Visit Giardini Naxos
Giardini Naxos is a popular town and resort situated just south of Taormina on the north-eastern coast of Sicily. It is a popular area for tourists seeking both culture and beaches.
Explore Giardini Naxos
Sicily Visitor Comment: Giardini Naxos is a pleasant beach resort within easy striking distance of Taormina which was one of our favourite towns in Sicily.
The popular attractions of Giardini Naxos are centred around the beach, seaside and nightlife and also the museum and excavations of ancient Naxos.
For lovers of the sea and beach, the Bay of Naxos is very pretty with its sandy beaches and a backdrop of hills around much of the bay. Giardini Naxos is a resort particular popular with young people as it has a lively nightlife. The beach is long and sandy and next to the beach is a wide selection of bars, cafes and hotels.
Giardini Naxos is a fairly typical resort town with the focus very much on the area around the beach but the town is pleasant and quite pretty with its attractively painted buildings and abundance of flowers and palm trees along the main street. It has a good selection of cafes and restaurants and accommodation.
The resort is more low-key than nearby Taormina but also less expensive. If you want to be close to Taormina but want something cheaper this is a good proposition and is just a short bus or car ride from Taormina itself. Also if you want a beach holiday Taormina centre is not actually on the beach and you have to go up and down in a cable car to get to the nearest beach and so this may suit you better.
For the gourmets amongst you, the local cuisine offers dishes based on fish: seafood salad (octopus and shrimp), tuna and smoked salmon, 'bruschetta', oysters, a fried mixture of squid, mullets and stuffed sardines, sea-food risotto or swordfish rolls, perhaps accompanied by the famous Sicilian wines, including the so-called 'wine of Etna' (red, white and rosé). For those who like fish, between the second week of June and early July, in Giardini Naxos, there is the traditional Seafood Festival.
Giardini Naxos archaelogical park and museum
Naxos has an interesting history that you can explore at the Giardini Naxos archaeological park and museum which is on the Capo Schiso headland at the south end of the town. Visit the musum first to make sense of the excavations. The museum has a vast collection of material from the excavations and it is divided into several sections.
The first section contains prehistoric remains, notable among them a bowl with decorations of the middle of the fifth millennium B.C. and a cup to draw water from the second millennium B.C. and numerous finds made since the nineteenth century in the port area of the town: amphorae of wine, produced in Naxos until Byzantine age; some bowls painted with red-figure scenes; black-painted lamps and many examples of painted pottery (always in black paint).
The museum also has a section devoted to coins from the region - many feature the emblem of the city: on the obverse is the head of the god Dionysus, on the reverse a bunch of grapes, or a Silenus drinking wine, a mythological figure strongly linked to the god Dionysus-Bacchus. The city of Naxos was particularly linked to the cult of Silenoi, as shown in the “antifixes” (decorations on the roofs of temples) present at the museum and in the museum you can see a collection of Silenoi. On the first floor you can also see the so-called 'protomes', or votive objects that usually hung on the walls of houses.
In the area of the excavations at Giardini Naxos the ruins of the ancient walls of the city are still visible, facing the sea, and with a thickness of over 4 meters. This thickness was not only for defensive purposes, but the walls were also a flood embankment of the Santa Venera river. The walls were built in the late fourth century B.C., with three city gates to the west and two in the east. The city is not huge (10 acres) and was crossed by three east-west highways connecting the town with the port. Of some importance is the sacred architecture; the rectangular altars and temples were generally not very large but were decorated with figures of sphinxes and Gorgons.
History of Giardini Naxos
Naxos was the first colony founded in Sicily by the Chalcidians from the island of Euboea in the second half of the eighth century B.C. (734-735 B.C.) and they were joined by people from the island of Naxos in the Aegean Sea. Soon Naxos became a thriving centre, expanding to form Lentini and Catania.
Naxos was destroyed in 403 BC by Dionysius I - the tyrant of Syracuse -and its citizens were sold as slaves. The remaining population withdrew to a hill called 'Taurus' where the town of Tauromenium (today Taormina) was founded. A few ruins remain of original Naxos including antique basalt walls along the Santa Venera river, and some tombs dating from the fourth century BC.
For 2000 years Naxos remained quiet, with occasional use as a station for changing horses or for growing citrus fruits and sugar cane. In the 15th century the bay was reinforced with towers added to the ancient medieval castle. Naxos slowly increased in importance and in the mid 19th century it became independent from Taormina under the name of Giardini Naxos. (The word Giardini is from 'gardens' after the citrus groves in the region).
Where to visit nearby?
There are some interesting natural highlights nearby such as a visit to the so-called Gole of Alcantara (13 kilometers from Giardini Naxos), famous for its extraordinaries basaltic rocks; while for the more active there is the possibility of an excursion to Mount Etna (and winter skiing).
Of course the beautiful town and resort of Taormina is a draw to everyone arriving on the eastern coast of Sicily and near to hear are a good number of "most beautiful villages of Italy" including Savoca where scenes from the Godfather were filmed and Castelmola which sits in the hills above Taormina.
You can find more local travel ideas in the guide.