A brief introduction to Giardini Naxos
Giardini Naxos is a small town with an exotic name located on the eastern Sicilian coast in Messina district. Giardini Naxos takes its name from ancient Greece. In fact, the Chalcidese settlers from the east founded the first Greek colony in Sicily in Giardini in the 7th century BC. Instead, the first part of the town name "Giardini" originates from the Persian word Jiardin which in Sicilian language means citrus grove. In fact, Giardini Naxos, until the 60s of the last century, produced large quantities of citrus fruits. I begin the article by mentioning the etymology of the name of Giardini Naxos because tourists who arrive in Giardini often go in search of these gardens that do not actually exist. Let's see what there is to do and see in Giardini Naxos.
Why choose Giardini Naxos for a holiday in Sicily?
Giardini Naxos thrives on tourism; in 2019, the tourist presence exceeded nine hundred thousand units, not bad for a village of just eight thousand inhabitants. But why choose Giardini for a holiday in Sicily? The geographical position of Giardini Naxos located between Taormina, the Alcantara Valley, and Mount Etna makes Giardini one of the ideal places to explore the eastern Sicilian coast. Syracuse is only 80 kilometers away, while Catania and the international airport of Fontanarossa can be reached in just 45 minutes either by car or through a convenient railway service, departing each hour from Giardini Naxos train station. Giardini Naxos has a series of enchanting beaches, some with fine sand and others with pebbles, and the sea is crystal clear. The marine park of Isola Bella is only five kilometers from Giardini. At the same time, those who want to enjoy the nightlife can reach Taormina in just ten minutes. The accommodation offer is vast, from B&B to four-star hotels with spas and pools by the sea. July and August are the hottest and most crowded months. June, September, and the beginning of October are undoubtedly the ideal months to enjoy the best of this small Sicilian town.
What to do in Giardini Naxos
The list of things to do in Giardini Naxos is long, so I thought I'd make a top five of my favorite excursions. For those who want to find out more, I suggest visiting Sicily Active.com. The website specializes in outdoor activities, and the menù is divided for geographic locations, easy to navigate, and full of exciting ideas.
1 Body rafting at the Alcantara Gorges
Just twenty minutes from Giardini Naxos is the spectacular canyon of the Alcantara gorges, crossed by a crystalline river. The geology that distinguishes this beautiful place is unique in all of Italy. The basalt rocks walls are breathtaking. The best way to visit the Alcantara Gorges is through a Body Rafting tour. Between jumps, use of zip lines, and river trekking, you can reach the wildest part of this beautiful Sicilian canyon. The price of the tour is just € 39 per person and lasts three hours.
2 Mount etna Tours
Etna is only 42 kilometers away from Giardini Naxos. This volcano is among the most active on the planet and deserves to be visited. There are many tours available to visit Etna; for those visiting Sicily for the first time, I suggest the Etna and Alcantara Gorge tour. With a single eight-hour tour, you can see two of the most iconic places in eastern Sicily. The tour price is € 69 and includes transportation.
3 Boat trip to Isola Bella
Tell me, who doesn't love a relaxing boat ride while sipping a prosecco wine? The boat tour from Giardini Naxos that I suggest, costs only € 20; it includes fresh fruit, drinks, and a visit to four bays, including the picturesque marine park of Isola Bella in Taormina. The departure of the boat tours takes place from Giardini Naxos harbor or from one of the four private piers.
4 Wine Tasting
Although Sicily is not known for its wines, I assure you that the latest generation of winemakers has produced wines of excellent quality. A visit to a winery on the slopes of Etna is a great opportunity to discover both the beauty of the Sicilian countryside and its cuisine. A typical Mt. Etna wine tasting tour costs around € 99 and includes; Transport, guide, food and, wines.
Mountain Bike tour
For lovers of two wheels, I suggest a bike tour of the hillside villages. The bike tour that we recommend is the one that passes through the town of Castiglione di Sicilia. This Mountain bike ride crosses two valleys and this splendid village. The Alcantara bike tour cost is € 59, and in addition to the bike, it also includes transport and a guide.
Giardini Naxos beaches
I begin this chapter by telling you that all the beaches of Giardini Naxos are super crowded in August. Still, maybe… .you can find a corner of peace! As for the previous chapter on "Excursions from Giardini Naxos", For this chapter I will also create a top five of the best beaches in Giardini Naxos. Over the years, there are left just a few "free" beaches in Giardini Naxos, so if you want fine sand, be ready to pay for it. Prices for two sunbeds and an umbrella range from € 10 to € 25. The names I used for the beaches are those with which they are known by the locals. So if you are not sure where the beach you want to visit is located, just ask someone using the Italian name. Please keep in mind that when I use the word “free,” I mean that you won't be charged to access a certain beach. According to Italian law, anybody can pass inside a beach club to reach the sea. The last five meters of shoreline cannot be occupied by any private business, never, and anybody can use it free of charge!
1 Spiaggia del Pirata
In reality, this beach has various names. This small volcanic bay is enchanting, the sea is crystal clear, and you can choose whether to use the free beach or one of the two beach clubs. This Giardini Naxos beach can only be reached on foot, meaning that it is never super crowded. As a reference point, take the "Carabinieri station" (Police station) a little further on the opposite side; you will see a path and the signs pointing to the two beach clubs. Once you reach the sea, turn left and pass the two beaches. The food served at the Pirata beach club is one of the best in Giardini Naxos, the pasta with sea urchins is very good.
This is the most coveted beach in Giardini Naxos because it comprises fine sand and a wide shore. Most of the beach is occupied by private lidos (beach club) only on the south side; there is a small strip of free beach with old boats. Under San Pancrazio church on the north side, there is another tiny strip of sandy beach.
3 Recanati Pietre Nere
This beach is wide but located outside the Gulf of Giardini Naxos and not protected by a bay; the water is suddenly deep. The beach is made up of a mixture of gravel and sand; the view of Mount Etna is phenomenal. If you like this beach, I recommend the "Stella Marina" beach club, two sunbeds and an umbrella cost only € 10. The drinks are of good quality, the food is always fresh, and the atmosphere is laid back
4 Between San Giovanni church and Piazza Municipio
This is a short stretch of coastline between the church of San Giovanni (the ugly pointed one that looks like an upside-down artichoke) and Piazza Municipio (Town Hall Square of Giardini Naxos). This stretch of coast of Giardini Naxos offers crystal water, small beaches, never super crowded, frequented by locals. The sea is crystal clear, and rocks' presence makes it one of the ideal places for snorkeling. There are only two beach clubs in this area, but the rest of the beaches are free of charge. My favorite spot is the beach right under the town hall because a restaurant with a panoramic terrace serves delicious fish dishes at lunchtime.
5 Spiaggia sotto la stazione (the beach below the train station)
Giardini Naxos restaurants
The choice for restaurants in Giardini Naxos is vast. Still, I want to recommend those that I have personally tried and that I continue to use. The average cost for fresh fish is around €45/55 per kg. Stay away from sea bass and sea bream 99 times out of ten this two speies of fish are farmed and should cost round €15/20 per kg. but some restaurant will try to sell it as "Wid catch of the day".
1 Pura Vida
The Mediterranean atmosphere of this restaurant is an added value to the quality of the fish they serve. Giorgio, the owner, has a fish shop, so the freshness of the products is guaranteed, plus his bubbly and light-hearted character will make the whole experience unforgettable. The house's specialty is seafood and oysters. The pasta dishes are also phenomenal. The restaurant is located in the Piazza Municipio area (Townhall square)
2 Le desir picant "Da Roberto"
This small and cozy restaurant with a terrace overlooking the sea offers Mediterranean and ethnic cuisine. After traveling for years between South America and Southeast Asia, Roberto, the owner has learned to cook the typical dishes of those places. In addition to an exotic menù Roberto prepare some excellent Sicilian dishes of the Sicilian tradition.
3 The Lido Il Pirata
This restaurant in Giardini Naxos is open for lunch and sometimes also for dinner. For those wishing to go to Il Pirata at dinner time, I recommend you to call. The restaurant is on the beach, the risottos are delicious, but their specialty is the raw fish. Remember that the road to the beach where the Il Pirata restaurant is located is only accessible on foot. The road leading to the restaurant is located near the Giardini Naxos Carabinieri police station.
This is indeed the best pub in Giardini Naxos. The spirits they serve are of the best quality; live music is the trademark of Sotto Sopra. The menu includes starters, salads, and a selection of burgers with excellent quality meat. The SottoSopra is located in the Schisò district in front of the Naxos beach.
This restaurant is located around the Piazza Municipio area. The owner of this small "trattoria" nicknamed Nino "U Mricanu" ( Antony The American) cooks excellent first courses, raw fish, and second courses. Still, in my opinion, their pizza is the best you can find in Giardini Naxos.
What to see in Giardini Naxos
Well, well, what to see in Giardini Naxos? I'll be brutal in answering this question; There is nothing worth seeing in Giardini Naxos. Giardini Naxos is a lovely town by the sea, the ideal location to visit Etna and the surrounding villages, a place full of a good restaurants. But If you are planning to see monuments, beautiful churches, and historical sites, you need to visit the towns close to Giardini Naxos. The Alcantara Valley, like the Agrò valley, is full of villages worth a visit, and both places are just 20 minutes away from Naxos. For those looking to spend a day enjoying the beauty of Italian art, I suggest a 40 minutes drive to Catania. But there must be something worth a visit in Giardini Naxos; yes, the archeological park can represent an opportunity to enjoy a walk in the Ancient Naxos, founded in the 7th century B.C. by the Greek settlers. Inside the Giardini Naxos archeological park, there is a museum housing greek and Roman finds. That is pretty much all. Believe me, I'm born and raised in Giardini Naxos, and I do not enjoy saying that Giardini does not house any interesting monument but this is the truth. Giardini Naxos is about the sea, the view of Mount Etna, good food, and a perfect geographical position to visit the east coast of Sicily.