Daily Dose of Design: Travel Guide to Taormina + Messina, Sicily

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Travel Guide to Taormina + Messina, Sicily

This summer I went to my favorite place in the entire world - Italy. I put together a travel guide to Sorrento, a guide for the Amalfi Coast and some international travel packing tips that definitely saved me a few hundred dollars at TSA! I've said it before and I'll say it again and again; Italy is THE most breathtaking country and there's *so* much to see which is why it's completely necessary to take multiple trips. ;) That, and because the food alone will bring you back time and time again!

Out of all of my trips to Italy, this summer was the first time I went to Sicily. It was incredibly beautiful and to my surprise, much different than I had ever pictured it to be.

Sicily is much bigger than it looks on a map; it's old, historic and has absolutely beautiful beaches. There's history in Sicily that date back to the Byzantine Empire and that just blows my mind! A couple of the main tourist-y parts of Sicily are Palermo, Catania, Mount Etna, Messina and Taormina. The closest cities to get to from arriving to the island are Taormina and Messina; both very different but very historical and absolutely breathtaking. Taormina is a very historical mountain-top town that's filled with history and freakin' amazing views that you would not even believe!

Getting to Sicily

When we went to Sicily, we were staying in Calabria (where my dad is from) and drove about 2 1/2 hours to the ferry terminal (granted our town in Calabria is high up in the mountains). You can find out all about the ferries that depart from Reggio Calabria to Sicily here, and all of the other ports to depart from too. The ferry is *so* cool and a drive-on ferry; once you park on the boat you can get out and walk around the ferry and take pictures (or use it as an excuse for a photoshoot like my sister and I did) if you don't mind the crazy wind, ha! The ride lasts about 15-20 minutes and the views going to and from Sicily are ridiculously stunning. This was the first time I had been on a ferry like this, and it was so cool meeting other people who were heading to Sicily also.

It's an easy, straight drive to get from the port to Taormina and about 20 minutes by car. The ride there reminded me a LOT of NYC; something about the way the city is laid out and the very city-feel to it. Granted it's VERY different, just some similarities. ;)

Taormina's Must Sees and Dos

There is so, so much to see in Taormina alone that it's hard to believe that there's still so much more to Sicily! The water is insanely beautiful shades of blue and green, the view is incredible every which way you turn and the historical walls, paths and remains of ruins are jaw dropping. My favorite tourist-y sight in Taormina was the super old and historic Greek Theater. It's basically ruins of a theater (that resemble the Roman Forum in Rome, a LOT) that overlooks the ocean. You can even see Mount Etna!

Tip: find a spot to park as early as possible - especially in tourist season - because it's extremely hard to find a spot to park with the high volume of cars, and driving in that mess of traffic was nothing I ever could have done myself (thanks, dad)!

Villa Comunale (aka The Public Gardens) is another must-see; and another awesome photoshoot spot! ;) There's gardens, beautiful olive trees, ancient architecture and statues. It's so peaceful and beautiful to relax and take a break from a busy day in, and the views are of course, unreal. I loved these gardens and loved taking pictures there!

By taking a small, quick cable car from Taormina, you can get to Isola Bella (Beautiful Island). It's a mini island with a beautiful beach and has a small path from the mainland to the mini island, depending on the tide/time of day. We didn't explore the island, but saw it and took some time to hang out by the water since it was a beautiful day when we were there.

Tip: if you're planning on going here, make sure you have sneakers/comfy sandals because it's a complete pebble path from the first step off of the cable car to the island!

Something I wish I would have done was get closer to Mount Etna. Taormina is so incredible because from nearly every spot that you look, you can see the volcano. There are ways to get up the mountain, and it seems kind of scary but so cool at the same time. Definitely a must see for next time!

Places to Eat in Taormina

Taormina is a city that starts on level ground and continues as you drive up a mountain. The restaurant we ate at was down below the mountain right on the ocean. The views were stunning and you could feel the sea breeze as you ate lunch - it was incredible! It's called Caravella Restaurant & Beach Club and it has some of the best paninis I've ever had!

At the top of Taormina's mountain is an insanely delicious pizzeria called Granduca. It overlooks the Mediterranean and it's especially beautiful at sunset!

Taormina is an insanely beautiful city and one I definitely didn't know existed before visiting! When I thought of Sicily I though of two things: 1. cannolis (more on that in a bit) and 2. Palermo. Don't underestimate Taormina - it's definitely worth a visit! If you're staying in Sicily, I highly recommend taking a day or two to see everything you can in Taormina.

Must Sees in Messina

After seeing as much of Taormina as humanly possible, we drove back to Messina (the city that the ferry port is in). There's even more to do here - again I was completely shocked at real life Sicily versus my vision of Sicily! - and so many things to see. It's a legitimate city so it has intersections, shops, tons of restaurants and more.

The most beautiful part of Messina is Duomo Square; it's a fairly large piazza (town center) with shops, restaurants, street vendors and *the* most beautiful church, Messina Cathedral.

The coolest part is this Astrological Clock in the bell tower of the church. I've never seen anything like this, and to be perfectly honest it reminded me a lot of a scene straight out of Nancy Drew #amiright?! This building dates back to the 12th century, which makes it even cooler that something this intricate was built in a time like that. As the clock moves, you can see the gears turning and it's all made of the most beautiful gold that literally shines in the sunlight. And it's just as stunning inside as it is outside:

This is the main square of Messina, and it's the most gorgeous also. There's lots of streets you can walk through and shops to look through with some of the coolest souvenirs - including *real* handmade turquoise jewelry that was impossible not to buy!

Places to Eat in Messina

Right outside of the Messina Cathedral is a small cafe called Dolce Vita ("sweet life") and it has *really* good coffee! By this point in the day I was in need of a lot of caffeine and I'm not a big coffee person, but I did really like this cafe.

A photo posted by Adriana Nudo (@dailydoseofdesign) on

Okay, now we need a drum roll... It's cannoli time friends! We were lucky enough to explore Sicily with my dads very best friend who lives in the same town that he grew up in, and he visits Sicily a lot. It's sort of a nice weekend-type of trip for people who live in Calabria (can you even imagine?!). He and his family said they knew of the best pasticceria in all of Sicily and if only I could reenact my sister and I's faces, ha!! It was a few blocks from the Messina Cathedral but well worth the walk and trust me you'll want 2 or 3 of these cannolis so the walk is much needed. Cristo Re (address: 13 Via Loggia dei Mercanti) is a bakery and gelateria and let me just tell you - you'll fall in love with this place! They freshly bake everything in sight and they make the cannolis to sell - not before so they're *so* fresh.

Heading back on the ferry is just as beautiful as going to Sicily is - we had a beautiful day so the view of the mountains was clear and it was so fun to walk around the open deck of the ferry.

Sicily is honestly one of the prettiest most historical places and if you get the chance to go on your trip to Italy, take it! In many ways it's different than the mainland of Italy and there's more to see than you could even begin to wrap your head around!

Like this post? PIN ME!

Have you been to Sicily? What's your favorite part?



  1. WOW! It's so beautiful, and so much to do! I love the tip about finding a spot to park early. I think that's a great idea for traveling in most places! :)

  2. Looks like you had an amazing time! I have been DYING to go to Sicily!
    xo Jessica

  3. I love how in-depth this was, Adriana! Sicily looks beyond gorgeous and I'm really getting all of the wanderlust now! Ferry rides are the best!

  4. OMG! I am going to Italy this summer and now I am super depressed that Sicily isn’t on my itinerary! Well, I guess that’s another chance to go back again!!

  5. I went to Italy a couple of years ago and I'm dying to go back. Sicily looks amazingly beautiful, thanks for sharing your travel guide!

  6. Wow, this place is so stunning! I am dying to go to Italy.

  7. Dying looking at all of your photos! A friend of mine studied abroad a few semesters ago and I was just living through all of her photos!

    It looks gorgeous.
    Definitely on my to-go list !

    xx, Jamie

  8. Oh wow! I am so jealous! Everything about your trip looks gorgeous.

  9. I studied abroad in France in Summer 2015, but I'm DYING to go back to Europe and visit Italy!! These pictures are stunning.

    xoxo A

  10. This is making me miss Italy so much! I went for 10 days with my parents 5 years ago, and I really want to go again, and just added Sicily to my list! Saving this for when my fiance and I decided to go! This is so detailed!

  11. Swooooonninggg! I want to visit so badly!

    Rachel | The Confused Millennial

  12. Oh my gosh, I need to visit Italy now! That astrological clock was soooo cool!
    -Anna | www.fivefootandfabulous.com

  13. You've sparked some seriously wanderlust in me....and some hunger because that pizza looks amazing, haha! I've absolutely got to go here. What a beautiful place!

  14. The food looks so good here! Of course, it's Sicily after all. I love that you get to hang out in the lovely waters too, that island is definitely worth going to.

  15. This looks like such a great vacation! I would love to visit Sicily; it looks amazing!

  16. I LOVED Italy! Looking at your pictures makes me want to go back even more!

    Alix | www.apintsizedlifeblog.com

  17. My husband and I have wanted to travel to Italy forever! We are trying to save up to make it an epic trip. Your photos are beautiful, and these are great tips for traveling. I will have to keep this in mind when we finally make it.

  18. My mouth completely dropped when you showed the garden photo. That's one of my favorite things to do while I'm traveling...find botanical gardens. Italy was SUCH beautiful place and I would totally honeymoon there.

  19. Um gelato, cannolis, pizza! Love all the food and Italy looks breathtaking!

  20. wow a great views! we always dreaming of traveling to Italy!

  21. i like the pizza! it looks so tasty!! i want to bring my family in Italy someday!

  22. What an incredible place this must be to visit. The views and the food would be a dream to experience.

  23. What an awesome guide! Looks like you had a blast!

  24. I've never been to Sicily, but Italy is on the top of my list. I want to explore the entire country, especially the cuisine.

  25. Oh my goodness, I am so jealous! My husband and I have this dream of going to Italy one day and spending as much time as we can there visiting all the sites. Sicily looks amazing!

  26. I love Taormina! We have been twice and we just adore it! The Greco Theater is my fav!! haha by I'm biased since my last name is Greco! Did you have granita and brioche, its delicious!

  27. Looks lovely. I was in Sardinia this past summer and absolutely adored it.

  28. Beautiful! I haven't been to Sicily yet, I've only been to Northern Italy. Oh that gelato!!

  29. Wow, what a gorgeous place! I've only visited the Amalfi Coast and Northern Italy, but I do hope to make it to southern Italy one day soon!

  30. We travel a lot and I love anything that is all about exploring nature's beauty. Sicily looks beautiful and the pictures are so inviting that I would love to go for a visit anytime with my husband!

  31. I studied abroad in Italy two summers ago and I've been kicking myself ever since for never traveling to Sicily! Two of the girls I roomed with visited there and they absolutely loved it. (One of the girls even studied abroad in Calabria!) Italy seriously is the most breathtaking country. I have no idea how the water looks that beautiful & blue/gree, but it does! For sure!

  32. Fantastic blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any suggestions? Many thanks!
    6 seater minibus hire Manchester

  33. Thanks for the blog loaded with so many information. Stopping by your blog helped me to get what I was looking for. Cheap Cruise Deals

  34. Excellent and very exciting site. Love to watch. Keep Rocking. Yoga Teacher Trainings