For an authentic taste of Italy, holidays to Taormina hit the nail on the head. Think ancient ruins, upscale fashion stores and church-filled piazzas.
Cut Taormina and it bleeds Italy’s trademark green, white and red. Everything about his hilltop town’s in keeping with the country’s trademark features – from the frozen-in time architecture to the scattering of church-lined piazzas. It’s draped across the steep slopes of Sicily’s eastern edge, and feels like the island’s version of the Amalfi Coast. There’s even a volcano on the horizon to complete the look.
Taormina’s trump card is the Teatro Greco – an ancient Greek amphitheatre that’s studded into the hillside. It’s stood the test of time better than most, and as you stroll around the near-intact seating area, you’ll have pinch-yourself views of simmering Mount Etna in the distance. The historic sites keep coming as you rummage deeper. The town’s home to a bumper crop of long-in-the-tooth churches, and there’s a crumbling Saracen fortress perched at the highest peak.
Put the history on ice, and Taormina’s still got plenty left in the tank. Take the Corso Umberto, for instance. This buzzy shopping street’s flush with trendy boutiques, gelato bars and souvenir shops. Follow it down to Piazza IX Aprile and you’ll be met with a checkerboard square that looks over the Ionian Sea. It’s a big hit at sunset, when locals grab a spot beneath the clock tower and tuck into a pot of the town’s famously good granita.
Despite its overwhelmingly Italian feel, the town’s got one or two bits to thank a former English resident for. Conservationist Florence Trevelyan moved to Taormina in 1884 and transformed part of the town into a pristine set of gardens. These days, they’re public, and have even been named after her. Take the cable car down to the seafront, and you’ll see another of Florence’s former stomping grounds – the pretty island of Isola Bella. It’s a conservation area now, and the pebble beach beside it is a popular tanning spot.