Taormina is a tender port – Ships have to anchor off Taormina and tender passengers ashore by boat. When tendering is required, guests using mobility devices will not be transferred into or out of the tender. Many tender ports do not provide wheelchair access so even if the guest can board the tender they may not be able to disembark ashore. Again the shore-side facilities, movement of the tender, weather and tidal conditions can also preclude tendering.
With the smoking cone of Mt. Etna as a backdrop, the chic resort of Taormina, is absolutely stunning. The town’s ancient Greek theater is a wonder. Built in the third century B.C., with apparently perfect acoustics, it is still used today for open-air concerts. Spend some leisurely time along the Corso Umberto, where there are many interesting places to shop and dine.
This charming cliff-top town has pretty much everything you could want — varied shops, a lively atmosphere, beautiful churches, medieval walls, lots of restaurants featuring good quality local dishes at affordable prices and best of all, fabulous views across the Med (particularly from its spectacular Greek amphitheater, where you can get a glimpse of Sicily’s other big attraction, Mount Etna).
Better still, Taormina is compact and easily explored in a short time, so first-time visitors can get a lot out of a day visit (including a chance to splash about in the Med off the town’s pretty Isola Bella beach).
The disabled cruiser visiting Taormina will find that Taormina is very hilly and has a lot of steps once you get off the main street and you should be aware of this. There are plenty of sitting places along the corso where you don’t have to buy anything, particularly in the piazzas. So you could walk a little and then sit down. The other thing is that the streets are cobbled (not deep cobbles but enough).
Corso Umberto is Taormina’s main pedestrian “street”. Though Corso Umberto is relatively flat, the alleys off this main pedestrian street are inconveniently hilly, and there are many steps. Although the street to Taormina’s Teatro Greco is flat, there are steps to enter Taormina’s Teatro Greco and steps within Teatro Greco.
Giardini Naxos is flat and easier to maneuver than Taormina, but also less beautiful, you would find fewer challenges for the beach and restaurants. Taormina’s steps, hills, and cobblestoned streets will offer challenges.
Where You’re Docked
Taormina is an anchorage port. Passengers transfer to shore via ship’s tender.
Smaller ships anchor in the large bay of Giardini Naxos and transport passengers to and from a small outdoor dock on tenders. A bus journey from Giardini Naxos to Taormina takes about 25 minutes. Larger ships go to Messina or Catania; about 30 miles from Taormina; and passengers travel to Taormina from there.
Giardini Naxos is a tender port, and there’s nothing there in the way of cruise terminal facilities, just a small tented area where cruise lines provide seating and cold drinks for passengers. But Giardini Naxos is also an attractive seaside town set on a pretty bay, lined with beaches that offer water sports and some jolly local restaurants, gelaterias and cafes. So, if you’ve previously been to Taormina and fancy a day by the sea, the coastal area at Giardini Naxos will provide it.
Taxis usually wait at the dock and often cruise lines run shuttle buses (sometimes free).
The local train station, Taormina-Giardini is located on the seafront, about a mile south, down the hill from the town.
Buses to Taormina can be taken from the San Giovanni bus stop (S. Giovanni church is opposite), around a 1.5km flat walk from the dock. The town is in walking distance, however as it is located on the side of a hill, it has many sets of steps to negotiate.
Of the other two ports, Messina is marginally closer to Taormina, while Catania lies about 34 miles away in the foothills of Mount Etna. Tours to Etna run from all three ports, most meandering up to Rifugio Sapienza, a hotel on Etna’s north side, which acts as “base camp” for various hikes around the impressive Silvestri craters.
Good to Know
Hidden charges, if you choose to have a refreshing gelato while sitting on a cafe terrace, however humble, will add 2 euros to the bill for two ice creams.
Uphill walking and, at the amphitheater, some steps and uneven ground. Wear sensible shoes and take a walking stick if necessary.
Crowded streets, especially in the peak summer months.
Siesta time, generally from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., when many shops close. If you’re set on a serious shopping fest, head to Taormina in the morning. That said, this is a tourist town and tourist-oriented stores, particularly along the Via Teatro Greco, typically stay open at busy times.
From Giardini Naxos, a taxi up the hill to Taormina can cost between 12 euros and 20 euros one-way — so travel with three pals or take a bus from Taormina-Giardini railway station (at sea level) for around 2 euros each way. Buses and taxis stop at a car park below the main town and you ride up to street level in a lift (press the button for Level 7).
Taking a taxi in from Messina or Catania costs an even heftier 150 euros to 200 euros (though that’s round-trip and should include a couple of hours’ waiting time, so it can still work out cheaper than a ship’s “Go As You Please” tour if you can travel as a party of four). Be sure to negotiate the fare and waiting time in advance.
Alternatively, you can catch a train to Taormina from Messina Centrale station (about 15 minutes’ walk left, right and left again from the port) for 3.50 euros each way.
A train ride to Taormina-Giardini from Catania costs 4 euros each way, and you’ll find the station in Piazza Giovanni XXII, less than a mile from the port.
Check return times, though; allow yourself plenty of time to get back to your ship, and don’t even consider this if your ship calls at Sicily on a Sunday because train service then is very erratic.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The official currency is the euro. You’ll find plenty of ATMs and exchange bureaus along Taormina’s main street, this is a town that wants you to spend your money.
The official language in Taormina is Italian. Tourism is Taormina’s main business, so most people will speak at least a smattering of English. However, they will warm to any visitor at least attempting to speak Italian. In an emergency, dial 112 from any phone to summon police, ambulance or fire services.
Take home a bottle of speciality liqueur. Limoncello is Italy’s most famous, but in Taormina, you’ll find falling-down water available in all kinds of weird and wonderful flavors like orange, cinnamon and pomegranate.
For a real taste of Sicily, buy some Marsala, a fine fortified wine first produced on the island by the Englishman John Woodhouse in 1773. Rich and addictive, Marsala is a little like sherry. Although it’s known as a sweet wine, it has dry varieties that make an excellent aperitif when chilled (ask for Marsala Vergine).
If bottles of booze are too much to lug home, you can pick up prettily ribboned packets of speciality pasta, some shaped like large conchiglie (seashells), or frilled at the edges and tinted lovely shades of delicate ochre and pale dusky pink, for a few euros in one of Taormina’s many delicatessens. While we can’t vouch for the taste, the pastas make a fine visual addition to a foodie’s kitchen. Or pick up some biscotti, candied fruits and other goodies you’ll find in ample supplies at the food shops.
Taormina has more than 80 restaurants, trattorias and pizzerias. Most are open from noon or 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to midnight or, in some cases, early morning hours. All display full menus with prices outside, so you can take your pick depending on your budget and whether you want a seat on a terrace with a sea view.
Thick, hearty fish and vegetable stews reflect Spanish and French influences, while the Moors brought eggplant and a love of rice and richly spiced sweet-and-sour dishes. These influences now blend with the Italian love of pasta, fresh herbs, juicy tomatoes, tangy lemons and olive oil to create a fresh, flavorsome but simple cuisine enriched with locally sourced seafood, chillies, pine nuts and olives.
Local specialities include melanzane alla parmigiana (eggplant baked in cheese and tomato sauce), pesce spada affumicato (smoked swordfish), pasta con le sarde (with sardine, tomato, pine nuts and raisin sauce) and, if you’re feeling adventurous,- spaghetti al nero di seppia (featuring a sauce of black squid ink).
Points of Interest
- Mt. Etna – Europe’s tallest and most active volcano has erupted over 130 times in recorded history. Enjoy views of the summit as well as the town of Catania, buried by an eruption over 300 years ago. A cable car takes tourists from 1900m above the sea level to 2500m above sea level where people can transfer to the 4×4 cars and go even higher. Tourist can also drive their own vehicles up to the 1900m mark. The cable car is very small and narrow, meaning it is not wheelchair accessible.
- Taormina – This has been a coastal resort town since Roman times. You’ll find remnants of its Greek and Roman history, a fine medieval quarter and castle ruins, and many modern shops and restaurants.
- Greek Theater – Built in the 3rd-century B.C, with some alterations made during the Roman era, this ancient theater in Taormina is still perfectly conserved. It’s still used today for concerts and classical productions.
- Corso Umberto – Eager to please, surprise and delight, this main thoroughfare in Taormina is the perfect place for shopping, people watching and much more. Picturesque lanes above and below the Corso are interesting to explore.
- Messina/Duomo – Marvel at this 12th century cathedral, originally built in Norman times. Then see the world’s largest astronomical clock that springs to life every quarter hour and a grand display at noon. Stay a while to explore its historical attractions. Go to the Cathedral of Messina, which dates back to the 12th century. Gaze up at the astronomical clock in the bell tower and watch the mechanical figures perform scenes from the city’s history at noon. The cathedral stands on the Piazza del Duomo, which also features the 16th-century Orion fountain.
- San Michele Winery – Perched on the slopes of Mt. Etna, San Michele Winery is a notable producer of Sicilian varietals including the famous Murgo wines. Tour the winery, then, enjoy a sample of its delicious fruit of the vine.
Taormina Accessible Excursions
Whether you’re arriving in Catania, Messina, Palermo, Taormina, or Giardini Naxos, these accessible shore excursions meet your needs. These wheelchair accessible shore excursions of Sicily include an officially-certified, English speaking guide as well as round-trip transportation in a wheelchair accessible van.
Best of Mount Etna and Taormina Accessible Shore Excursion
This 8-hour Best of Mount Etna & Taormina Accessible Shore Excursion, will bring you to an ancient Greek colony, see Europe’s largest volcano (11,000 ft. Mount Etna), and experience the incredible landscape of Giardini Naxos Bay.
Your knowledgeable tour guide will pick you up from the cruise dock in a wheelchair accessible vehicle, where you’ll be able to view the amazing countryside in comfort between the attractions.
The Taormina accessible shore excursion begins in the village of Castelmola, which has a history dating back to 396 BC. You will then spend 1 or 2 hours in Taormina enjoying sights such as the ancient Greek theater of Taormina, built in the early 7th century BC and Via Valeria Road, and ancient Roman road that traverses Italy.
Your tour will then take you to Catania where you will visit Catania’s baroque city center boasts an early cathedral with stunning architecture.
Sit back and enjoy the culture, history, and beauty of Sicily with this accessible tour that is sure to have something for everyone. The Best of Mount Etna & Taormina Accessible Cruise Excursion uses a wheelchair accessible van and has a step-free tour route. However, the guide is unable to push a wheelchair.
Syracuse Wheelchair Accessible Guided Tour
Your guide and driver will pick you up from the cruise terminal in an accessible van to begin your 8-hour wheelchair accessible cruise excursion. Syracuse is situated on the southern part of the Island of Sicily, so you will enjoy panoramic views of the Sicilian coast on your way to the city. This 2700-year-old city has so much to offer, that this full day accessible guided tour of Syracuse is guaranteed to be one of the highlights of your vacation.
Your first stop is the Archeological Park of Neapolis. This vast area of ancient ruins includes a Roman amphitheatre, a Greek theater, and a stone quarry and gardens area (the Latomia del Paradiso).
You will then visit the historical heart of Syracuse, Ortygia Island. It is the “old city center” and is a popular area for entertainment, shopping, and eating. Walk/roll down the streets of the old town to the Arethusa Fountain, a freshwater fountain and garden that flows to the sea. The wheelchair accessible Arethusa Fountain viewing area from above has a ramp rather than stairs, so it is easy to navigate for wheelchair users or those with limited mobility.
Afterwards, you will walk/roll through the open air, local market of Ortygia, where vendors sell fresh fish, locally grown fruits and vegetables, and handmade goods. At the end of your Syracuse wheelchair accessible guided tour, your driver will take you back to the cruise terminal where you will board your ship.
The Siracuse Wheelchair Accessible Guided Tour uses a wheelchair accessible van and has a step-free tour route. However, the guide is unable to push a wheelchair.
Highlights of Messina Accessible Shore Excursion
Your guide and driver will pick you up for this 8-hour excursion in a wheelchair accessible van from the Sicily port where your ship arrives. You will visit ancient settlements and charming villages on your accessible excursion to Tyndaris (Tindari), Cefalú, and time permitting, Santo Stefano di Camastra.
The first stop on Highlights of Messina Accessible Shore Excursion is Tyndaris (Tindari), an ancient Bronze Age (around 1500 B.C.) settlement, where you will visit a 4th century B.C. amphitheater. Tyndaris is also known for its Sanctuary of the Madonna di Tindari or the “Sanctuary of the Black Madonna.” Your guide will tell you about the ancient legend surrounding this mysterious “Black Madonna” and the appearance of the shape of the Madonna in the coastline of Tindari!
Next, you will drive to Cefalú, a fabulous coastal village whose quaint, eclectic houses and crystal clear water are the picture of what makes Sicily such an inviting place to visit! Walk/roll through the winding pathways of the village and enjoy the views of the rocky coastline as you take in the sights and sounds of Sicily. Your guide will take you to the Duomo of Cefalú, the Cefalú Cathedral, which dates back to 1131. Its imposing Norman-style façade towers over the city and can be seen from a distance.
Afterwards you will visit the Museo Mandralisca. The museum houses the private collection of the Baron Enrico Piraino di Mandralisca. Its main attraction is a painting by Antonello da Messina, called Portrait of an Unknown Man, but it also includes a diverse collection of ancient artifacts from around the world.
If time permits, you will drive a little farther down the coast to the village of Santo Stefano di Camastra, where you can do some shopping for local ceramics and colorful pottery. Afterwards, your driver will return you to the cruise terminal where you will board your ship.
The Highlights of Messina Accessible Cruise Excursion uses a wheelchair accessible van and has a step-free tour route. However, the guide is unable to push a wheelchair.