TAORMINA, perched high on Monte Tauro, with Mount Etna as backdrop, looks down on two grand, sweeping bays and is Sicily’s best-known resort. D.H. Lawrence was so enraptured that he lived here from 1920–23, in a house at the top of the valley cleft, behind the remains of the Greek theatre. Although international tourism has taken its toll, Taormina is still a very charming town, peppered with small, intimate piazzas. The single traffic-free main street is an unbroken line of fifteenth- to nineteenth-century palazzi decked out with flower-filled balconies, and there is an agreeably crumbly castle. The downside is that between June and August it’s virtually impossible to find anywhere to stay, and the narrow alleys are shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists. April, May or September are slightly better, but to avoid the crowds completely come between October and March, when it’s often still warm enough to swim in the sea.
As well as the Greek theatre, there are several vestiges of Roman Taormina around town, including a small Odeon (used for musical recitations) next to the tourist office. Really, though, Taormina’s attractions are all to do with strolling and window-shopping along the Corso. Centre of town is Piazza IX Aprile, with its restored twelfth-century Torre dell’Orologio and fabulous views of Etna and the bay from the terraces of its pricey cafés.