The 2021 guide to Isola Bella Taormina
Whoever visits Taormina or starts to do some research while planning a holiday to Sicily, sooner or later will come across the name Isola Bella. But what is it, Isola Bella? Where is it located? And Is it worth visiting it? What there is to do at Isola Bella in Sicily? Isola Bella can be defined as one of the most iconic places on the island of Sicily. In broad terms, Isola Bella is a marine park with crystal waters housing the famous blue cave of Taormina. But to be precise, Isola Bella is a big picturesque Rock in the middle of a horseshoe bay where high white cliffs plunge into the blue waters. Isola Bella houses a splendid tropical/Mediterranean garden, a villa, and a beautiful swimming pool overlooking the marine park waters. Isola Bella marks the boundary between the north and south side of this tiny but spectacular Sicilian marine reserve. With three others bays, Naxos, Mazzarò, and Mermaids bay, Isola Bella make up the most beautiful part of Sicily's east coast. Isola Bella marine reserve is located in Taormina's coastal town's municipal boundaries in the district of Messina. A visit to this place is a must while visiting Sicily's east coast. The crystal waters of Isola Bella offer a multitude of water sports, such as kayak, Sup, and snorkeling, with whom to explore Isola Bella Marine reserve waters. The most popular way to appreciate the beauty of the marine park of Isola Bella is by boat tour departing from Giardini Naxos harbor.
Isola Bella history
Donated in 1806 by Ferdinand I of Bourbon to Pancrazio Ciprioti, mayor of Taormina, Isola Bella was purchased in 1890 by Florence Trevelyan, an English gardener, builder of follies, and pioneering wildlife conservationist. Florence Trevelyan enhanced Isola Bella by building a tiny house and planting rare precious essences, making Isola Bella the home of various sea birds and interesting lizards. Isola Bella was then inherited by the lawyer—Cesare Acrosso, a godson adopted by Salvatore Cacciola, Florence Trevelyan Husband. In 1954 Leone and Emilio Bosurgi purchased Isola Bella of Taormina for 80 million lire (40 thousand euros). The Bosurgi brothers built a village with 12 autonomous residences and a tiny swimming pool disguised among rocks, and a greeny garden to cheer and host their entrepreneur and banker friends. The Bosurgi family-owned Sanderson, a historic citrus processing company based in Messina, a city on Sicily's east coast. In 1982 the Bosurgy family bankruptcy paved the way for the sale by judicial auction of the family assets that guaranteed its debts with sureties. Among these assets, there was also Isola Bella with its villa. A first auction was set for October 17, 1984, with a base of five and a half billion lire ( 2,5 million euros) and a minimum raise of one hundred million Italian lire (50 thousand euros); the action went deserted. Meanwhile, the institutions moved to protect Isola Bella's environmental heritage. On October 8, 1984, the Sicilian Region, at the request of the Municipality of Taormina, the Regional Department of Cultural Heritage declared Isola Bella a monument of historical and artistic interest of particular value as an "isolated example of unicum of naturalistic, historical and cultural value," subjecting it to protection restrictions. The decree regarded the island as a "natural monument." A new auction on March 6, 1985, despite the base being lowered by 20%, saw no buyers showing up. In 1990 the island was finally purchased by the Department of Cultural Heritage of the Sicilian Region. In 1998 a nature reserve was established, managed by the WWF, then by the Province of Messina, and recently passed under the management of CUTGANA, the environmental protection center of the University of Catania. With the establishment in 2010 of the Archaeological Parks, the management, use, protection, and enhancement of Isola Bella are currently a matter of the Archaeological Park of Giardini Naxos.
Isola Bella in the 21st Century
Nowadays, the Isola Bella Marine Park in Taormina is a notable tourist attraction. The entrance to the beach is free. Due to the many people who visit Isola Bella beach every day and the large number of boats whizzing through the central bay, marine life is under constant stress in July and August. New rules should be put in place to limit the number of people allowed to visit Isola Bella in a single day. A team of educators should explain to visitors how to minimize human impact on marine life. Until 2021, no restrictions are in place to prevent people from smoking on Isola Bella beach. In the summer of 2020, boats powered by petrol engines were banned from entering the beautiful blue grotto of Taormina, better late than never. We can say that this Italian natural treasure's management has not yet entered the 21st century, in terms of environmental protection, but it still functions as if we were still in the 1970s.
What to do at Isola Bella Beach?
What to do at Isola Bella? As a local guide, holidaymakers often ask me this question; that's why I thought it was a good idea to write a chapter about the available tours at Taormina's marine park. So let find out which tours are available at the marine park. Isola Bella Marine Park's crystal waters deserve to be explored, and there are several tours to choose from, from Boat trips to scuba diving. We suggest buying any excursions to visit the Taormina coastline from tour operators departing from Giardini Naxos harbor. All the excursions departing from Naxos bay cost less, last longer, and the excursion price always includes fruit and fresh drinks. But let's see what tour also departs from Isola Bella, Taormina. The best-seller among the excursions to visit the marine park is the relaxing boat trip visiting four bays. The boat tour cost from Naxos is €20 and lasts two hours. The Snorkeling tour on board of larger boat last four hours and coat around €35, while for those looking a more active experience there are available kayak tours, lasting two hours and costing just €29 per person. There are jet ski, wakeboard, scuba diving, and stand-up paddle, among others available tours. The choice for tours at Isola Bella is wide it all depends on what you are looking for. For five euros people can visit the beautiful garden of Isola Bella and a museum located inside the villa standing at the top of Isola Bella. The museum, like the garden, is accessible from nine a.m. until sunset. All the tours to explore Taormina Isola Bella Marine Park are available from April to October.
Isola Bella restaurants
Isola Bella offers few choices regarding eating, and prices are not what I would call “cheap”. A starter, a main course, and a bottle of medium quality wine cost an average of €35 per person. Mendolia beach club and Pizzichella both have tables overlooking Isola Bella crystal waters and kitchens preparing various starters, sandwiches, and main courses. Both restaurants have a decent selection of Sicilian wines. In between Pizzichella and Mendolia, a kiosk sells sandwiches. There are plenty of small places serving pasta, pizza, and burgers on the main road. Keep in mind that if you decide to spend the day in one of the Isola Bella beach clubs, you cannot enter your own food or drinks; instead, if you choose the public beach, you can bring your food.
How to get to Isola Bella from Taormina
Assuming you are in Taormina city center, there are four ways to reach Isola Bella Marine Park, cable car, walking, driving, or by bus. The quickest and more relaxing way to get to Isola Bella is by cable car, it takes just three minutes to reach Isola Bella, and a return ticket costs six euros or eight U.S. dollars. For those who do not mind walking, from the "Belvedere", a panoramic viewpoint not far from the Taormina bus terminal starts a shortcut that leads to Isola Bella. Keep in mind that in July and August, temperatures in the shade can reach 38° Celsius, or 100°F. The third way to get to Isola Bella is by bus. There are several trips every day from the Taormina bus terminal, the journey takes just ten minutes, and a return ticket costs four euros or six U.S. dollars. The fourth and more stressful way is by car. By Isola Bella, there are two car parks, but often in summer, these parking lots are full already in the first hours of the day, and the road by Isola Bella's main entrance is small and often jammed. Those planning to go to Isola Bella by taxi must keep in mind that 10 euros for a one-way ride is a fair price.
When to visit Taormina Isola Bella beach
The marine park of Isola Bella is open throughout the year, and to gain access to it is free of charge. From May to October, the water temperature is warm enough to enjoy a swim, and all the excursions are available daily. From November to April, swimming can be challenging due to the water temperatures being around 15/20 degrees Celsius. Still, the marine park is deserted, and you can appreciate the Mediterranean beauty of this Italian naturalistic beauty and have it all for yourself.