Overlooking the Mediterranean on a natural terrace 200 meter above the sea, the town of Taormina overlooks the Sicilian channel, and takes us back to the times when the Greek theatre was at the height of its splendor and ships filled with travellers sailed through the channel having to face the monsters of Scilla and Cariddi. Taormina has a charm so powerful that it was able to enchant one of the most important philosophers of the west: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
We are in Sicily, in the eastern part. The sun shines almost always throughout the year, the temperature is perfect and the setting is one of the most beautiful in the world: Taormina. A town with a multifaceted personality, first Greek then medieval, that offers a breathtaking view of the sea – on one side – and of the Etna – on the other – gifting us with wonderful sceneries, impossible to forget. Siamo in Sicilia, nella parte orientale.
The name comes from the Greek Ταυρομένιον, literally dwelling on the Tauro, which is the hill where Taormina was built upon. To this day, Taormina is one of the most popular destinations of international tourism that choses to visit Italy, not only for its position which guarantees a mild temperature throughout the year, but also for its millenary history and for its Greek theatre so beautiful that made Johann Wolfgang von Goethe fall in love with it becoming also an important stop of his Grand Tour.
How Taormina came to be
Like many other place of the Magna Grecia that we find in Sicily and Calabria, Taormina was one of the most important settlements in Sicily, already from the VIII century BC, going from being a Greek citadel to being a town dominated by the tyrants of Siracusa. Over the course of the Roman period, the town went through a sequence of new rulers that totally influence its history.
In Taormina in fact we can find the relics of several cultures, where the Greek one is only the beginning of what is a history thousands of years old, that had as protagonists Greeks, romans, Muslims to then get to the Kingdom of the two Sicilies, reaching modern times almost completely intact.
The Greek theatre of Taormina
The Greek theatre represents perhaps the town’s main attraction and one of the most important in the country. Dug in the rock, overlooking the sea and surrounded by lush vegetation featuring cypresses and prickly pear, the Greek theatre of Taormina dates back to the III century BC and offers one of the most impressing views that the planet can offer, with the blue of the sea that perfectly contrasts the green of the vegetation.
It is the second oldest theatre in Sicily, after the one one Siracusa, and can have about 10,000 people inside. Its strategic position is so striking that it had the German Goethe enchanted when he visited it in 1787 who was spellbound.
In fact, he wrote in his Italian Journey, enjoying the view that he saw from the cavea, that “never, probably, has a theatre audience had something quite like this in front of them.” On the right side of the theatre, in fact, you can see cliffs and castles whilst on the front you get to see the majesty that the Etna is, the highest Vulcan in Europe that, set in this backdrop, according to Goethe seem to evoke a poetic image without striking terror.
What to see in Taormina
Beyond the marvelous Greek theatre aforementioned, Taormina is literally filled with historic and artistic sites worth visiting. In the heart of the medieval city, which you can get to through Porta Messina, there is the Church of Saint Pancrazio, which dates back to the 17th century but it is built on the rests of an Ancient Greek theatre.
Not far from here, there is Palazzo Corvaia and the cavea of the ancient Odeon. If you want to enjoy another breathtaking view, the theatre is not the only one that will give it to you: in the IX April square you can enjoy the turquoise blue sea that touches the shores of Sicily and that helps to relax both the body and the mind.
But if you are great lovers of views and panoramas, you ought to know that the surrounding area is filled with places from which you can look at the sea. Moving on toward the town center, it won’t be hard to find different architectonic models that intertwine mixing the Norman, Arabic and Graeco Roman styles together in a sort of spiral of made of history and art that will captivate you and leave you breathless.
Cover Image: comune.taormina.me