Beautiful Taormina!

Were a man to spend only one day in Sicily and ask, "What must one see?" I would answer him without hesitation, "Taormina." (Guy de Maupassant)

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Tauromenion for the Greeks - Tauromenium for the Romans.

The first presence of Greeks in Sicily came with the foundation of Naxos in c. 734 B.C. The settlers were Chalcidians of Euboea, Greece, under the leadership of Theocles. The Greek "invasion" of Sicily went on the next 150 years. In 403 BC Naxos was destroyed by the tyrant Dionysius of Syracuse.

Taormina was founded by the Carthaginian Himilco (after 398 BC); he populated the place with Sicels who lived in Naxos (granted them in 404 by Dionysius). In 392 BC, Taormina was captured and repopulated by Dionysius of Syracuse, who began the process of turning it into a Greek city. (Carratelli p 171)

Taormina was enlarged in 358 under Andromachus, father of the historian Timaeus, who gathered together the survivors of the destruction of Naxos (in 403 BC). It was favoured by Rome during the early days of occupation, and suffered in the Servile War (135–132 BC) when the city was held by slaves for several months. The Syrian slave rebel Eunus in Enna organised a rebellion in 135 BC which led to the First Servile War. After taking over Enna, he was joined by Cleon from Agrigento to form an army some sources says consisted of 200,000 men. They took Taormina, but in 132 BC the revolt was suppressed by the Roman consul Publius Rupilius. The 15,000 slaves were thrown off the cliffs of Taormina, according to some sources; other sources say crucified.

After Ceasar's death, the entire population of Taormina (Tauromenium), was deported and others lost their Latin rights.

The Arabs took Taormina in 903 (or 902), 72 years after Palermo and Messina fell in 831.

In 965 Taormina was attacked by the Tunisian Caliph al-Muez, and the theatre was destroyed. The caliph, who later founded modern Cairo, rebuilt the town, modestly renaming it Almoezia, as it was known until Count Roger conquered it in August 1079. Here the Sicilian Parliament assembled in 1410 to choose a king on the extinction of the line of Peter of Aragon.

Famous visitors to Taormina include Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (7-9 May, 1787), Guy de Maupassant, Richard Wagner (1882), John Dryden (1701), Kaiser Wilhelm II (1896, 1904, 1905), Edward VII (1906), George V (1924). King Gustav of Sweden regularly visited Taormina in the winter season in the ’50s and ’60s. Other famous visitors include Truman Capote, Cecil Beaton, Jean Cocteau, Osbert Sitwell, Salvador Dalí, Winston Churchill, Sibelius, Orson Welles, John Steinbeck, Tennessee Williams, Rita Hayworth, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

The photographer Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden lived and worked in Taormina from 1896 to 1931. His speciality was homo-erotic photos. D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda lived here from 1920–23.

The last part of Antonioni's classic movie L'Avventura takes place in Taormina.

Sources: The Greek World (ed. G.P. Carratelli); J.F. Privitera. Sicily: An Illustrated History; The Blue Guide Sicily, Goethe: Italian Journey, Wagneropera.net

 

 

 

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Wedding photographer, Taormina, Sicily

The wedding photographer.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Palazzo Duchi, Taormina, Sicilia

Palazzo Duchi di Santo Stefano (14th-15th century).

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Palazzo Duchi

Palazzo Duchi di Santo Stefano (14th-15th century) with its beautiful stonework contrasting white and black. The palace is situated by Porta Catania, on the west side of Corso Umberto.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

Wunderbar Café on Piazza IX Aprile (on Corso Umberto I) in Taormina

All the celebrities have been there - have you? After a visit at the Wunderbar Café on Piazza IX Aprile (on Corso Umberto I) in Taormina, you might want to check what's left of your travel budget for the day.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Taormina: The Pearl Of Europe! "You, Me & Sicily!" Episode 11

 

 

 

 

Corso Umberto I - the main street in Taormina

Corso Umberto I is the main street in Taormina. During the summer months it is packed with tourists.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

balcony, Taormina

Look up when you walk down Corso Umberto I and you will see many exciting balconies.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

fruit in Taormina

 

 

A fruit vendor in Via Luigi Pirandello, Taormina.

A fruit vendor in Via Luigi Pirandello, Taormina.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

The cathedral in Taormina, San Nicolò,  dedicated to Saint Nicholas

The cathedral, San Nicolò (a church dedicated to Saint Nicholas), built in the 13th century. Observe the crenelations on the roof. The portal was rebuilt in 1636. The fountain in front of the cathedral is baroque. The church occupies the area and the ruins of an earlier basilica. It was rebuilt in the 15th and 16th century and restored in the 18th century. Each doorjamb bears eleven carved figures showing some unidentified persons as well as Saint Peter with the keys of Paradise, saint Paul with the sword of Faith, king David with the cither, and the four evangelists: Saint Luke (the Bull), Saint John (the Eagle), Saint Matthew (the Angel), Saint Mark (the Lion). From 1945 to 1948, the church was fully restored by the Neapolitan architect Armando Dillon.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

Portal (1636) of the cathedral in Taormina

The top of the portal (1636 - MDCXXXVI) of the cathedral in Taormina with the inscription showing it was rebuilt in 1636.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

church of San Giuseppe (piazza IX Aprile on Corso Umberto), Taormina

The church of San Giuseppe (piazza IX Aprile on Corso Umberto), Taormina. On top of the mountain: the Saracen castle (Castello Saraceno, now closed); to the left: the Crucifix in front of the tiny church of the Madonna della Rocca, which is carved into the rock. The crucifix was erected in 1743 by the grateful population when an epidemic of plague passed them by.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

Wedding couple outside the church of San Giuseppe (piazza IX Aprile on Corso Umberto).

Wedding couple outside the church of San Giuseppe (piazza IX Aprile on Corso Umberto).

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Corso Umberto I, Taormina, Sicily

Lots of stuff to photograph in Taormina!

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

Sicily (1961) - British Paté

Taormina (archive footage from 1961)

 

 

Greek Theatre, Taormina

The Greek theatre in Taormina is the largest ancient theatre in Sicily after that of Syracuse. Below the mountain to the left is Hotel Timeo, the first hotel to be opened in Taormina, in 1864.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

"Were a man to spend only one day in Sicily and ask, “What must one see?” I would answer him without hesitation, “Taormina.” It is only a landscape, but a landscape where you find everything on earth that seems made to seduce the eyes, the mind and the imagination. […] I have said, in speaking of the theater of Segesta, that the Greeks — those incomparable scenic designers — knew how to select the unique site where the theater should be built, that site made for satisfying the artistic senses. The one in Taormina is so marvellously placed that there cannot be another comparable site in the whole world."
Guy de Maupassant: Sicily

 

 

 

The Greek Theatre in Taormina, as seen from backstage.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

Taormina grocery store

Taormina

Piazza del Duomo, Taormina

 

The Aragon family emblem on
Porta Catania

Sicily was part of Aragon and Spanish Empire (1409–1713)

Porta Catania
aka Porta del Tocco

The Jewish Ghetto was located by the walls.

 

 

Sicily

Mandarin duck in the Public Gardens, Taormina.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Commemorative plaques in the Public Gardens in memory of fallen Italian soldiers during WW1 and WW2.

Commemorative plaques in the Public Gardens in memory of fallen Italian soldiers during WW1 and WW2.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

 

Sicilian marionettes for sale on Corso Ruggero, Taormina.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

Skull on a marble tomb (anno 1697) in the Church of San Pancrazio, Taormina, Sicily

Detail of marble tomb (anno 1697) in the floor in the Church of San Pancrazio, Taormina. Saint Pancras (aka Pancratius / San Pancrazio) is the patron saint of Taormina. (Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily)

 

hotel in Taormina

Once a hotel just opposite the railway station Taormina-Giardini - now a deserted building. I stayed there when I visited Taormina in the mid-80's!

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Byzantine tomb-recesses, Via Pirandello

Byzantine tomb-recesses in the wall on Via Pirandello, Taormina.

Byzantine tomb-recesses in the wall on Via Pirandello, Taormina.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

 

 

 

Cable Car: Taormina-Mazzarò

cable car Taormina

You can take the cable car from Taormina to the beach.
Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad

Hotel Villa Ducale

Hotel Villa Ducale

Hotel Villa Ducale, Taormina.
Photo: Torild Egge

 

Taormina's Public Gardens

"You are my sun"

 

Madonna della Rocca, Taormina

Interior of the church Madonna della Rocca, carved into the rock, above Taormina.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

Public Garden, Taormina

Public Garden, Taormina.
Photo: Torild Egge

 

 

Ape in the public garden, Taormina

Apecar in the public garden, Taormina.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

Public Gardens, Taormina, Sicily

The beautiful Public Gardens is a nice place to relax when you visit Taormina.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Sicily

The Public Gardens. Entrance.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

The Saracen Castle

Sicily

The Saracen castle (Castello Saraceno) above Taormina. In 827 the Arabs (Saracens) started a major invasion in which 10,000 men (Arabs, Berbers and Spanish Muslims) landed at Mazzara. The war with the Byzantines dragged on for fifty years. The advance of the Arabs was slow but ferocious as the most important cities were destroyed: Palermo and Messina in 831, Ragusa in 848, Syracuse in 878 and Taormina in 903.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

Ibn Hamadis (c. 1090): Poem about the Norman invasion and ousting of the Arabs from Sicily

As the wolves run through the forests
so do the invaders demolish
what they find on our island
… Oh sea, why do you separate me from my homeland
… If I could only sail back to my beloved Sicily …

Ibn Hamdis (c. 1056 – c. 1133) was a Sicilian Arab poet, born in Noto, Sicily.

 

Saracen Castle (Castello Saraceno), Taormina

Saracen Castle (Castello Saraceno).

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

The Greek Theatre in Taormina.
Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Sicily

The Church of Santa Caterina (17th century). To the right, Palazzo Corvaja (early 15th century), which housed an Andy Warhol exhibition when this photo was taken (May 2015).

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Sicily

In the Church of Santa Caterina, a 15th century marble statue of St Catherine stands on a plinth (1493) with stories of her life and martyrdom.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

 

The distance between Taormina and some other cities in Sicily

Taormina-Palermo 272 km
Taormina-Cefalù 207 km
Taormina-Siracusa 118 km
Taormina-Agrigento 219 km
Taormina-Noto 145 km
Taormina-Catania 53 km
Taormina-Trapani 370 km
Taormina-Corleone 298 km

 

 

Agricultural products introduced in Sicily by the Saracens (Arabs)

The Saracens introduced a variety of agricultural products superior to any they found on Sicily or elsewhere in Europe:

  • an olive tree (still called la saracena) which gives a richer, heavier oil than the Greek olive
  • the lemon tree
  • the orange tree
  • the mulberry tree
  • the silk worm
  • the date
  • the pistachio
  • the carob
  • and the fig
  • cotton
  • sugar cane
  • zibibbo grape

 

roman mosaic, Taormina

Mosaic on pavement from the Roman period, 2nd century BC. Information from Parco Archeologico di Naxos: "The pavement combines polychrome (yellow, pink, red, grey and black) cut and polished pebbles and relatively large polygonal black and white tesserae; the central geometric panes features a diamond shape inside a large square on which there is a six petaled flower om a black background. Four darting dolphins occupy the triangular shaped corners. The technique and the style date from 2nd century BC with parallels in Athens, Delos and Eretria."

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

roman mosaic, Villa Romana del Casale

If you are interested in Roman mosaics, the fantastic museum at Villa Romana del Casale, near Piazza Armerina, is the place to go.

Photo: Per-Erik Skramstad / Wonders of Sicily

 

 

Beautiful rock formations near Isola Bella, Taormina. The photo was taken on a boat trip to a grotto nearby.

 

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Sicily: Some geographical names in Italian, Sicilian, English, Latin and Greek

  • Agrigento (Sicilian: Girgenti, Ancient Greek: Akragas (Ἀκράγας), Latin: Agrigentum, Arabic: Kirkent or Jirjent)
  • Agrigentum, Latin for Agrigento
  • Akragas (Ἀκράγας), Ancient Greek for Agrigento
  • Àsaru, Sicilian for Assoro
  • Assorus, Latin for Assoro
  • Assoros, Greek for Assoro
  • Baarìa, Sicilian for Bagheria (also the title of a film by Giuseppe Tornatore)
  • Balarm, Arabic for Palermo
  • Butirah, Arabic for Butera (one of the largest cities in Arab Sicily)
  • Càccamu Sicilian for Caccamo
  • Castrogiovanni (until 1926 Enna was known as Castrogiovanni)
  • Castrugiuvanni, Sicilian for Enna
  • Cefalù (Sicilian: Cifalù, Greek: Κεφαλοίδιον, Diod., Strabo, or Κεφαλοιδὶς, Ptol.; Latin: Cephaloedium, or Cephaloedis)
  • Cephaloedium or Cephaloedis, Latin for Cefalù
  • Cifalù, Sicilian for Cefalù
  • Egesta, Greek for Segesta
  • Enna (Sicilian: Castrugiuvanni; Greek: Ἔννα; Latin: Henna and less frequently Haenna). Until 1926 the town was known as Castrogiovanni.
  • Girgenti, Sicilian for Agrigento
  • Henna / Haenna, Latin for Enna
  • Hyspicae Fundus, Latin for Ispica
  • Ispica (Sicilian: Spaccafurnu, Latin: Hyspicae Fundus)
  • Jirjent, Arabic for Agrigento (also: Kirkent)
  • Kefaloidion or Kefaloidis (Κεφαλοίδιον / Κεφαλοιδὶς), Greek for Cefalù
  • Kentoripa, ancient Greek for Centuripe
  • Kirkent, Arabic for Agrigento (also: Jirjent)
  • Noto (Sicilian: Notu; Latin: Netum)
  • Notu, Sicilian for Noto
  • Netum, Latin for Noto
  • Palermo (Sicilian: Palermu, Latin: Panormus, from Greek: Πάνορμος, Panormos, Arabic: Balarm, Phoenician: Ziz)
  • Palermu, Sicilian for Palermo
  • Panormos (Πάνορμος), Greek for Palermo
  • Panormus, Latin for Palermo (from Greek: Πάνορμος, Panormos)
  • Sarausa, Sicilian for Siracusa
  • Selinous, Greek for Selinunte
  • Selinus, Latin for Selinunte
  • Siggésta, Sicilian for Segesta
  • Siracusa (English: Syracuse, Latin: Syracusæ, Ancient Greek: Syrakousai (Συράκουσαι), Medieval Greek: Συρακοῦσαι, Sicilian: Sarausa)
  • Spaccafurnu, Sicilian for Ispica
  • Syracuse, English for Siracusa
  • Syracusæ, Latin for Siracusa
  • Syrakousai (Συράκουσαι), Ancient Greek for Siracusa
  • Syrakousai (Συρακοῦσαι), Medieval Greek for Siracusa
  • Taormina (Sicilian: Taurmina, Greek: Ταυρομένιον Tauromenion, Latin: Tauromenium)
  • Taurmina, Sicilian for Taormina
  • Tauromenion (Ταυρομένιον), Greek for Taormina
  • Tauromenium, Latin for Taormina
  • Terranova is the old name for Gela (the fifth largest town in Sicily)
  • Ziz, Phoenician for Palermo

 

 

Sources

  • Joseph F. Privitera: "Sicily: An Illustrated History"
  • Sandra Benjamin: Sicily: Three Thousand Years of Human History
  • Jeremy Dummett: Syracuse, City of Legends: A Glory of Sicily
  • Jeremy Dummett: Palermo, City of Kings: The Heart of Sicily
  • The Greek World (ed. G.P. Carratelli)
  • The Blue Guide Sicily
  • Goethe: Italian Journey
  • Wagneropera.net
  • More sources and recommended reading here