Sicily offers visitors many activities, many of which are on the island’s east side. When visiting this area both Catania and Taormina seem amazing places to stay. Today, we’ll discover if it’s Catania or Taormina that’s better for your style of travel.
On the surface, both towns seem quite similar. They are roughly in the same area on the island so it’s easy to reach both from Catania airport and both towns have amazing views of the Etna. However, upon visiting each town you’ll discover that they are indeed quite different and some travelers prefer one over the other.
So let’s jump into our comparison list and see which city is better for you. We’ll draw multiple comparisons so you can decide if it’s Taormina or Catania that fits your style of traveling better.
The City: Catania or Taormina
First, we are going to draw a comparison of the actual two cities. How they are and what kind of atmosphere you can expect when you visit them.
Catania is a true Italian city. Tourism might be a big employer here but there are also other businesses and tourists easily mingle with the locals. This place is a breathing living big city, with people going on their business and attending their 9-5 during weekdays.
This is both great and bad. It’s great as it gives you a nice opportunity to experience real Sicily. You get an atmosphere that’s truly local and if you want to meet Sicilians then this is the place to be. You’ll see the locals in the morning sipping coffee or going out for a drink in the evening.
You can still find touristy places in Catania though. The main square and the surrounding area are quite touristy but it’s not incredibly big.
Being a living and working city also has some downsides. In typical Italian fashion, the place is quite dirty. If you’ve been to other big Italian cities then this is not a big surprise but you can expect trash and overall dirty streets.
The streets are also filled with cars. Whether it’s parking that’s not available or the overall noise it’s simply a busy place. However, for some, the business is not a negative. As tourists and locals fill up the city it becomes quite the spectacle and has a unique atmosphere. We personally loved it, but it’s definitely too much for others.
Taormina is very much focused on tourism. It might look like a historic Sicilian town on the surface but it’s a full-on tourist resort in reality. Built atop a mountain it has beautiful vistas and cute streets.
Most of the central streets in Taormina are walking only. This means less noise pollution but there are a lot of people visiting at any given time.
Taormina is an amazing place for tourists. It’s filled with some exceptional restaurants and bars. This town also has one of the highest numbers of five-star hotels in Sicily. It’s simply a paradise when it comes to tourism.
However, we’ve found Taormina on the ‘flashy’ side of things. While there are accommodations from cheap to expensive, we feel that expensive is actually the name of the game here.
This however reflects on the actual streets as well. While most of Italy can be a bit dirty, we’ve felt that the streets of Taormina are kept pristine. Maybe it’s the fact that most tourists use them, or the fact that this is a resort town. Regardless, this place is actually very clean.
Location: Taormina or Catania
Now, we’ve taken a look at the feel and atmosphere of the cities. Let’s see about the location.
This time we are starting with Taormina. It’s a town that’s built on a hilltop. When it comes to beautiful views and vistas Taormina gets a 10/10.
The hilltop location means you’ll get some amazing hotel rooms with exceptional views. On one side you’ve got the sea and the shore while on the other side, you’ve got the Etna. It’s just a beautiful place.
However, this hilltop location also comes with some drawbacks. For example, the train station is not up the hills. In fact, it’s quite a steep walk from the train station to the actual city center. There are buses available which are a better option from Taormina.
Etna, Catania, and Ortigia are all easily accessible from here. However, if you want to do some more exploration you may need to rent a car (usually hard to find free parking) or change trains/buses. Not the most convenient.
Honestly, though, a vacation in Taormina is mostly focused on relaxing. You can still visit some of the most important attractions while you take it slow and walk the beautiful streets of Taormina and have a vacation where you recharge fully.
Catania is very conveniently located in a central location along the east coast of Sicily. Although, technically a coastal town, in reality, you’ll probably see very little of the sea. Most attractions and restaurants are inside the city and not on the coast.
Catania has one huge advantage over Taormina and it’s transportation. First of all, the airport is in Catania. This means getting into the town is super easy and convenient. You also have the train station in Catania which allows access to any major town in the area.
When it comes to things like guided tours Catania also has a bit more advantage. As it’s a bigger city there are more tour operators available and the prices are usually more affordable.
Catania is a great choice if you are looking to explore as much of this area of Sicily as possible. You’ll have better connectivity and even if you rent a car, it’s a bit easier to park in Catania.
Prices: Catania or Taormina
Finally, let’s compare the pricing of hotels and restaurants for both cities.
When it comes to prices, Catania will always be the cheaper option. As it’s a city where both locals and tourists mix there are tons of restaurants and bars that offer competitive pricing even for locals.
It’s especially true when you consider street food and authentic local restaurants. You can find some absolute gems in Catania and while some of these gems are pricy, others are cheap, affordable, and great.
You’ve also got a nice selection of cheap hotels in town. Property prices are much better in Catania than they are in Taormina which drives down the overall hotel pricing. You can find some amazing hotels here.
Taormina is more expensive. In fact, we’ve felt that Taormina has an overall ‘fancy’ atmosphere. There are many 5-star hotels and many exclusive restaurants, and the views over the sea from some of the balconies are truly breathtaking.
That’s not to say you can’t find cheap accommodation options in Taormina. In fact, there are plenty of hotels, but rooms are limited so you need to book in advance.
On the other hand, if you are actually looking for top-of-the-line service, then Taormina is probably better for you than Catania. You’ve simply got more choices and when it comes to luxury, Taormina has it all.
What we really missed from Taormina are affordable street food options. Yes, there are some places, but it’s nothing compared to Catania. Yet, the restaurants are usually great, and apart from some tourist traps, they offer good value. More expensive, but you are paying for the atmosphere and view.
If you ask us a non-objective opinion then we’ll tell you this: Catania is better for a holiday where you plan to spend a lot of time exploring and Taormina is better if you want to kick back and relax.
Simply put, Catania is well connected to the rest of the island. You can grab a train and explore different cities or find some super cheap car rental and be on your way to explore the whole island.
Meanwhile, Taormina has all the views, all the amenities, and all the relaxing options. Although Taormina is busy, it never feels like it’s ‘rush hour’. Everyone is just strolling along and enjoying the nice weather and the views.
Taormina is especially good for couples. It’s probably one of the most romantic places in Sicily.