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One of Sicily’s foremost tourist destinations, Taormina, is a picturesque town situated on the east coast of the island. Located roughly halfway between the city of Messina and Catania, it has a long history as a resort, as witnessed by the illustrious list of artists, writers and philosophers who have chosen to spend extended periods here. It possesses great beaches, classical ruins, stunning scenery and, with this being Italy, more delicious food and drink than you can consume in one holiday. And when you’ve tired of what the town and its nearby beaches have to offer, you’ll find that renting a vehicle gives you access to all sorts of other attractions in this region of Sicily.
Who to Book With
If you are arriving at Catania’s Vincenzo Bellini Airport, you will find a wide range of major car rental companies alongside plenty of local firms. Pre-booking via the internet is highly recommended once you have compared prices using our easy-to-use comparator site. From the airport, the 45-mile journey to Taormina along the A18 highway takes about 1 hour. Drive towards Messina and look for the Taormina exit.
Best Time to Go
The resort tends to get very full of Italian tourists in the peak season. For this reason, you may find it more agreeable to visit the town at another time of year. In the summer months of July and August, temperatures can easily reach the low 30s (°C). For this reason, spring, early summer and autumn are the best times to visit.
Need to Know Essentials
When hiring a vehicle, you will need to present the following documents:
- An International Driving Permit or a DVLA driving licence
- A passport or another valid form of identification with a photograph
- The same credit card that you used when making the reservation
- A printout of the confirmed reservation
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Driving in Taormina should not be undertaken lightly: previous experience of driving on the mainland will help considerably. Most of the town’s streets are one-way and many of them are extremely narrow. The entire historical town centre is a pedestrian zone and there is no parking, so it makes sense to make use of one of the two big car parks on the edge of town.
More driving tips for Italy here.
Most of the major landmarks are within walking distance of the town centre. As the town has undergone extensive pedestrianisation, seeing the sights on foot is convenient and enjoyable. Public transport consists of buses. While Interbus services cover the town’s outlying areas, the ASM line is in charge of inner city routes. Tickets are not interchangeable and route plans and timetables are hard to come by, so many prefer to hire a vehicle.
Taormina is served by regular train services from the cities of Messina (a very scenic coastal route, £7 return) and Catania (50 minutes away). The Taormina-Giardini train station, itself an architectural gem that epitomises the style known as Sicily Liberty, is located just over a mile below the town at sea level: you need to catch a bus to the town centre (fares range from £0.40 to £1.45 depending on the company) or take a taxi directly to your hotel (£13).
The Interbus company operates buses from Messina to Taormina. The journey time ranges from 55 minutes to 1 hour, 45 minutes. Interbus services also operate from Catania Airport to Taormina town centre every day. The trip takes about 1 hour, 30 minutes and costs just £4.25.
Taxis from Vincenzo Bellini Airport in Catania to Taormina take around 1 hour and cost from £68 upwards. By pre-booking a taxi, you can be sure you will get the lowest fare.
From Taormina, there’s a lot to see in the surrounding regions of Messina and Catania, ranging from breathtaking mountain scenery and stunning beaches to millennial cities. The presence of Europe’s most active volcano is a further attraction.
Mount Etna - Taormina is a roughly 45-minute drive by rental car from Europe's largest active volcano. Once here, you will need to get hold of a guide if you wish to walk to the summit since walkers are not permitted to go alone. Note hikers are only allowed to go up to the top of Mt. Etna when eruptive activity is below a certain level. Remember to dress accordingly since it can be cold at the 10,000-foot high summit, even in summer. Expect spectacular views of the island and the volcano’s lava flows.
Catania - Sicily’s second-largest city has a history stretching back no less than 2,700 years. It’s a bustling metropolis with lots to see and do, a busy downtown zone (a World Heritage site) and great nightlife. The city is well known on account of its distinctive Baroque architecture – unique in its use of dark lava stone - and urban design. Once you’ve driven here, it’s best to leave your car securely parked somewhere before exploring on foot. The downtown area is very compact. Notable landmarks include Piazza del Duomo, the Norman Cathedral, Via Etnea and Piazza Stesicoro with its remains of a Roman amphitheatre.
Novara di Sicilia - Part of the province of Messina, this classic Sicilian hilltop town occupies a wonderful position on the northern slope of Mt. Etna, overlooking the ancient Greek settlements of Tyndaris and Abacaenum, just inland from the north coast. It is the archetype of a typical medieval town with tiny cobbled streets and narrow alleyways. The inhabitants, who speak a unique Sicilian dialect, are known for their friendliness and hospitality. The views of the Aeolian Islands from here are unbeatable.