Taormina, Sicily’s little secret

I have to admit that I knew nothing about Taormina when I first visited this charming Sicilian town. I was staying with a friend and his family just south of Taormina, and they were kind enough to show me around.

Taormina is on the North east coast of Sicily, not far from the Straits of Messina.  You climb about 200 metres from sea level to get there, and the first thing that greets you is the amazing views of the Ionian Sea coastline and of Sicily’s active volcano Mt. Etna.

Apparently, Taormina has been one of Sicily’s top travel destinations since it became part of the European Grand Tour in the 19th century and Sicily’s first resort.  There is certainly plenty of history here, as Taormina has remnants of its Greek and Roman habitation, a fine medieval quarter and castle ruins, and modern shops and restaurants. The site of the old town is about high above the sea, while a very steep and almost isolated rock, crowned by a Saracen castle, rises about 150 m higher.

Probably the most remarkable remaining monument in Taormina is the Greek Theatre, which was built by the Greeks, then modified by the Romans and is still well preserved to host concerts, operas and shows.

Taormina has a bit of a modern history too, especially among modern day artistes. It’s where Hollywood celebrities travelled to receive awards in the Greek Theatre, where a jealous Elizabeth Taylor broke a guitar over Richard Burton’s head, and where Goethe and DH Lawrence marvelled at the views towards Etna.

The main thoroughfare, Corso Umberto, is now used only for pedestrians, and it is a pleasant stroll through an hour that has enough shops to keep you occupied for a while.

Sadly, I visited Taormina in the days before I owned a camera, and I regret not having photos of such a lovely, charming place.  Still, I guess my desire for a pictorial record is impetus to return, which I would do without hestitation.

The road to Taormina runs off the main Autostrade, and the train from Rome stops at the local station, so it is relatively easy to reach.  There are plenty of places to stay, to eat and to shop, and there are plenty of nature walks in the hills around Taormina, there are also many good beaches and bays on the coastline below.

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