculiar art collection. If that’s more walking than you care to do, you can also drive up to Castelmola (park below the village and walk in) or take an orange bus that runs more or less hourly from Porta Messina (2.20€ round-trip).
In a series of narrow gorges on the Alcantara (Al-cahn-ta-rah) river, rushing ice-cold water fed by snow melt on Mt. Etna darts and dashes over fantastically twisted volcanic rock, creating a scenic spectacle that’s especially refreshing on a hot day. The basalt rock formations were sculpted into these wild shapes thousands of years ago by cool water flowing over molten debris during eruptions on Etna. The gorge is now protected as Parco Fluviale dell’Alcanta (tel. 0942/985010), though ticket booths, turnstiles, and elevators into the gorge lend an amusement-park aura. Get away from the crowds with a hike along the riverbed, stopping now and then to lounge on flat riverside rocks and wade and even swim in the chilly water. From October to April, only the upper area of the park, with an overlook trail above the gorge, is open. It costs 8€ to enter the park (open daily 7am–7:30pm). Amenities include a gift shop, cafeteria, picnic areas, and toilets. You can reach the Gole dell'Alcantara by car from Taormina in 35 minutes or you can take Interbus (tel. 0942/625301) for the 1-hour trip, with several daily runs from Taormina (5€ roundtrip). Organized excursions (from 25€) to the gorges are also offered by tour operators in Taormina, often in conjunction with a visit to Mount Etna.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.