There is more to Taormina than what you can see at street level. Look up and there are lots of very pretty balconies to see, often decorated with flowers, or the majolica pots shaped like heads, which are a local speciality.
The Odeon is a small Roman theatre, dating from the first century AD. It was discovered in 1892.
Part of the site is covered by the church of St Catarina, but the visible part of the ruins can be visited free of charge. The site is open from 9.00 a.m. until sunset.
You have the choice of either walking up to Castelmola or taking the local bus. In the summer heat, I would recommend the bus (just under 3 Euro for a return ticket in summer 2012).
Once you reach Castelmola you can admire the views over the bay, and sample the local speciality of almond wine (very sweet for me, but I'm sure it makes wonderful trifle!)
- Wine Tasting
The beach at Taormina is quite small and rocky. It's not the place to go for solitude and wide expanses of sand.
On the plus side, it is also very picturesque, and being in Italy, it is extremely well-run with various lidos offering sun lounger and pedalo hire, showers and WCs, snack bars and restaurants. This suits me fine, as I just like to go there to eat some nice seafood whilst looking at the sea, but it's not really the place to go if you are a real beach lover.
Taormina's Greco-Roman theatre, which dates from the third century BC is the second largest largest Greek theatre in Sicily, after Siracusa.
Architectural purists may be concerned about the Roman alterations to the original Greek building, but for the majority of visitors what matters is the fantastic setting with views of Mount Etna.
It is still occasionally used for concerts. Note that during these periods, parts of the structure may be partly obscured by the staging, as it was on my most recent visit.
Admission costs 8 Euro, with a reduction for teachers from anywhere in the EU (but not social workers, as the lady in front of me in the queue discovered).
Unlike tourist attractions in the UK, the gift shop is not right by the exit, but at the top.
There is also a small (air-conditioned) epigraphic exhibition in an adjoining room, displaying items found locally, including public accounts found in the area where the public gardens now are, which was probably the site of a public building. The accounts were inscribed on the walls of public buildings so that they could be read by all citizens. Those displayed here were the accounts of hieromnamones, priests of magistrates responsible for the revenue of the sanctuaries; sitophylakes, responsible for the supply of corn and other foodstuffs; city treasurers and officers in charge of the purchase of foodstuffs.
These inscriptions have enabled the months of the calendar of Taormina to be reconstructed: Artemisios, Dionysios, Hellokios (?); Damatrios, Panamos; Apellaios, Itonios, Karneios, Lanotropios, Apollonios, Dyodekatios, Eukleios.
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
Chiesa S. Caterina di Alessandria
The church of St Catherine of Alexandria was built in the 17th century on the site of the former Roman Odeon, part of the ruins of which can be seen inside the church.
Inside is a marble statue of St Catherine dating from 1483. In her right hand is a palm of martyrdom and in her left an open book indicating her status as a noblewoman educated in philosophy.
Chiesa San Panacrazio
S. Panacrazio (St Pancras) is the patron saint of Taormina.
The church is built in the baroque style. The statue on the left of the portal is St Panacrazio himself; the statue to the right is St Procopio, who was martyred at the time of the Saracen invasion for refusing to renounce his Christian faith and convert to Islam.
Inside, there is a painting on the left hand side depicting the martyrdom of St Procopio. On the right is a painting of the martyrdom of St Nicone and 99 monks during the persecution of Christians. San Nicone was a Neapolitan priest, who with his monks came to settle near the river Akesines (now Alcantara). The interior is very ornate.
- Historical Travel
- Religious Travel
When all the sightseeing and/or shopping gets a bit too much, these gardens are a wonderful place to relax. They were donated to the town by Florence Trevelyan in the 1920s.
As well as the plants and the follies and observation towers Miss Trevelyan built, there are also wonderful views over the bay to Giardini Naxos and Etna. And some souvenirs of the war. The path along the top of the garden (nearest the road) is lined by olive trees bearing memorial plaques for soldiers who died in the First World War.
There are occasional concerts here in summer. For those with small children, there is a play area.
There used to be a nice little cafe, also with great views, but it seems to have closed, sadly. However, there are shops near the park where you can buy drinks or ice creams, or even sandwiches.
A couple of Amazon parrots live in the gardens. Do go and say 'hello!'
- Arts and Culture
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
This medieval building was the venue for a meeting of the Sicilian Parliament in 1411. Nowadays it houses a tourist information office (downstairs) and a museum of Sicilian arts and crafts (upstairs).
Exhibits include woodcarving (including the traditional puppets), textiles and ceramics. Of particular interest are the nativity scenes, which were very popular in the 19th century. Some of these are very elaborate, with many figurines and unlikely backdrops (including a prickly pear cactus).
Admission 2,60 Euro.
Photos to follow.
- Arts and Culture
- Museum Visits
There's a fascinating baroque fountain in Piazza Duomo, with seahorses, cherubs and a female centaur. The centaur is the symbol of Taormina.
There are a couple of cafes in the Piazza as well. I can recommend the strawberry granita at Billy & Billy (though I have yet to find a bad granita anywhere in Taormina).
During the daytime the piazza is a popular meeting place for tour groups.
The Cathedral is dedicated to St Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. It was raised to the status of minor basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1980.
The original construction dates from the 13th century, though it was rebuilt in the 14th and 15th centuries and restored in the 18th. The entrance portal was rebuilt in 1636. The interior is a Latin cross with nave, 2 aisles and 3 apses. The columns supporting the nave are of Taormina pink marble and come from the Greco-Roman theatre.
On the right hand side is an acheropite image with a silver mantle, the work of an anonymous silversmith, but hallmarked Messina 1695. The word acheropite comes from Byzantine Greek and means not created by human hands – i.e. it is a miraculous icon, not created by a human painter. It was found in an ancient well, where it was hidden from the invading Arabs. A local tradition says it was made and given by the angels to St Pancras, the patron saint of Taormina.
The cathedral looks rather forbidding from the exterior, with its crenellated stone facade. However, linger at a cafe in the square in the late afternoon and you may be able to watch it being prepared for an evening wedding, with red carpet and floral bouquets at the entrance.
- Historical Travel
One day tour to Etna
Etna (3,343m/11,032ft) lies in the east of the island of Sicily, close to the coast and northwest of Catania.
It is Europe's largest active volcano and the second highest mountain in Italy after the Alpine peaks. It's almost circular base is 40km/25mi in diameter and 165km/102mi in circumference.
There are more than 100 known eroptions of Etna, the most recent one was in 1992.
The Etna area has been designated as a National Park.
There are day tours available to Mount Etna.
The scenic Circumetnea Railroad circles Mount Etna and stops at several villages.
- Family Travel
The Ancient theatre is the most remarkable monument in Taormina.
This Greek theatre is one of the most celebrated ruins in Sicily, on account both of its remarkable preservation and its beautiful location.
It is built for the most part of brick with a diameter of 109 metres. This theatre is the second largest of its kind in Sicily (after that of Syracuse).
It is frequently used for operatic and theatrical performances and for concerts. Even the greater part of the original seats have disappeared, the wall is preserved.
From the fragments of architectural decorations still extant you can learn that it was of the Corinthian order. Some portions of a temple are also visible.
- Historical Travel
Corso Umberto (named after Italian King) is the main street of Taormina, the real heart of this small town. It is relatively short but vivid and very pitoresque street ful of small shops, art galleries and cafe-bars. It starts at Piazza Badia and ends at Piazza IX Aprile. Corso Umberto is the only wide street in the city core of Taormina
There excist controversy regarding Greek Theatre of Taormina. It is undoubtelly of Greek origins, its plan and arrangements are in accordance with those of typical Greek theatre constructions. However, the theatre was built for the most parts of brick and it indicates its Roman origins. The Greek theatres were built excusevely from the stone......
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