Taormina and surroundings
Isola Bella Nature Reserve
Considered to be the “Pearl of the Ionian”, due to its wild but unspoilt beauty, in spite of man’s presence, Isola Bella ("beautiful island") is protected by the WWF and was recently declared a Nature Reserve. It is a magical place that cannot be missed if you are near Taormina.
This small island can be reached from the town along long groups of staircases and lanes, crossing over the National Road, down Monte Tauro 200 meters until you reach sea level where the island is connected to the land by a thin strip of sand.
The best period to visit this area is from the beginning of spring to the first days of autumn. There are several sea birds that live in this place: Herring Gulls, Kingfishers, Peregrine Falcons, Cormorants, and Grey Herons. The luxuriant vegetation on Isola Bella is a fantastic mixture of Mediterranean scrub and rare exotic plants, imported by its original owner, the eccentric Miss Travelyan.
The sea beds surrounding the island are also amazing from Nature’s point of view: if you have mask, snorkel and flippers, even the most inexpert explorer can look at a spectacle that will stay impressed on your minds forever. This stretch of sea is home to multitudes of organisms, various species of seaweed, multi-colored fish, all sizes of crustaceans and other living beings.
How to get to Isola Bella from Taormina:
- In Via Pirandello you can take the municipal cableway to Mazzarò. Once there, turn right onto the National Strada Statale: the entrance to the Reserve is about 200 meters away.
- If you want to walk, cross Via Pirandello onto the viewing point “Isola Bella”: from there, there is a path made of stairs and lanes that take you right up to the Reserve entrance.
First Greek colony in Sicily, founded in 734 b. C., Giardini Naxos is a pretty seaside village 10 km away from Taormina.
It is a small jewel of nature and history, set in a bay protected by green hills that descend towards the crystalline and transparent sea.
The town boasts one of the most beautiful stretches of sand in the Ionian Sea: the beach of Recanati, very wide, where areas of free beach alternate with beaches equipped with all the services. Much loved by families for its declining seabed, the Recanati beach is also appreciated by lovers of nightlife, thanks to the presence of numerous night clubs.
If you prefer fine, golden sand and luxuriant vegetation, then we suggest Schisò beach, while Porticciolo Saia beach is famous for its small bays bordered by lava rocks.
The town of Giardini Naxos, unknown to tourism until the 1970s, is a characteristic intertwining of streets and shops, which will take you to the marina, where, in the summer, gastronomic events and acrobats will enliven your nights.
Giardini Naxos is also a reference for cultural tourism in the area: the Archaeological Park takes you on a journey through time to ancient Naxos in 700 b. C., thanks to the presence of the remains of ancient civil dwellings, religious buildings and also of the original city walls.
The symbolic work of art of Giardini Naxos is the Nike of Kalkis, which represents the historical essence of this territory: the statue, created in 1965 by the sculptor Carmelo Mendola, seals the twinning with the Greek city of Chalcis Eubea, from which the founders of Giardini Naxos came (as well as from the island of Naxos, which has remained in the name) and in which there is a Nike identical to that of the Sicilian town.
The statue is located in the extreme point of Capo Schisò and has its gaze turned towards the sea that had brought the ships of the Greek colonists to these shores.
Alcantara River Park
Alcantara River Park, an extremely attractive place about 25 km Taormina, is famous for its gorges, fashioned into the rock by geological phenomena whose origins are lost in the mists of time. All this took place when, long ago, a small volcano erupted and spurted out a mass of lava that formed a huge crack. In the part of its path where there was most clay, the lava sunk to a depth that formed two large black columns of basalt that were 50 meters high. This crack is now run along by the River Alcantara, whose name comes from the Arabic Al Qantarah.
Visiting the Alcantara Gorge, walking along a small stretch of the river bed, is a truly unique experience, but it can only be done from May to September, when the water level lowers. If you want to try out this adventure, we advise you to wear fishing boots as a safety measure and to stop you from getting cold: the river water is freezing even in summer! At other times of the year, trips there only go as far as the entrance to the gorges. The sight before you is amazing: the gorges, so black and prismatic, create wonderful reflections of light and shadows as soon as the sun hits their surface.
This is a tiny, picturesque village that is about 500 meters above sea level, with a fantastic view looking out over the sea.
This is an ancient town. Castelmola was built to defend Taormina from the attacks of potential invaders. There is still an atmosphere of “old times” that transmits a feeling of temporarily going back in time. This feeling is made even stronger by the fact that no cars can be driven in Castelmola.
The cathedral dedicated to San Nicolò of Bari and the seventeenth century church built to honor San Giorgio are very characteristic. Castelmola is famous for its almond wine and for the medieval castle ruins.
Not to be missed:
- The splendid view from Piazza Belvedere that takes in the land, the sea and Etna.
- A few bottles of the almond wine for your friends and relatives back home.
- Bar Turrisi: a very “special” place that will amaze you, we are sure.