Syracuse or Taormina? You often ask me where it’s more profitable to go and which of these cities is more attractive. It’s hard for me to answer unequivocally, because it all depends on what you are looking for and what style of traveling you have.
Since you are planning a trip to the eastern part of Sicily, your plane will land in Catania. Many of you will fall in love with this city and decide to explore it deeper, which I strongly encourage you to do. There are also those who will believe all these unfair stereotypes about Catania – after a few minutes they will say that „there’s nothing interesting here” and will decide to run away.
In my opinion, Catania is one of the most underrated cities in Italy, and anyone who has put a little effort into getting to know it better has understood its uniqueness.
However, I realize that not everyone can like its authenticity and there are people who prefer to visit places that make a “wow effect” from the very first seconds. Of course, such beautiful towns are certainly Syracuse and Taormina, only an hour away from Catania.
How to travel from Catania to Taormina?
There are two ways to get to Taormina from Catania:
- most conveniently by company bus Interbus (the stop is on Via Archimede; a one-way ticket costs around 5 euros, round-trip around 8 euros) which stops around 15 minutes from the city center
- by train, but the Giardini-Naxos train station is quite a bit from the city center, so you will have to go there by bus, or go to the area of Isola Bella and go up (to Taormina) by cable car (one-way trip – 3 euro).
North of Catania – Taormina, for swag
With Taormino I have “love-hate relationship”. On the one hand, it’s impossible to pass by this city indifferently – its location is breathtaking. It’s one of those cities about which „wow” opinion on the Internet, and in itself it becomes a pilgrimage destination for all bloggers in the world. Just… you probably know that wonderful look isn’t everything?
Taormina is probably the most touristic town in the eastern part of Sicily. There’s usually a real fashion show on its main street, Corso Umberto. I’ve always had the feeling that the goal of most people who come for a walk in Taormina is to show themselves to others. Without an elegant jacket or floor-length dress, it’s better not to show up! Of course, I ‘exaggerate’ a bit, but there is a rather snobbish atmosphere there, far from the real, relaxed, Sicilian atmosphere, which is definitely less ‘orderly’ and elegant.
However, a few things cannot be denied Taormina – its beauty and amazing location. Spectacular views of the mountains, the sea and Mount Etna, charming streets with “Instagram” decorations, picturesque buildings, balconies lined with intriguing Maura heads – will surely provide all visitors with an intense “aesthetic” experience.
What to see in Taormina?
- Ancient Greek theater– in my opinion the BIGGEST attraction of Taormina, you cannot leave Sicily without this experience, take my advice deeply to heart! The entrance fee is 10-15 euros, but it is really worth spending any money on it.
- Piazza IX Aprile square with a beautiful panorama of the area and the charming church of San Giuseppe,
- Villa Comunale di Taormina – in the end, I never managed to get inside (each time I tried to get to the city gardens, the gate was closed), but I saw hundreds of photos from its interior and if you want a break from the crowds, enjoy the views in a little more intimate, admire the Sicilian vegetation and, in relative peace, recharge the batteries for further sightseeing, you cannot miss this place!
What to see around Taormina?
- Isola Bella – a tiny, mysterious island located at the foot of Taormina – sunsets in this place are amazing at any time of the year!
- Castelmola – a charming town located just above Taormina, with amazing views and one of the most specific bars in the world (you will read about it in my Sicily culinary guide),
- Forza d’Agrò and Savoca – are there any fans of the Godfather? If you want to go on a tour in the footsteps of this Italian film, visit the Chiesa della Santissima Annunziata church in Forza d’Agrò and the famous Vitelli bar in Savoce.
How to travel from Catania to Syracuse?
Whether by train or bus, the journey from Catania to Syracuse takes about an hour and a half, and when you buy a round-trip ticket, the company’s bus Interbus (check the timetable here) you will pay around 10 euros return. The train is a bit more expensive (7.60 euro one way): check the timetable here.
South of Catania – Syracuse, for relaxation and the spirit of antiquity
Syracuse, or more precisely the island of Ortygia, I associate mainly with relaxation – time flows twice slower there than in loud Catania or tourist Taormina.
“White stone predominates in most monuments and buildings and fits perfectly with the sea that covers the island, the color of which is exceptionally beautiful – turquoise. The combination of these colors gives this town a unique atmosphere. “
This is part of my book “Panza China, the Sicilian way to be happy”
If you would like to put into practice the Italian philosophy of life – the so-called “Dolce far niente” (sweet doing nothing), in Syracuse you’ll definitely be able to do it! The town is (probably) the most Greek part of the island, and Archimedes himself lived there centuries ago. I would rather not count on a rich nightlife in this city in low season, so if it would be an important element of your trip, I recommend returning to Catania for the evening, because this city never sleeps!
What to see in Syracuse?
- Ortygia Island, that is, the Old Town. When going on a trip to Syracuse, what you really mean is visiting Ortygia, which is separated from “the rest of the city” by a bridge. It’s here that the Piazza Duomo (Cathedral Square) is located, on which the film Malena proudly marched (you can read more about the films made in Sicily here), and in its heart you will admire a baroque gem – a beautifully decorated Cathedral.
- Mercato di Ortigia – the local market in Ortygia – a visit to this place will stimulate all your senses. It’s worth coming in the morning to listen to the loud shouts of Italian traders, immerse yourself in a truly Sicilian atmosphere, see how locals people spend their time and try local products. Thanks to its authenticity, the fair is always one of my favorite places in Italian towns, and in Sicily it takes on a completely new, slightly “crazy” meaning.
- the breath of antiquity is present in Syracuse at almost every step, and the Springs of Arethusa is one of the few places in Europe where we can meet the growing papyrus!
In addition, right next to it’s a beautiful observation deck and Alfeo promenade, from which you can admire wonderful sunsets by the sea – in my opinion, these are some of the most romantic places in the city,
- Archimedes square with Diana’s fountain and a fantastic “Instagram” building with green shutters nearby,
- Archaeological Park (Parco Archeologico della Neapolis) with historical ruins: Greek and Roman theater and grotto – Ear of Dionysus with phenomenal acoustics,
- catacombs and ruins of St. John – I didn’t manage to get there in the end, but from what I heard (and saw in the pictures), it’s definitely worth going there!
What’s the best plan for visiting Ortygia? No plan! Just get lost in its magical streets and enjoy these beautiful moments 🙂
What to see around Syracuse?
Beaches, beaches and beaches again! More or less between Syracuse and Noto are some of the prettiest (mostly sandy) beaches in the eastern part of Sicily.
And you will read more about the culinary attractions of Syracuse in my culinary guide to the eastern part of Sicily! Staying in Ortygia doesn’t count at all, without tasting one of the tastiest things I’ve eaten in my life! Click on the banner below for more details!
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