The drive from Palermo to Taormina is very nice, the road is in good condition, traffic is very light and there are magnificent landscapes. You can make a brief stop in Cefalu but there are other small towns that worth a visit on the way. Isnello and Castelbouono are small medieval villages located 35km inland from Cefalu, in the territory of the Madonie Mountains. I felt not so impressed with Cefalu, perhaps the website photos and reviews gave me a different idea or perhaps the day of our arrival was overcast and drizzling. In addition we were late for lunch and there were just a few places open.
Cefalu lies on the Tyrrhenian Sea just 200 km from Palermo. The small town is a mix of nice beaches, a small fishing port, souvenir shops, some ancient buildings and monuments and an enchanting main street, Corso Ruggero, within the well-preserved Old Quarter. In the Old Quarter you should visit the Cathedral and admire the beautiful mosaic picture of the Byzantine Christ Pantocrator.
Situated on the east coast of the island, 207km away from Cefalu and perched 206 meters above the sea level on a hillside of monte Tauro, Taormina is a magical place. Some may say it is touristy and it certainly is, a romantic and spectacular tourist spot.
MENDOLIA BEACH HOTEL We stayed at the Mendolia Beach Hotel, a three star hotel overlooking the bay of Isola Bella. Very nice, clean and well situated, just a short walk from the funicular that takes you to the historic center of Taormina. Among other reasons we choose this hotel for its paid parking available on request and the private beach club which offers beach chairs, towels and umbrellas. Breakfast is very good, beds not as much, the bathroom is a bit small but all rooms have balcony and the view is breathtaking.
GRAND HOTEL TIMEO A luxury hotel in front of the Greek Theatre and overlooking the bay of Naxos and Mount Etna. Classic, elegant and stylish, the views from the terraces are impressive.
The meal offer in Taormina is as might be expected, generous, diverse and for every budget.
DA GIOVANNI Via Nazionale 105 Excellent view and excellent sea food
L”ARCO DEI CAPPUCCINI Via dei Cappuccini 5A Very small and good restaurant just off Via Costantino Patricio, by the far side of the Cappuccini arch. Closed on Wednesdays
L’INCONTRO Via Luigi Pirandello 20, steps away from the Funivia Station. Very good Sicilian food and service. Ask for the Polpo Luciana and the Gnocchi con Pistachio e Gamberetti.
BAM BAR Via Di Giovanni 45 For a drink, an espresso or the famous “granita di mandorle” (almond granita)
TISCHI TOSCHI Vico Francesco Paladini 3 behind the Duomo. Closed on Mondays.
Any time of the day is good to get to Taormina but the best is to arrive in time to see the Greek Theatre before it closes, watch the sunset and then eat at some good restaurant. The funicular takes us to the end of Via Luigi Pirandello, the road that goes from the sea to the pedestrian city center and leaves us a three-minute walk from the Porta Messina. The Porta Messina is the entrance to Corso Umberto I, the city’s main promenade. From there to Porta Catania there is a whole world to discover between the romantic alleys that go up or down among small squares, hotels, patios, deli shops, restaurants, beautiful shops, old churches and historic buildings.