Back in the end of March during my MSC Preziosa cruise around the Mediterranean, once we disembarked in Messina port, we made our way to ancient Taormina passing through many tunnels that took 10 years to build. This little town, first called Tauromenium was built by the Greeks on a hill 200 m a.s.l. in the 4th century BC.
It used to look like a common Greek town with just one main street and the others in 90 degrees until the 3rd century BC when the Romans invaded the area.
There was just one road here until in 1840 the new East national road was built here after Lord Gordon Byron wrote about Taormina and thus increased the beginning of its tourism. The famous Laureate used to come here to get better protected by the sunlight against the tuberculosis. It never freezes here in Taormina so the climate made it a great holiday spot not only for him, but also for Goethe and then Sophia Loren in the 20th and 21st centuries who attended film festivals here.
A number of movies were made here in Taormina and the surroundings, such as the Godfather I and II filmed in Savona – a small town close to Taormina.
Nowadays, 8,500 inhabitants claim their permanent address in Taormina not only in its part in the mountains but also on the beach. There is a 3 min cable car running between the beach and the Taormina city centre so if you are looking for beach holidays in a quiet place once visited by many celebrities, this could be of your choice. And with the views of Etna volcano!
I have to tell you I was really surprised by Taormina. I expected absolutely nothing as its name just didn’t ring the bell with me before our visit. But the many staircases, streets with no traffic after 10 am, the medieval architecture and the uncountable souvenir shops with the Sicilian symbol everywhere (a face with 3 legs) got the best out of me.
Also the best cannoli and chocolate and cinnamon cakes I could eat every day (even Bill Clinton ate them at the same place! I mean bloggers do eat where the Presidents do, right?), together with the Cathedral and the Baroque fountain with a pregnant symbol, small churches, Corso Umberto main shopping street (we spotted weird creatures!), Piazza IX Aprile with the views, the narrowest street I’ve ever seen, Palazzo Corvaia, the Greco-Roman amphitheatre and the beauty of the gardens really got under my skin.
Standing in the middle of the Greco-Roman amphitheatre and looking through the ruins at Etna volcano in the horizon was when I went back in history. I imagined the Greek tragedies, Roman gladiators and the animal fights here, the screams with the ridiculously well-planned acoustics here and also the concerts played here nowadays.
The amphitheatre was built in the 3rd century BC by the Greek and then 5 centuries later the Romans covered it with bricks. Both Greek and Roman times are still remarkable in the theatre.
I mean, where else in the world can you sit in a Greco-Roman theatre, listen to a pop/opera concert and probably spot a volcano smoking than in one of the jewels of Sicily?
Our guide Mario was so nice that afterwards he took us to the breath-taking gardens that used to belong to Florence Trevelyan, a British lady who was banished from Britain after having an affair with Queen’s Victoria’s son Edward (future King Edward VII).
Miss Florence then moved to Taormina, married a wealthy doctor and built this garden (now a public garden). Very well maintained, nicely green, with little fountains and astonishing English looking pavilions with the views of Taormina beaches.
Super interesting about Mrs. Trevelyan was that even during her marriage to the doctor she had another affair, this time with D.H. Lawrence who used to come to Taormina to see her. The last time he even came with his wife?! The affair lady was the inspiration for his work Lady Chatterley and since she died, D.H. Lawrence never returned to Taormina.