Calabria is the perfect place to travel to other nearby regions such as Sicily, Basilicata or Campania. I usually recommend at least one or two nights, but you can do just a day trip to Taormina in Sicily from Calabria. There is no need to stay overnight if you do not want to.
It is recommended that you leave early morning and come back to Calabria late evening. This depends also on how you travel and where you are staying in Calabria.
You may not be able to get a train back if you come back too late or if you have a car, you can come back anytime you want. Ferries operate 24 hours a day from Messina to Villa San Giovanni.
The port for day trips
We travelled to Villa San Giovanni, which is close to Scilla and Reggio Calabria, and where the ferries depart for Messina. We bought our ticket directly at the port and waited in the queue to board our ship. The main carrier is Caronte. The crossing takes 20 minutes to reach Messina.
After only 20 minutes we were in the town of Messina, Sicily. We could see Etna smoking away in the distance. It was incredible. Only a 5 km stretch across the sea from Calabria and we were in Sicily. I had to pinch myself at first.
Typical breakfast on our day trip
We then stopped for breakfast in a bar in Messina to try the typical breakfast granita with brioche. It was delicious. I was used to having only the granita on a hot day in the afternoon, but it is the norm in Messina to have it early morning with this kind of sweet bread.
The granita comes in different flavours so I opted for the strawberry one. I was not convinced about lemon first thing in the morning. The locals take the bread and dip it into the granita. Some have it topped up with whipped cream.
Taormina by car on a day trip
After our typical Messinese breakfast, we made our way to Taormina. We just simply followed the green motorway signs to Catania. This is a coastal road with wonderful views of the coast of Calabria on one side and the Sicilian countryside on the other.
It is a scenic straight road with many tunnels. In about 1 hour depending on how fast you drive, you will see the signs for Taormina.
Taormina by train from Messina
The road up to the town is winding, breathtaking and absolutely spectacular. Before you take the road uphill, there is the train station on the other side of the road. Everything is well-signposted.
You can easily take the train from Messina to the station Taormina-Giardini Naxos. It takes about 50 minutes. From there you need to get the buses Interbus. You can find the timetable of the buses here: http://www.interbus.it/Orarietariffe.aspx which leave from outside the station and go up to the town. A single ticket costs 1,90 and the return ticket 3 euro. You can get a taxi up to the town for 15 euro. There is also an excursion which takes you from Messina first to Mount Etna and then Taormina and back to Messina if you prefer not to go with the train. I don’t recommend the train for a day trip.
Small buses to Taormina
They are usually small orange buses able to tackle this long winding road. The journey up there should take about 15 minutes and the bus station is right in the centre of Taormina.
We reached the top with our car and parked in the under-covered car park. From there it is a very short walk to the town centre. You enter the main street Corso Umberto through a walled gate called Porta Catania.
From here you are completely surrounded with the smells and aromas of Sicily. Different coloured bougainvillea and Jasmine flowers are in abundance in this town as well as citrus groves and the smell of Sicilian pastries such as cannoli and cassata served in the pretty pavement cafes around the town.
The lively square
Corso Umberto is the heart of Taormina. Once you reach the end of this street, you will see the other gate Porta Messina. Life revolves around the lively piazza in the middle of Corso Umberto.
Not only is it a pretty square with many attractive shops and bars, but it has one of the most beautiful view points in Sicily. A huge balcony where many excited tourists take a selfie.
It is also a large open-air living room where locals and tourists relax in the evening with stunning views over Giardini Naxos. You can quite easily see from this balcony the white-capped volcano Mount Etna in the distance. You can also go on the excursion from the port of Messina to Mount Etna in the morning and Taormina in the afternoon. They bring you back to the port of Messina.
Every day there is some form of street entertainment such as musicians dressed with the typical coppola hat playing the godfather or mime artists trying so hard not to move an inch.
If you have the chance to stay overnight, I would recommend it just to see Taormina all lit up at night. It has another atmosphere at night. It is also much quieter and less crowded. You do not need to worry about bus and train timetables.
Why not walk the streets in company and discover the Greek theatre with guided tours. Local knowledgeable guides will tell you all about the history of the town and the Greek theatre.
Accommodation in Taormina
You will find many hotels and B&B’s in this town. I have stayed in different hotels and a wonderful B&B close to the centre. For a list of hotels you can check below. On this occasion, I only came for the day and left late evening.
A visit to the public gardens on a day trip
I definitely recommend visiting this garden. It is called the English garden since it belonged to an English noble lady up until 1922.
The garden contains the most beautiful flowers and shrubs as well as a huge terrace with spectacular views overlooking Giardini Naxos and Mount Etna.
You can see part of the Greek amphitheatre from here and the 5 star hotel San Domenico which was once a convent set in magnificent grounds.
There are nice shady areas and benches to relax whilst escaping from the hot Sicilian sun for a short while. It is a fine example of a well-manicured English garden with pretty flower beds. There is also a touch of the Mediterranean as you will see many exotic plants and statues.
The Greek Amphitheatre
The Greek Amphitheatre dating back to the 3rd century BC is a must. If you want to wander around it, there is an entrance fee to go inside. The cost is about 10 euro per person. There are many guided tours which include the entrance fee and will bring the theatre alive.
Several concerts and important events are held here during the summer months.
There are discounts for young people and the elderly. The pretty street leading up to the amphitheatre with many souvenir shops is just at the start of Corso Umberto off a small square. You will see many crowds walking this way.
We left late evening as we had the car which made it more flexible for us. It can be done in just one day from Calabria, but you may need to leave earlier due to bus and train times. If you can rent a car, this will give you more time in Taormina and you can leave when you want or stay overnight. Read about my festive weekend to Taormina here.
There is so much more to do in this area. You can use my travel resources here to get around. I will be posting more useful and interesting information about Taormina and other parts of Sicily later on so look out for these posts. Read more about Taormina here. You can take advantage of the deals here:
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