The Italian name of Isola Bella contains both a truth and a misnomer: though worthy of being called beautiful, this tiny rocky outcrop along Sicily’s coast near Taormina is not actually an island. Located off the Lido Mazzaro beach on the Mediterranean Sea, Isola Bella is connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of sand that is often covered with water at high tide. The picturesque point was gifted to Taormina in 1806 by the King of Sicily and later purchased by the Scottish Lady Florence Trevelyan—her villa still sits on the highest point—until being taken over by the region of Sicily and made a nature reserve in 1990.
You can walk out to Isola Bella when the strip of beach connecting it to the mainland is not covered by water, but it’s best to visit this "beautiful island" by sea. Boat tours exploring the coastline of Taormina typically include a sail along Capo Taormina and a stop at the Grotta Azzurra sea cave. The craggy coast is a popular destination for snorkeling and diving tours, and full-day tours sometimes include lunch at a seaside restaurant featuring fresh fish and local wine. Other popular day trips or shore excursions that can be combined with a boat trip include a walk through the hilltop village of Castelmola above Taormina; a hike on Mount Etna, the largest volcano in Italy; or a trip to the popular resort town of Giardini Naxos.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Bring your swimsuit if taking a boat tour or simply exploring the island by foot, as the beaches are prime for sunbathing and taking a dip.
- Don't forget a hat, sunblock, and plenty of water to stave off the heat if hiking on the island.
- Passengers must be agile enough to board and disembark on boat tours, so travelers with limited mobility should confirm accessibility before booking.
How to Get to There
Isola Bella is located along the Taormina coast halfway between the cities of Messina and Catania, and can be reached on foot from the mainland at certain times of day, or by boat from any city along the Sicilian coast.
When to Get There
Sicily is most crowded in summer, when Italians flock to its beaches to escape the heat. Late spring and early fall have days that are warm enough to take a swim in the crystalline waters off Isola Bella without the hassle of the summer crowds.
Taormina's Famous Sights
Most excursions to Isola Bella depart from Taormina, so be sure to see some of this beautiful city's most remarkable monuments, including the Ancient Theatre of Taormina, the Cattedrale di Taormina, the Villa Comunale gardens, Corso Umberto, and Piazza IX Aprile.