Hiking up Mount Etna, purchasing artisanal ceramics or catching some sun rays at the sandy beach in a tiny village are but a sprinkling of the day trips from Taormina on offer. Find my 10 favorite places to visit near Taormina, all reachable in under 2 hours from the village.
Taormina is a great place to base yourself if you are looking to explore the eastern part of Sicily. It contains some of the most famous Sicilian villages including Noto and Ortigia as well as the active Mount Etna volcano.
Southern Italy is not known for its public transport. Therefore, despite it not being the most sustainable form of travel, I do recommend driving in Sicily if you are short on time.
With that said, there are plenty of good value-for-money day tours from Taormina that will avoid you from having to face the adventurous drivers in Sicily. These are listed both at the beginning of the article as well as in the individual places to visit around Taormina. Whenever possible, I have added the best means of getting there with public transport too.
This way you can decide to go either via car, tour or public transport and have all the necessary information at hand for your Taormina day trip.
Most popular tours from Taormina
This section covers the most popular tours from Taormina and is perfect if you do not want the hassle of renting a car and navigating the traffic or figuring out the Sicilian public transportation.
If you are not looking to take a tour, simply scroll to the next section which contains the various day excursions from Taormina you can undertake without a tour.
RECOMMENDED – AEOLIAN ISLANDS FULL DAY TRIP: One of the prettiest boat trips from Taormina is to the nearby Aeolian Islands. Depart bright and early, explore the luxurious island of Panarea and lounge on the black sandy beaches of Stromboli island before viewing the active volcano from the water. Check rates & availability.
GODFATHER PRIVATE TOUR + FOOD: A 4 to 7-hour tour that runs through the history of Sicilian Mafia, the iconic filming locations for the Godfather movie and offers a possibility to try local delicacies paired with delicious Sicilian wine. Pick-up and drop-off at your hotel in Taormina. Check rates & availabilities
MOUNT ETNA WINERIES PRIVATE TOUR: A 6-hour tour of three of the famous wineries on Mount Etna. Taste local red, white and rosé wine in family-run wineries. Check rates & availabilities.
VALUE FOR MONEY – SIRACUSA & NOTO FULL-DAY TOUR: Depart early in the morning for a full-day tour from Taormina to visit the beautiful Baroque villages of Siracusa (Ortigia) and Noto with a knowledgeable local guide. Check rates
The island of Sicily is the largest in the Mediterranean. Find the best part of the island to stay on according to your type of travel, and your travel companions.
Day excursions from Taormina: How to get around
Eastern Sicily is reasonably well connected through a network of busses and trains. In recent years the government has started investing in new trains, making travel surprisingly comfortable and easy. In my personal experience, buses tend to run on their own time oftentimes not following the “official” schedule. Be mindful of this fact and make sure to calculate extra travel time when plotting out your day trips in Sicily.
TRAIN/BUS: Check schedules and book tickets online
RENTING A CAR: Drivers need to be at least 18 years old and in possession of a valid driving license. If you are from outside of the EU, an international driving license is required to drive in Italy. Find prices and book online.
Useful Reading: If you are exploring the island by car, make sure to check out my detailed local guide to driving in Sicily, brimming with very practical information and the necessary safety tips.
10 day trips from Taormina
Taormina is perched firmly in Eastern Sicily and is ideally located to explore this part of the island. Eastern Sicily receives the highest amount of visitors yearly and, as briefly touched upon, has the best public transportation and tourism infrastructure.
Western Sicily is equally worth a visit. This part of the island is slightly more rugged, yet is home to a wealth of castles, natural parks and of course the famous Valley of Temples in Agrigento. But, despite outward appearances, Western Sicily is at least 2h30 and sometimes 3 hour drive from Taormina.
To avoid endless time spent on transportation (be it in the car or on public transport) the below listed Taormina day trips are maximum 2 hours drive. This will allow you ample time to get lost in the alleys of tiny villages and to have languorous Sicilian lunches.
TIP: If you would like to venture into Western Sicily, I suggest basing yourself out of Palermo instead and taking day trips from Palermo instead.
Four Taormina day trips under one hour from the village
1. ACI CASTELLO & ACI TREZZA
Getting there from Taormina: Will require your own car
Travel time: 50 min car
Combine with: Taormina or Mount Etna
Beautiful coastal towns Aci Castello & Aci Trezzi provide a welcome escape from the overcrowded streets of Taormina. These little villages are a favorite getaway for the local Catanese, yet somehow have remained firmly off the grid for most tourists. They are perfect for travelers looking to catch a glimpse of authentic Sicilian culture.
Both villages are connected to each other by a lungomare or beach promenade. A 15-minute walk will take you from one town to the next. As is the case for many beaches in Sicily, the shoreline is lined with rocks making sunbathing a bit of an uncomfortable experience.
Instead, opt to visit the 11th-century Norman castle which looms over Aci Castello. When we went it was sadly closed, but the views are reportedly unbeatable. We ended up parking in Aci Trezza, as it has a well-known little restaurant called A Putia di Colpesce. The eatery offers plenty of fried fish, arancini and other delicious typical Sicilian foods. Ask to have your meal to go and eat it in front of the sea, just opposite the restaurant.
Getting there Taormina: 50 min drive or 44 min train ride from Taormina-Giardini to Catania Centrale. To get to Taormina-Giardini is a 25-minute walk.
Tour: Local food tour in Catania
Combine with: Mount Etna or Aci Castello
There are private transfers that will get you from Taormina to Catania, but they will set you back $/€150. This price will easily give you a rental car for two days on the island. Forego the private transfer, instead, try the very convenient direct train!
Catania itself is one of the most popular day trips from Taormina. My number one recommendation is to spend half a day on a food tour. No really! Explore the historic fish market, learn all about the typical snacks (which are different from the famous Palermitan street food) and the age-old feud between Catania and Palermo that was sparked by the queen of all street food: The Arancina.
After having filled your belly with plenty of delicious foods, meander around the historical center of Catania. While I have more of a soft spot for Palermo, Catania and its famous Via Etnea with looming mount Etna in the background are undeniably beautiful. Make sure to check out the Piazza del Duomo, the Monastero dei Benedettini di San Nicolò l’Arena and Villa Bellini.
3. CLAMBER UP OR VISIT MOUNT ETNA
Getting to Mount Etna from Taormina: Drive to Rifugio Sapienza. There are no busses between Taormina and Mount Etna.
Travel time: 1-hour drive
Tours: Value for money – Mount Etna day trip from Taormina
Combine with: Catania or Aci Castello
Traveling to Sicily without hiking up Mount Etna is a real pity. The active volcano is one of the most iconic natural attractions in Italy and continues to appear in the news regularly as it rumbles to life every few years. The possibilities to climb Mount Etna are virtually endless, or so it seems at least.
All hikes (solo or guided) start from Rifugio Sapienza. The rifugio consists of a visitor’s center with a large (free) parking space in front of it. Rifugio Sapienza is located at 1900 meters, the summit is well past the 2900 meter mark. When booking a tour, be mindful to double-check what is included in your tour, as getting from Rifugio Sapienza to the summit entails a few additional costs.
Step One: Rifugio Sapienza (1900 meters) to a mountain hut (2500 meters). This can be done either by hiking (free) or via a cable car (€35/$35 return)
Step Two: Mountain hut (2500 meters) to Torre Del Filosofo (2900 meters). This part of the route can be undertaken by hiking (free) or via a 4×4 jeep ride (€65/$65 return).
Step Three: Torre Del Filosofo to the summit. Here you are obliged to take a guide (mandatory by law)
TOUR OPTIONS FROM TAORMINA/CATANIA
- Basic Package: Taormina to Rifugio Sapienza, hike around the foothills of Mount Etna
- 6-hour tour: Private tour of Mount Etna with a visit to a local winery (Silvestri Craters not the summit)
- From Catania: Sunset tour of Etna Park (Silvestri Craters not the summit)
TOUR OPTIONS IF YOU DRIVE TO ETNA YOURSELF
- Summit & Crater Guided Hike (does not include ticket price for cable car)
- Mount Etna Summit Hike including cable car & jeep ride (all tickets included + option to rent gear)
4. TAKE A BOAT TOUR FROM TAORMINA TO THE AEOLIAN ISLANDS
Getting from Taormina to Milazzo: Requires your own car
Travel time: 1-hour drive
Tours: Taormina to Panarea and Stromboli full day tour
Combine with: /
The Aeolian islands are a cluster of 7 islets located off the coast of Messina. Each island is distinct and well worth spending at least two days exploring and relaxing. However, if you are on a tight schedule consider either taking a tour from Taormina or, if you visit by yourself, sticking to just one island.
How to get to the Aeolian Islands from Milazzo
Liberty Lines run ferries multiple times a day departing from Milazzo. Make sure to purchase your tickets in advance, online. We tend to pre-book secure (guarded) parking when departing from Milazzo to the Aeolian islands. A quick google will provide you with ample options to choose from (for example ParkVia).
The ferries themselves are hydrofoils, which means they sit a little atop the water. For those who suffer chronic seasickness (like me), this is a lifesaver as it means a lot less rolling on the waves. Head to the port of Milazzo 30 minutes before boarding. You will see a line of people cueing up, join the cue and show your ticket to the ferry staff before boarding.
Six places to visit near Taormina between one and two hours from the village
The following 6 locations will take between one hour and two hours of journey time (each way) to get there. This timing is calculated based on the time it takes to drive, not public transportation. They include some of the most popular day excursions from Taormina to Noto, Ortigia and even the southernmost tip of the Island, Isole Delle Correnti.
1. THE PRETTIEST DAY TOUR FROM TAORMINA: ORTIGIA
Getting there from Taormina: Drive, public transportation entails taking a train from Taormina-Giardini to Catania and from there taking a train to Syracuse
Travel time: Drive 1h30, public transportation 2h10
Tours: Syracuse (Ortigia) and Noto tour from Taormina
Combine with: Noto
The beautiful Baroque pearl Ortigia is an islet next to the city of Syracuse. I absolutely love Ortigia, it is just the right size for the directionally challenged traveler (i.e. me) and is positively choc-a-bloc with the gently crumbling honey-colored palazzi lined with opulent Baroque Façades. I spent four weeks here in 2021 and would go back in a heartbeat.
Ortigia is small and moves at its own pace. We went in spring when tourists had not yet descended in droves. It allowed us to take in the quaint alleyways, all of which seemed to lead either to the sea or the Piazza Duomo, dominated by the impressive Syracuse Cathedral. Summer tends to get very, very busy, not to mention swelteringly hot.
If you want to learn more about the history of Ortigia, then taking a tour is well worth it. If not, buy yourself a guidebook and be your own tour guide. Save some time for an aperitivo on the Lungomare di Levanto Ortigia or at the Fonte Arethusa
Good to know: In case you reserved a hotel or Airbnb, ensure your host has your number plates and actually registers the car. This is the only way you can drive the car on the island and park there without getting a fine.
2. PURCHASING CERAMICS IN CALTAGIRONE
Getting there from Taormina: Will require your own car
Travel time: 1h40 car
Combine with: Piazza Armerina
For many Sicily is synonymous with lemons, voracious locals and colorful ceramics. The best place to get artisanal ceramics near Taormina is in the small city of Caltagirone. Originally known as the Arabic city Qal ‘at al Gharùn, which translates to “Fortress of Jars”, a reference to the centuries-old tradition of making ceramics.
The Scalinata di Santa Maria del Monte, 142 steep stairs bringing you to the medieval center of Caltagirone are richly adorned with colorful square-shaped tiles. They are without a doubt the grandest display of ceramics in the whole city.
At the top of the stairs, you are treated to uninterrupted views over both the city and its surroundings. We spent a few hours traipsing through the many tiny carrugi (alleys) before heading back down to munch on the local specialty cuddureddi (biscuit from honey, wine & almonds). If the weather is simply too hot during your day trip out of Taormina, head to the Giardino Pubblico della Villa Comunale for some much-needed shade.
3. THE BAROQUE VILLAGE OF NOTO
Getting there from Taormina: Take your own car. Public transportation entails taking a train from Taormina-Giardini to Catania and from there taking a bus to Noto
Travel time: 1h44 driving, 2h30 public transportation
Tour: Syracuse (Ortigia) and Noto tour from Taormina
Combine with: Ortigia
Noto is the most well-known of all the baroque cities in Sicily. It has been the set of countless TV productions (most recently the second season of White Lotus) and as such sees a lot of foot traffic, especially in the summer.
I loved walking the streets in the early hours and exploring the gentle fading palazzos (Palazzo Ducezio, Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata) just as they opened. Breakfast was had in the iconic 1893 Caffè Sicilia, where one is morally obliged to try the unparalleled almond-flavored granita.
In the afternoon, however, the droves of tourists made me flee the city very quickly. By late afternoon, many of the daytrippers had left and we were able to explore the Cathedrale di Noto in relative peace. During the evening, we sat on the steps looking out over the Piazza Municiop and listened to a veritable live concert of street musicians, some admittedly more talented than others.
Tip: Have a few days to spare? Consider spending a night in Noto! Take a guided walking tour during the day and revisit your favorite places at sunrise the next day. Day trippers start arriving between 08.30 AM and 09.00 AM.
4. UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE MOSAICS IN PIAZZA ARMERINA
Piazza Armerina is a hamlet in the middle of Sicily. Were it not for the UNESCO-classified Villa Romana del Casale, it would remain a sleepy village as opposed to one of the main tourist highlights of Sicily.
What makes this Villa so impressive is the 4th-century BC Mosaic floor that has been beautifully preserved. The tiny little mosaics come together to depict various mythological stories and snippets of “everyday” life. It is through these snippets that we can catch a rare glimpse into life during Roman times.
If you are in the market for a jam-packed day trip from Taormina, you could consider driving to the Valley of Temples in Agrigento first (2h30) and visiting Piazza Armerina on your way back. This would however mean 5 hours in the car (roundtrip). There is one option to book a tour that combines both from Taormina, be aware it is however 12 hours long.
5. THE FISHERMAN VILLAGE OF MARZAMEMI
Getting there from Taormina: Will require your own car
Travel time: 1h18 car
Combine with: Isola delle Correnti or Noto
Marzamemi is the quintessential Sicilian village that looks like it belongs in the pages of a storybook. At its height, it was the most important tuna-fishing town of the island. These days the colorful fishing boats lie bobbing on the sea, making snap-happy travelers giddy.
A must-visit in Marzamemi is the renovated 16th-century former tonnara. This vast square, lined with brick buildings was once a factory for processing tuna and how now been converted into a beautiful al-fresco dining space serviced by a handful of restaurants. Make sure to try the Pomodoro di Pachino (tomatoes from the nearby town of Pachino), washed down with a smooth glass of Nero d’Avola wine.
We spent a few hours sunbathing on one of the (free) beaches on the outskirts of the village. The crystal clear waters provided a welcome cool down from the blistering heat that is a typical Sicilian summer.
Parking: We visited in July and the town center was closed off to cars. After circling around for half an hour we settled upon a (free) parking south of the Marina di Marzamemi and walked into town.
6. THE SOUTHERNMOST PART OF SICILY – ISOLA DELLE CORRENTI
Getting there Catania: Will require your own car
Travel time: 2h08 car
Combine with: Marzamemi or Noto
This is the southernmost point of Sicily! It has pristine sandy beaches and a lot fewer tourists fighting for a spot to place their tower. There does however seem to permanently be a lot of wind blowing towels away.
We ventured out to Marzamemi first and continued our adventure to Isola Delle Correnti. The drive was one of the most picturesque on the island, and wonderfully calm (we visited in spring mind you). A large sign with “Parcheggio di Isola delle Correnti” informed us a (paid) parking lot was available right in front of the beach. The fee for unlimited parking was €4 (to be paid in cash).
The beach opposite the actual Isola delle Correnti is lined with a few lidos and a bar or two. The island itself is very easy to reach, simply wade through the waist-deep water from the beach. Apart from a lighthouse and an abandoned building, there is however not much to see on the island itself.
The various Taormina day trips plotted on a map
Have a look at the interactive Google Map to get an idea of where the various day trips from Taormina are situation in relation to Taormina. Yellow pins are under one hour from Taormina while red pins are under two hours from the village.
To conclude on day trips from Taormina
Taormina is a great place to base yourself when visiting Eastern Sicily. That is provided you rent a car! The 25 min walk from Taormina to the central bus station does tend to become a little tiring, especially after a long day of exploring.
The good news is that there are plenty of day tours from Taormina leaving to the main highlight of Sicily, and even as far as the picturesque Aeolian islands. These will ensure you do not have to face the hair-raising driving in Sicily and still get to see a fair amount of the island!
MORE TRAVEL RESOURCES FOR VISITING SICILY
Accommodation: Where to stay in Sicily for a relaxing holiday
Food: Streetfood in Palermo
Food: Traditional Sicilian recipes you need to try in Sicily
Food: Typical vegetarian dishes in Italy from every region
Palermo: 14 Breathtaking churches in Palermo
Palermo: A local’s guide to visiting Palermo
Palermo: Day Trips from Palermo
Sicily: 13 villages in Sicily to visit
Getting Around: Driving or renting a car in Sicily