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Isola Bella, the Alcantara River Park and Castelmola

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Isola Bella, the Alcantara River Park and Castelmola

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Isola Bella, the Alcantara River Park and Castelmola

Our tourists’ guide to Taormina offers three trips outside the town, to discover places that seem out of this world, in an oasis of peace and quiet that will remain with you forever.
  • The Isola Bella Nature Reserve
    Considered to be the “Pearl of the Ionian”, due to its wild but unspoilt beauty, in spite of Man’s presence, Isola Bella is protected by the WWF and was recently declared a Nature Reserve. It is a magical place that cannot be missed if you are near Taormina.
    This small island can be reached from the town along long groups of staircases and lanes, crossing over the National Strada Statale, down Monte Tauro 200 meters until you reach sea level where the island is connected to the land by a thin strip of sand.
    The best period to visit this area is from the beginning of spring to the first days of autumn. There are several sea birds that live in this place: Herring Gulls, Kingfishers, Peregrine Falcons, Cormorants, and Grey Herons. The luxuriant vegetation on Isola Bella is a fantastic mixture of Mediterranean scrub and rare exotic plants, imported by its original owner, the eccentric Miss Travelyan.
    The sea beds surrounding the island are also amazing from Nature’s point of view: if you have mask, snorkel and flippers, even the most inexpert explorer can look at a spectacle that will stay impressed on your minds forever. This stretch of sea is home to multitudes of organisms, various species of seaweed, multi-colored fish, all sizes of crustaceans and other living beings.
  • How to get to Isola Bella from Taormina
    • In Via Pirandello you can take the municipal cableway to Mazzarò. Once there, turn right onto the National Strada Statale: the entrance to the Reserve is about 200 meters away.
    • If you want to walk, cross Via Pirandello onto the viewing point “Isola Bella”: from there, there is a path made of stairs and lanes that take you right up to the Reserve entrance.
  • Alcantara River Park
    Alcantara River Park, an extremely attractive place about 25 km Taormina, is famous for all its Gole, or gorges, fashioned into the rock by geological phenomena whose origins are lost in the mists of time. All this took place when, long ago, a small volcano erupted and spurted out a mass of lava that formed a huge crack. In the part of its path where there was most clay, the lava sunk to a depth that formed two large black columns of basalt that were 50 meters high. This crack is now run along by the River Alcantara, whose name comes from the Arabic Al Qantarah. A visit to the Gole dell’Alcantara, walking along a small stretch of the river bed, is a truly unique experience, but it can only be done from May to September, when the water level lowers. If you want to try out this adventure, we advise you to wear “river boots” (like the ones with braces used by river fishermen), as a safety measure and to stop you from getting cold: the river water is freezing even in summer! At other times of the year, trips there only go as far as the entrance to the gorges. The sight before you is amazing: the gorges, so black and prismatic, create wonderful reflections of light and shadows as soon as the sun hits their surface.
  • Castelmola
    This is a tiny, picturesque village that is about 500 meters above sea level, with a fantastic view looking out over the sea.
    This is an ancient town. Castelmola was built to defend Taormina from the attacks of potential invaders. There is still an atmosphere of “old times” that transmits a feeling of temporarily going back in time. This feeling is made even stronger by the fact that no cars can be driven in Castelmola.
    The cathedral dedicated to San Nicolò of Bari and the seventeenth century church built to honor San Giorgio are very characteristic. Castelmola is famous for its vino alle mandorle and for the medieval castle ruins.
  • Not to be missed
    • The splendid view from Piazza Belvedere that takes in the land, the sea and Etna
    • A few bottles of the almond wine for your friends and relatives back home
    • Bar Turrisi: a very “special” place that will amaze you, we are sure.

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