When the sun starts to rise on one of those hot summer days in Sicily, Giardini-Naxos is the place to be. Naxos was the first Greek settling in Sicily, founded in 735 BC. It is a bustling little coastal town, featuring one of the most beautiful bays of the island, with white sand and a wonderful view of Taormina. Giardini-Naxos is a sought after holiday resort in Sicily, not only because it is just a stone’s throw away from Taormina and because of it’s fantastic beach, but also for the great views, the bars, cafés, restaurants, clubs, beach parties and its nightlife. Not to speak of the fact that hotel rates are much lower than in Taormina.
The coastline is almost 4 km long and there are several beaches: the big fine sandy one in the bay of Naxos, some small rocky bays with pebbly beaches and another long beach in the hotel zone Recanati. Some of them are for free, while others are equipped with umbrellas, sun beds, showers, cabins and water sport facilities. At these lidos you will always find a restaurant and bar, selling ice cream, chilled drinks and something to eat. Even in the small rocky bays you will find these services, it is more basic and quiet there, with beach huts and softer music.
The heart of Giardini-Naxos is the seafront with the busy Lungomare, which is bordered with pizzerias, restaurants, bars, lidos, hotels and shops. You can walk the whole bay along the beach promenade, best just before sunset, when the evening passeggiata begins and everybody is outside – old ladies with their little dogs sitting on benches and chatting with their best friends, gentlemen sipping caffè, young people on scooters, families with toddlers in their pushchairs and travellers from all over the world. In summer the town is still buzzing after midnight, restaurants are open, and sure there is an event going on in the bay.
Giardini-Naxos is often considered when visiting Taormina, as the hotels and restaurants here have much friendlier prices than up in Taormina. There are several hotels, private villas, apartments and B&B to cater for all budgets.
Things to do and see in Giardini Naxos
There are a few sights that are worth seeing. The church “Chiesa di Santa Maria Raccomandata” dates back to the 18th century, and underwent a very successful restoration back in the 19th century. It holds the beautiful 15th century-painting of the “Madonna di Porto Salvo”.
The archaeological park's museum is worth a visit. It features founds of the ancient town and from shipwrecks.
The beaches invite for sunbathing and the clear waters for swimming. There are several diving schools offering diving and snorkelling trips to Capo Taormina, where Luc Besson's cult movie “The Big Blue” was filmed, to Isola Bella, the Grotta Azzurra and the bay of Mazzarò. You can hire a bike and explore the coastline cycling. Giardini-Naxos is an excellent spot to go on excursions to Mount Etna, Taormina, Palermo, Agrigento, Catania, Syracuse and the Aeolian Islands.
For movie fans we recommend a half day tour – or by car or by organized excursion – to Savoca, Forza D’Agrò and the really beautiful old-fashioned train station of Taormina. Wander in the footsteps of the “Godfather”.
Shopping in Giardini-Naxos
Perfume, ceramics and souvenir shops are to find along the Lungomare, as well as a supermarket and a small outlet of the elegant designer shop “Scandurra” of Taormina. At Via Nazionale you will find pharmacies, flower shops, home ware and telephone shops as well as a big toy shop and shoe shops. Clothing and shoes are far less expensive than in Taormina. Shops are usually open till late night.
Every Saturday from 07.00 h to 13.00 h, the street leading to Hotel Sant’Alphio Garden diverts into a market. From shoes, flowers, balcony plants, lingerie, dried fruits, fashion jewellery to home ware, clothing, imitation discs and handbags, belts, cosmetics and table cloths you will find everything you don’t really need – but it’s fun to have a look.
Restaurants and bars in Giardini-Naxos
A night out in Giardini-Naxos starts with an extended dinner. The Lungomare is bordered with pizzerias and restaurants, which serve delicious local specialties at reasonable prices. In Recanati you will find several good restaurants, and also at the lidos you eat very well – best example “Frontemare”, the restaurant of Lido di Naxos. Bars, cafés and pubs serve street food, crepes, pastries and ice cream.
Nightlife in Giardini-Naxos
The nightlife of Giardini-Naxos is great. There are several clubs, cocktail and lounge bars, and restaurants serving Sicilian specialties and fresh sea food. And let’s not forget about the musicians in traditional costumes going from restaurant to restaurant playing Sicilian folklore. In summer events and dance parties take place at the beach, and theme parties in discotheques.
Accommodation in Giardini-Naxos
Giardini-Naxos offers hotels directly located at the bay, in town, and on the picturesque black lava coast and in Recanati you will find a hotel zone with 3 and 4 star hotels and plenty of holiday apartments. Often you can see from your room the smoking Mount Etna and Taormina, or the sparkling dark blue Mediterranean Sea. The most popular resort is the four star ATA Hotel Naxos Beach Resort with a private beach. If you prefer a more intimate place, book a room in the cute two star superior Hotel Villa Mora in town, only 30 m from the beach. Travellers with a tight budget should try Giannihouse, a very clean and neat hostel. We recommend Giannihouse also for families, who like to spend their holiday budget more on excursions and eating pizza rather than for a luxurious roof over their heads.
Events in Giardini-Naxos
End of July the Sagra del Pesce – the fish kermis – takes place at the enchanting small fishermen’s port Saja at the end of the bay, where the authentic spirit of the old fisher’s world is still alive. Around 10th of August Giardini-Naxos celebrates the Festa di San Pancrazio, patron saint of the town, with a big procession to the sea. End of September starts the week of book fans with Naxoslegge – Naxos is reading. Eight days of cultural events dedicated to literature. Find more events in Sicily here
If you are on a sailing trip, the next yacht harbour to Giardini is in Riposto. There are local bus connections (Interbus). Marina di Riposte offers 366 berths and all facilities. The office staff speak English and French. Many yachts also anchor in the bay of Giardini-Naxos below the ATA Hotel Capotaormina. There are 20 orange mooring buoys here, available for hire during summer months. More information for sailors are here
How to get to Giardini-Naxos
Take the A 18/E45 from Messina (25 min), Syracuse (1 h 15 min) and Catania (50 min), the A 19/18/E45 from Palermo via Catania (2 h 30 min) and Cefalù (2 h10 min), from Ragusa and Modica SS 115/A18/E45 via Syracuse and Catania (2 h 20 min), from Noto the A18/E45 ( 1 h 30 min).
By bus & train
Buses from Messina and Catania arrive at the Bus Terminal in Recanati, while trains from these towns pull in at the station Taormina-Giardini at the bottom of the hill. Local buses bring you the rest of the way. Catania Airport is the nearest airport, about 55 km away from Giardini-Naxos. The last local bus (Interbus) departs at 20.15 h from Catania airport, so if you arrive late, think about renting a car, because a taxi is quite expensive – a ride costs up to € 100,00. We also recommend booking a private transfer in advance. See more at Services…
If you arrive at Palermo it is best to rent a car, just take the highway A 19 to Catania and from Catania the highway A 18 to Messina – exit Giardini-Naxos.