My first stop at my recent trip to Sicily was the East Sicilian coastal town ofÂ Taormina. Taormina is a charming and chic medieval hillside village and is one of the islands busiest tourist destinations. Still, it has managed to keep its charm and sophistication and is definitely worth a visit.
There is certainly a reason Taormina has attracted and inspired a wealth of legendary visitors of the likes of Gustav Klimt, DH Lawrence, John Steinbeck, Marlene Dietrich and Oscar Wilde over the centuries. When you sit at Caffe Wunderbar on the lovely Piazza IX Aprile 7 and pay a ludicrous 7.5 for a cappuccino, you can almost picture Elizabeth Taylor or Tennessee Williams on the table next to you. Taormina is definitely not a destination for cheap mass tourism, so the town has managed to keep a flair of exclusivity while being totally laid back and chilled at the same time. On the main shopping drag, the Corso Umberto, you can dress yourself in Gucci, or finally get this Furla bag with fitting Sergio Rossi shoes. Thank god, there are also lovely boutiques with Italian style for the smaller budget!
It’s not all about spending money on clothes in Taormina as next to designer stores you find steep and hidden side streets with tucked away restaurants, romantic bars mix in with medieval buildings and there is food everywhere you look.
Advantage and downside at the same time is the location of Taormina at a terrace of Mt. Tauro. While this enables spectacular views of the sea and Mt. Etna, it means that it’s a long way down to the beach. Fortunately, there is a cable car that goes every 15 minutes and takes you down to the coast and, more importantly, up again. If you want vast sandy beaches, Taormina’s beach will disappoint. It’s all gravel and busy beach restaurants, where you can rent sun beds and umbrellas. It’s nice for a few days, but for beach holidays there are certainly better places to go.
Where to Stay:
We chose to stay at the beach in the modern and very decent 4 star Panoramic Hotel. The beach is about 3 minutes walk away, the cable car 5 minutes and it is a bit more quiet than being in the middle of the town. On the hotel roof is a generous terrace with great views and a pool. Breakfast was very good and the only downside really was its location just next to a relatively busy street. Our room was on the first floor and it was impossible, even with ear plugs, to keep the window open during the night.
Panoramic Hotel Rooms are from Â£120 Via Nazionale, 196 B – 98039 Taormina (ME), Italy | Tel. +39.0942.620674
We stayed in Taormina for 4 nights, and retrospectively, I would recommend staying 2 or 3 nights and, if you like a bit more buzz, choose an accomodation in the centre with a swimming pool, as there is much to explore in Taormina during the day.
We had brilliant food in Sicily. I am convinced Italian food is among the best in the world, and in Sicily this almost perfection is taken to an even higher level. Influences from different cultures such as the Arab, the Greek and North African, can be traced in a lot of the most popular Sicilian dishes.
So you frequently find (fish) couscous on the menu, raisins are a main ingredient in a lot of the fish, meat and vegetable dishes and the most famous Sicilian desserts, cannoli and cassata, have their origin in Arabian cooking.
There is no way around granita when you visit Sicily. I was never particularly impressed by this flavoured water-ice when I had it in other parts of the world, but when you have once tasted Sicilian almond granita “Granita al Mandorla” made of Sicilian almonds there is no way back! You want it for breakfast, lunch and after dinner (in fact a popular Sicilain breakfast is ‘granita con brioche’…)
Eating out in Taormina was great – we loved the 2 traditional Sicilian restaurants that we sampled, while the one with the Michelin star was, like so often, a huge disappointment.
RISTORANTE DA LORENZOÂ
At the first evening we ate at the sea food place Ristorante Da Lorenzo, just off the beaten tourist track. Â We got this as a recommendation from my Italian friend Luca, who has been instrumental with his insider tips in making our Sicily trip such a wonderful experience.
We loved the Alici Siciliane, marinated anchovies, salty, tender and delicate. Beautiful also the second starter, one of the specials, Fresh Grilled Prawns sprinkled with the omnipresent breadcrumbs. The Spaghetti al Nero di Sepia were as good as can be - home-made pasta with enough bite were immersed in pitch-black sepia ink and mixed in were generous pieces of tender squid. Spectacular were the Ravioli with Shellfish and Pistachio Sauce. These delicious pasta parcels were filled with a delicate seafood mix and the sauce of tomatoes, peppers and fresh pistachios was stunning (and very Sicilian).
Overall Rating: 7/10Ristorante Da Lorenzo Via Roma 12,Â 98039Â Taormina, Sicily,Â Italy
RISTORANTE AL DUOMOÂ
The next evening we went to Ristorante Al Duomo, where were sitting on a small terrace overlooking a very atmospheric square. Al Duomo is well famous for its very traditional Sicilian cuisine and I appreciated the small menu of carefully selected Sicilian specialities. You find Caponata everywhere in Sicily, and the Al Duomo version of these vibrant grilled vegetables was perfect. Flavourful peppers, soft and smoky aubergine and celery came in Sicilian olive oil and tasted just fantastic. As mains we chose two Sicilian paste: The vegetarian one came with aubergines and tomatoes and was served with grated smoked ricotto on the side. Heavenly! The second one was a seafood pasta again with breadcrumbs. The crunchy breadcrumbs, the al dente pasta and the beautiful seasoning made this into a very lovely dish indeed.
We needed to have some real Sicilian cannoli to finish off this meal. A delicately fried tube-shaped dough thing was filled with fresh and creamy ricotta, which was only ever so slightly sweet. I am not surprised that this dessert is so popular all over the world! Highly recommended!
Overall Rating: 8/10Ristorante al Duomo Vico Ebrei (Piazza Duomo) – Taormina
I don’t want to spend a lot of time writing about the Michelin starred Casa Grugno as I was very disappointed by the food. We went for the tasting menu and were confronted with thawing carpaccio, tough meat and little flavour. Even if the setting is truly stunning and romantic, the food is not worth the money.
No, let’s not talk about this one, just promise me not to go there! Rather buy one of these Furla bags, they will make you happier.
Overall Rating: 4/10Casa Grugno Via Santa Maria dei Greci
Tel. +39 0942 21208