Taormina, Isola Bella, Castelmora – From Sea to Summit

Oh what diversity: Taormina, Isola Bella and Castelmora, all within a couple of hours walk, offer beautiful waters, a picturesque island, old town charm and fabulous mountain walks. What unforgettable experiences!

Looking onto the blue sea with white beaches and 2 headlands of green
Looking down from Taormina towards the island of Isola Bella

Taormina is a city on the eastern Sicilian coast that lies on a terrace against a backdrop of orchards and surrounding hills. Nearby is the beautiful ‘Pearl of the Ionian Sea’, Isola Bella. Over Taormina’s shoulder lies the mountain town of Castelmora. In the distance lays the towering monarch, Mt Etna.

White snowy peaks of Mt Etna with green trees in the foreground
A snowed capped winter’s view of Mt Etna viewed from Taormina


White buildings in a square with a mountain backdrop
Taormina of town square look up to Monte Tauro

Having been inhabited for more than 2500 years, Taormina has been called home by the Arabs, Greeks and Italians. It has a rich history and in more recent days, is popular for its grottos, beaches and water activities.

Hello Taormina

Catching the bus from the Aurora Campsite in Giardini-Naxos into Taormina was the easiest and quickest way to get the show on the road. We parted with a few euros each for return tickets and were on our way.

Arriving in Taormina, we walked down a pathway leading to Isola Bella. This is a small island and nature reserve connected to the mainland by a narrow sandbar.  Privately owned until the 1990s, the island is now under the administration of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Green island with a narrow white sandy access to it
Island of Isola Bella

We noticed a boat pull up on the beach close by and went over for a chat. The driver offered us a trip to the Blue Grotto on the island of Capri and its surrounds for €25 each with a promise of about 45 minutes of boat sightseeing time. Deal!

Blue sky, green waters with a white sandy beach
Beach between Taormina and Isola Bella with the Blue Grotto tour boat

The Blue Grotto is a sea cave, which has sunlight that passes through an underwater cavity. This creates a brilliant blue reflection that illuminates the water and cavern. I’ll let the photo do the talking!

Boat on the water approaching a rock opening
Tour boat approaching the Blue Grotto


Blue illuminated water in front of a rock face with a gap
The ‘Blue Grotto’

We passed by a rocky outcrop with cactus growing up over it. That cactus can grow anywhere!

White rocky outcrop with green cactus growth on top
Island with cactus growth


Sparkles on the water from the sun with a rocky outcrop in the background
A great, sunny day to hit the water with the rocky cactus outcrop in the background

Arriving at another smaller grotto, the driver nudged the bow of the boat into the cave and we enjoyed more of the brilliant, shimmering blues and greens. This one also contained some multi-coloured formations. Truly a magical sight!

Multi-coloured rock formations in the azure blue water
Grotto with colourful formations in the azure, blue water


With the boat trip complete, we set our sights on the nearby mountain town of Castelmola and set off. There was only one way to go from the beach – and that was up!

Looking from the boat, Taormina in the foreground with Castelmora in the distance
Taormina in the foreground with Castelmora in the distance

Having made it about half way into the town with a couple of kilometres to go, one of the earlier boat tour guides drove past and offered us a free ride to Castelmola. We weren’t about to say no. A big shout out to David, a friendly, chatty Sicilian who also runs the local stand up paddle board / windsurf / kite board school.

We were dropped off at the summit of Castelmola. The views were absolutely fantastic with Mt Etna seemingly an arm’s length away however the cold wind gusts accounted for about a five degree drop in temperature. She was nippy!

Town of Castelmora on a rocky mountain
Town of Castelmora

A recommendation from David, was to walk the down hill pathway towards Taormina to the next hill, Monte Tauro and visit the Santuario Madonna della Rocca church. Carved into the rock in 1640, this church overlooks Taormina.

The Santuario Madonna della Rocca church carved from rock
The Santuario Madonna della Rocca church carved from the rock

The steep descent from the church into Taormina treated us to magical views of the coast and nearby islands, including the Ancient Greek theatre of Taormina.

View from Castelmora mountain town looking down to Monte Tauro and the island of Isola Bella with a blue sea in the background
View from Castelmora looking down to Monte Tauro and the island of Isola Bella


Taormina with its Ancient Greek theatre in the background and the blue sea behind all of this
Taormina with its Ancient Greek theatre in the background

We covered a lot of territory and loved every minute of it. This place holds such diversity: the beautiful waters, quaint islands, an old town charm and fabulous mountain walks.  Any visitor would be spoilt for choice. What an unforgettable experience!


Author: Lars

Being an Australian boy brought up in the country, I learnt at an early age to enjoy the freedom and beauty of nature. Leaving Australia at the age of 20, although I didn’t know it then, would be the beginning of a life of adventure. So join me here on our travels and see the world through my eyes.

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