The sea around Taormina, the 'Pearl of the Ionian Sea', is one of the best swimming/bathing areas in Italy and the world; almost 10km of seafront which stretch from the railway station of the same name to the Letojanni district. To enjoy the spectacular coasts under Taormina, it is advisable to be guided by a boatman along the most beautiful parts of the coast: to discover rocky cliffs, 'faraglioni' rock outcrops, grottoes and beautiful inlets. A fascinating play on light, created by the sun's reflections, on the intense green on parts of the coast, on the colour of the rocks on the edge of the sea and on the seaweed on the sea bottom.
Refraction of light on the waters, above all inside the picturesque grottoes. Among the various grottoes, the most spectacular is the famous "Grotta Azzurra" ('Blue Grotto'), which is one of the most enchanting grottoes along the rocky coastline of the Taormina beaches: this grotto is situated at the cape of Sant'Andrea. It is entered by boat, in groups or singly. For those people who are in love and on holiday, it is obviously a 'must', evocative and exhiliarating like none other. The other renowned maritime areas in the Taormina area are the Baia delle Sirene ('Bay of Mermaids') in the bay of Spisone, the little Baia di Mazzarò - a real attraction bordered by Capo Sant'Andrea and then Isola Bella which encloses a small bay, a characteristic and exclusive seaside destination noted for its beautiful marine colours and appreciated not only by residents but also by tourists. Among the other notable geographic characteristics, there are also the 'faraglioni' rock outcrops at Capo Taormina.
The marine park reserves
Isola Bella is one of the obligatory destinations for those who are on holiday in the 'Pearl of the Ionian Sea'. The little island situated in the centre of the bay, once the property of a wealthy family, is today a Nature Reserve of the Sicily region. In this area, there are examples of fauna and flora which are unique in the world. The inlets and creeks with the high summits of Monte Tauro protect the beach from strong currents and winds, guaranteeing a particularly mild climate even in winter. Due to the beauty of the place and its special atmospheric conditions, the island was already a private holiday place at the beginning of the 19th century. It was then abandoned until the 50s and was finally acquired by the region of Sicily in 1990, who made it a nature reserve run by the Italian WWF. It is a protected marine area and is part of the Marine Parks of Sicily. The area is divided into two areas: Zone A comprises the island, the rocks, the sandy isthmus, while Zone B comprises the Sant'Andrea promontory and the beach up the railway line. Among the wild flora, which also contains exotic plants, a large number of birds nest here. The sea calls all those who are fond of 'seawatching', for the abundance of marine life and the beauty of the sea bottom. Those who are fond of scuba diving can explore the marine depths which are full of mediterranean flora and can go to the special "Zi Gennaro" rock whose depth does not exceed 10 metres, but further out drops down suddenly to 45 metres.
Isole Ciclopi ('Cyclops Islands')
A few miles southwards from Isola Bella, on the evocative Ionian coast, there is another Marine Park - the "Isole Ciclopi". This marine area became a protected area in 1989 and covers 660 hectares, comprising the territory of Aci Castello, Aci Trezza, Capo Mulini and a small archipelago of islands: Lachea, Faraglione Grande, Faraglione Piccolo and Faraglione degli Uccelli. This marine area has a lot of biodiversity. The sea bottom has lots of ravines, grottoes and rocky outcrops with a rich variety of species, creating an ever-changing scenery with different depths; ancient rocky outcrops with sponges and gorgonia coral, seahorses and timid needle fish, starfish and shoals of white seabream and other colourful fish, making you think you are in a tropical sea. This area originated with the first volcanic activity of Etna, which also created the Faraglioni on the surface, a place of incomparable beauty. The "Isole Ciclopi" protected marine area is managed by a Consortium of the Acicastello Council and the Catania-Cutgana University, to promote development which is compatible with the local tourist industry. There are numerous initiatives for those who are fond of the underwater world. Qualified experts can guide tourists on diving immersions to discover the ichthyic fauna (fish life) and the archaeological wonders found underwater. Indeed, there are several underwater itineraries: Stagnitta - Archaeological Itinerary - Casa del Principe - Punta Aguzza - Faro di Capo Mulini - I Panettoni - Pietra del Lido - Faraglione di Mezzo - Faraglione Piccolo. A glass-bottomed boat allows 30 tourists to admire the majestic sea bottom, in absolute safety, with expert marine biologists as guides. For information and visits, contact the headquarters of the consortium at the Acicastello council in Via Dante 28 or the visitors' centre of Acitrezza, Via Provinciale 226. Tel/Fax: 095 7117322. email: email@example.com - www.isoleciclopi.it
The protected marine area of the Egadi Islands was created in 1991 and comprises all the archipelago of three islands: Favignana, Marettimo and Levanzo, besides numerous little islands and rocky outcrops such as the little island of Formica, the rocks of Maraone and the rocks of Porcelli. www.ampegadi.it
Isola di Ustica
The Island of Ustica was made a protected marine area in 1986 and is a real paradise for underwater enthusiasts. Of volcanic origin, it has a rugged coast and lots of inlets. Among the most evocative are Cala Sidoti, Cala Santa Maria, Corruggio. On the sea bottom full of fish , there are mullet, mackerel, sea bass, sea bream, octopus, moray eels, croakers or jewfish, large groupers which let you get close to them without being afraid. A tourist motorboat allows passengers to admire the splendid sea bottom through the large glass windows in the keel. The area has various marine routes for those with masks and fins/flippers accompanied by specialised guides. An aquarium situated at Punta Spalmatore reproduces the marine environment for visitors.
Isola delle Femmine - Capo Gallo
The Island became a protected marine area in 2002 and is situated in the Gulf of Carini. The island has a flora heritage of over 144 species and is a refuge for a colony of herring gulls, cormorants, herons, kingfishers. The sea bottom surrounding the island is interesting , abundant with 'poseidonie' sea urchins, red gorgonia corals hiding groupers, lobsters. In the shallower depths there are starfish, seahorses, octopus, sea urchins. Also the underwater flora of the island includes over a hundred species of seaweed, among which is the Mediteranean Cystoseira.
The Aeolian Islands
The Aeolian Islands, also called the Lipari Islands, were declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2000. It is an archipelago of volcanic origins, situated in the Tyrrhenian Sea in the province of Messina, north of Sicily. They comprise 2 active volcanoes, Stromboli, the most famous for its continuous eruptions, and Vulcano, which also has various volcanic phenomena on most of the island, such as fumaroles and hot spring water sources which reach incredible temperatures and are used for thermal baths, mud baths etc.. The archipelago consists of the following islands: Lipari, Vulcano, Alicudi, Filicudi and Salina, Panarea with the small basalt rock islets of Basiluzzo and Lisca Bianca, and lastly, Stromboli with its nearby rock outcrop of Strombolicchio. According to Greek mythology, the islands got their name from the God of the Winds, Aeolus. Aeolus took refuge on these islands and gave them the name, thanks to his ability to tame the winds. The seven islands each have completely different characteristics, from the wordly and chic Panarea to the wild and distant Alicudi, but all of them are set in the same fantastic sea: A sea of transparent water with colours ranging from cobalt blue to turquoise green, abundant in life and testimony of the past, with archaeological sites hiding shipwrecks that were laden with treasures. The sea bottom of these islands range up to a depth of 2,000 metres, creating a marvellous scenario of grottoes, rocks, submerged mountains, obsidian rock faces, sea bottom with white pumice stone, shallows... which all make this archipelago a sought-after destination for scuba divers, who can admire the underwater panoramas with incomparable beauty. The marine life of the islands is abundant with every species of fish and vegetation. Seabeds of poseidonia marine plants and gorgonia corals hide all kinds of marine fauna, crustaceans, molluscs, pelagic or blue fish, lobsters and especially swordsfish and tuna fish which are abundant all around the islands. Unesco has seen the need to protect this marine area for its high historical, cultural and naturalistic value. The naturalistic beauties cited are a real example of how the sea of Taormina, and more generally, of all Sicily, can really offer a lot to tourists. Everything reaches the peak of beauty and wonder when it is joined with the monuments and the historical and cultural immensity of the place that you want to visit.