In this East Sicilian travel blog, I will give you tips, information and inspirations on the Eastern part of Sicily; Taormina, Catania and Mt Etna area. Most travelers arrive in Catania or Palomino by plane. From here you can both start your tour around the island. I started in Catania and headed southeast by rental car. But first I drove up to the famous volcano Mt. Etna. Both Taormina and Catania I visited at the end of my trip coming from the Northern part of Sicily.
Climb Volcano Mount Etna
I didn’t want to waste time to start my holiday. I arrived early in the morning and a whole day ahead. Picked up my car at the Sixt rentals at Catania airport. I typed in the parking place on the Etna. First, I drove through some small towns and nice landscapes with a lot of farmland around. Soon the landscape changes into steeper and rougher mountain scenery. The colors changed to red, brown and black and no trees in this part, the air was cooler too. I parked the car and put on my walking boots. First some coffee and an Italian croissant: cornetti. Ready to do some walking now. The first two craters are very close to the parking spot; the upper and lower Crateri Silvestri. You already have the feeling of walking and being on the top of the world. It was a beautiful clear day and the view was amazing. After some walking around on the edge of the crater I went to the Funivia dell’Etna. This is the cable car that will bring you to 2500m for 30€ return per person.
The surrounding on the 3326m high Etna looks more like landing on the moon!? The color palette, structure of the ground, the bouldering sound of the world’s most active volcano with smoke coming out of the crater constantly, makes this place unique. It is a real cool experience to walk here!
Tip: Talking about cool; bring some warm clothes with you, high on the top of the volcano it is windy and much colder than below!
You can book tours that will guide you through the whole area. For me it was already a long day and wanted to explore the volcano by myself. After getting out the cableway I walked up, not all the way up; it was exhausting to be honest. You can book a 4-wheel drive truck that will bring you more up the volcano. This is a great way to start the holiday, I was lucky with the weather all blue skies that day. After driving around Sicily I saw the Etna again, it was covered in clouds. So, pick your time to climb the Etna wisely!!
Where to Stay and Eat
I booked a last minute room at OttoMood Bed & Breakfast for 70 EUR per night at the foot of the Etna in the town of Tremestieri. This place was perfect to stay, nice villa with view on the volcano I just climbed. A jump in the pool to cool off was chill and rested the afternoon at this very inviting and friendly place. The rooms are clean, stylish and comfortable and the breakfast is very good! You need a car to get to the restaurants and mall across the road. I went to have a drink and bite (tried my first arancini; fried risotto ball) with the owner at a Bar Pasticceria Pizzeria Ottagono in Mascalucia. I loved the area, with from every corner a nice view on the Etna!
Tip: Book an accommodation in the more countryside instead of the busy town of Catania, perfect to chill and start your holiday.
I think Taormina is the most visited place in East Sicily and maybe whole Sicily; at least I run into the most tourists here, even during the quiet Corona period. The main and spectacular highlight is the Teatro Greco; indeed, it is very stunning! But there are more places to visit in ancient Taormina, see below my tips, information and inspirations:
1. Visit Teatro Greco
I left early to be the first one at the gate, which opens at 9:00 and bought my entrance ticket for 10 EUR. I was the first one to walk up the horseshoe-shaped theatre with the Etna and Mediterranean Sea in the back. Perfect view and very nice situated. I sat down for a while just enjoying the view that brought me back in time.
This Greek theater is built in the 3rd century but is still in use; they were building the stage during my visit. Walk around to get a good impression and watch the views from different angles.
Tip: Try to get a ticket for a performance at the Teatro Greco, I was not able to attend one.
2. Go to the Beach
Taormina is located on a steep hill with perfect views over the sea. To go to the beach, you can take the cable car (funivia) in town (3 EUR one-way) down to the beach and back. I went to Lido Mazzarò beach with a lot of umbrellas and deck chairs for rent. I was not that impressed by the beach, but the weather was also not clear that didn’t help too. The next beach you must walk up the hill and it’s called Isola Bella; this is a small peninsula in the middle of the bay.
The beaches are not sand but stones and rocks, that is a bit of disappointment for me, but the water is super clear! The same for Spiaggia di Mazzeo, a little bit outside Taormina to the North. Black sand and stone beach with mega clear blue water, perfect to cool off on a hot day.
Tip: Bring sandals or water shoes if you go to these stone and rocky beaches, makes it more comfortable!
3. Shopping Time!
Taormina is perfect for shopping! The main street Corso Umberto is full of high-end stores, but also ceramic, antique and even local culinary deli and wine shops. Perfect for souvenir shopping on one of my last days here. I went to the side streets of this main street as well, here I found a unique handmade ceramic shop called Majolica at Via Bagnoli Croci, more original than the traditional ceramics.
Warning: Be aware that the prices are higher than other places in Sicily, due to the popularity in this touristic and beautiful place.
4. Watch the Sunset
At the Piazza IX Aprile with the church Chiesa di San Giuseppe you have a spectacular panoramic view over the Mediterranean Sea and volcano Etna. Perfect to stroll the streets before sunset to enjoy the entertainment and see the sun set behind the volcano. After that you stroll to find a nice restaurant to eat a perfect Italian pasta!
5. Walk the Botanical Garden
Another nice walk with an amazing view is the Villa Comunale Di Taormina. A park created by an English woman in the late 19th. The park is well maintained and full of exotic plants, trees, buildings and the views are picture perfect! Perfect to chill, eat you lunch or just walk; nature in the middle of the city.
Where to Stay and Eat in Taormina
I booked all my accommodation last minute in this Corona period, used Booking to explore but called directly which saved some money at the same time. Sorry Booking. In Taormina it is very hard to park your car in the center, I parked my car at Parcheggio Lumbi just outside town for 15 EUR for 24 hours. Buses drive you to the center frequently for fee; perfect solution to be honest. My B& B was called Casa Turrisi in het middle of the city center (80 EUR per night).
The rooms are very nice, and my bathroom was gorgeous with nice Italian decorative ceramic tiles. The breakfast at the rooftop was a bonus a real recommendation! Below the B&B you have a popular bar and restaurant called Bam Bar. I went to Gustibus for a gnocchi dish at this lovely Sicilian Bistro full of delicacies and wines. The arancini from StritFUD are great too!! In Taormina you have plenty of choice for all meals of the day and in different price classes.
Short Stop in Catania
I arrived here the afternoon before I departed back home the next morning. I needed an accommodation close to the airport and had only a short afternoon in Catania itself. I walked around the city center and spotted the main beautiful buildings like: Porta Uzeda, Cathedral of Saint Agatha and the Piazza del Duomo. I even shopped some clothes in the main street Via Etnea. You can see and feel Catania is the second biggest city on Sicily, but still nice with all the historical buildings.
Where to Stay and Eat in Catania
My recommendation for staying in Catania and only 10 minutes from the airport is Le Dimore Degli Archi. This luxury Bed and Breakfast is close to the city center on Via Calì, perfect for me having only an afternoon. The B&B is brand new in the middle of a local neighborhood and part of a bigger building. I did not expect such a luxury room here! Very friendly staff, safe, parking around the corner and basic breakfast.
I had a late lunch on my way from Taormina to Catania at Acquapazza in the village of Santa Tecla. I saw the signs at the road for a while and it was on my way. Eventually it was a perfect stop to eat in what they say in one of the best restaurants of Sicily. The food was indeed perfect, and the style and service were top notch; a very unexpected coincidence! That is why I only had an ice cream at Cioccolato e Gelato in Catania.