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Sicily's most popular destination - Taormina

Updated on March 15, 2013
Taormina's quaint main street.
Taormina's quaint main street. | Source
10,000 seat semi-circular Roman amphitheatre in Taormina.
10,000 seat semi-circular Roman amphitheatre in Taormina. | Source
View through the back wall of the amphitheatre to the rugged countryside beyond.
View through the back wall of the amphitheatre to the rugged countryside beyond. | Source
View from the amphitheatre towards the coast and the Ionian Sea.
View from the amphitheatre towards the coast and the Ionian Sea. | Source
Afternoon sun lights up the stonework at the entry to the amphitheatre.
Afternoon sun lights up the stonework at the entry to the amphitheatre. | Source
Afternoon sun lights up the stonework at the entry to the amphitheatre.
Afternoon sun lights up the stonework at the entry to the amphitheatre. | Source
View to the south of Taormina.
View to the south of Taormina. | Source

Sicily's most popular ancient village

Taormina is built on a spectacular rocky plateau 250 metres above the surrounding countryside on the east coast of the island of Sicily.

Looking up towards the city from the east coast, the city appears incongruous, with sheer cliffs rising to a crowd of stone buildings perched on the top.

The most imposing ancient ruin in Taormina is a Roman amphitheatre which seats 10,000 people, built of brick and stone, with a curved walkway around the outside and a main stage which have remained almost intact.

The narrow flagstone village streets now bustle with crowds of tourists visiting the antique shops, restaurants, ice-cream shops and tourist shops along the main streets.

The first human settlements were built here before 700BC and the strategic vantage point overlooking the Strait of Messina and south towards Mount Etna has been highly prized by rulers who used it as the foundation for a fortress.

After a succession of rulers in ancient times, the Romans, Arabs, Normans, Spanish and French took control.

By the 19th century, Taormina had established a reputation as a destination for painters capturing the spectacular views of the coastline and countryside, for writers enchanted by the landscape and later as a tourist destination.

Famous writers who visited include D H Lawrence, who wrote novels and a travel diary here, and Evelyn Waugh.

On the day we drove to Taormina, we climbed the steep narrow roads, passing the entry to the parking station and driving into the town until the roads became too narrow for cars. Once we had escaped we retraced our path to the parking station entrance at the base of the cliff.

From there we took a lift seven storeys up to ground level in the town. We made our way through a stone archway and along the main street, passing a wedding party and continuing on to the amphitheatre.

We had 45 minutes to look around which was ample time to walk around the main arena and sit in the amphitheatre imagining the performances that would have appeared here over thousands of years. As we left it was almost dusk and the late afternoon sunshine lit up the stones giving them a warm golden glow.


Links to Sicily hubs

For stories on Sicily see my hubs:

Travelling to the summit of an active volcano: Mount Etna

Temples built 2500 years ago in the famous Valley of the Temples

Great city of the Greeks and Romans: Syracuse

Still to come . . .

Alcantara

Catania

Messina

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