21-05-2010 / 31-10-2013
Taormina is situated on a slight slope of Mount Taurus about 204 m above sea level.
With its beautiful natural landscape, the beautiful sea from Mount Etna, and its historical monuments, Taormina has fascinated the great travelers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and continues to capture the visitors nowaday.
The consular Valeria was until last century the only road that connected Messina to Catania and Siracusa. Along his line there is now the main street of Taormina Corso Umberto I, which runs through the village from the north gate of the city (Porta Messina) to the south gate (Porta Catania).
Immediately passing trough Porta Messina, one enters Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, known as Piazza Badia, that was an ancient area of the Agora and then the Roman forum. Here you can see Palazzo Corvaja which takes its name from Corvaja family, one of the oldest and most noble of Taormina, who owned it from 1538 to 1945. It was originally an Arabic tower extended and transformed during various dominations, it has a Moorish, Gothic and Norman style. From 1410 was used for meetings of the Sicilian Parliament. This palace was restored in 1946, now it houses the local tourist office and the Sicilian Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions. The Church of St. Caterina d 'Alessandria was built in the second half of the seventeenth century. The interior is decorated in Baroque style, you can see paintings, statues and traces of a greek temple of the third century. a. C. dedicated to Aphrodite. Behind the Church of Saint Catherine are the remains of the Odeon or a small Roman theatre where tragedies were represented or performed concerts.
The Church of Santa Domenica rises about in the middle of Via Giovanni Di Giovanni and dates back to 1600. The architecture of the church is very simple both inside and outside. You notice the magnificent Baroque altar, all in red marble from Taormina with two Corinthian columns.
The Ancient Theatre or Greek – Roman Theatre was built in Hellenistic period III century a. C. In the Roman era were built large tanks in the center and the theater became a place for hunting shows and fights between gladiators. From the auditorium you can admire a beautiful landscape, which in summer is the background to the major theatrical events, concerts and films.
The ex Church of S. Maria del Piliere would be built after 1530 by the Head of the Italian Language of the Knights of Malta, called "Piliere”. The facade of the former Church of St. Maria del Piliere is decorated with a Renaissance portal, which is dominated by a beautiful rose- window. The jambs of the portal are in pink marble of Taormina. It was closed in the first 800 and now houses a concept bar.
The Naumachie are one of the most important Roman remnant. It is a great wall, 122 meters long and 5 meters high, which served to contain a large tank of water. The wall has some niches, where they were probably placed the statues of gods and heroes.
From the Piazza IX Aprile you can admire a magnificent panorama. The square was called PiazzaSant 'Agostino, from the church you can see on the north side, built in 1486, now public library. The Church of St. Joseph is accessed by a double staircase. It was built in the seventeenth century and has a typical Sicilian Baroque style. The Clock Tower or middle gate stands on the south of the square. Its foundations were built on the Hellenistic period. The tower was built in the twelfth century, rebuilt in 1679 when was placed on the clock, from which it takes name.
In the medieval village is the Church of Varò, dating back to the fifteenth century, it was believed its origin even more ancient for the presence of a crypt. It was probably used at the time of persecution in the Christian era, when they were forced to profess their faith in secret places.
The Palazzo Ciampoli was built in 1412, the date carved on the emblem located on top of the entrance door. The building has the common elements to the noble palaces of the fifteenth century in Sicily and Spain, indoor ambient open onto a courtyard and gothic arches. Hence it comes the name of a famous night club of the past, the Sesto Acuto ( ogive arch). Now the building is a hotel.
In the center of Piazza del Duomo is the Fountain of the Taurus, an artistic fountain of the seventeenth century in Taormina stone with a circular base. On top the emblem of the city, a centaur biped, has a crown on his head, a sphere and a scepter, symbols of power.
The Duomo or Basilica Cathedral S. Nicholas of Bari dates back to the thirteenth century, was rebuilt several times over the centuries XV, XVI and XVIII. The portal renovated in 1636 is dominated by a Renaissance rose window. The crowning battlements gave her the name of cathedral-fortress. The internal structure is Gothic, a Latin cross with a nave that is joined to sides with ogive arches supported by monolithic columns of pink marble. On the 2nd altar of the right aisle you can admire a beautiful sixteenth-century altarpiece by Antonello de Saliba.
The Church of Carmine, with the convent of Carmelite friars, was built in 1662 and opened to the public as the church of S. Maria dei Greci. The current name is due because it was entrusted to the Carmelite friars. It was destroyed several times by plundering Saracens and completely demolished by bombing in 1943. After the reconstruction was used as an auditorium or exhibition hall.
The south boundary of the medieval town is Porta Catania, its construction dates back to 1440, date is engraved aedicule placed above the arch depicting the coat of arms Aragonese.
The Church of St. Francesco di Paola was once home to the convent of the Gray-Friars of S. Francesco di Paola, who took over in 1617, but the complex was built in ancient times. The church was originally the city's cathedral and was entitled to SS. Assumption. He lost the original style for changes made by the monks. Restored by the architect. A. Dillon after the 1943 bombings was reopened at the photo exhibition Giuseppe Sinopoli, moments, glances in 2005.
Church of Sant'Antonio Abate was built in 1330, has a single nave according to the tradition of suburban churchs. After the bombing of 1943 was almost completely destroyed, but was immediately rebuilt with the same polished stones recovered from the rubble. The church from 1953 houses a beautiful permanent Crib.
A short walk from Piazza Duomo stands the Palace of the Dukes of Santo Stefano of XII century. Note mullioned windows on the second floor very elaborate in Gothic – Chiaramonte style. Today it houses the Foundation Giuseppe Mazzullo, and there are sculptures and drawings of the artist permanently exposed.
The Badia Vecchia is a square embattled tower with mullioned windows on either side, the materials used and Gothic architecture remind the Palace of the Dukes of Santo Stefano style, this means that the two buildings belong to the same period. The Old Abbey is home to the Archaeological Museum of Taormina.
The ex- convent of S. Domenico is located in the homonymous square. The palace-castle was started building in 1374, completed in 1383, then became a convent of the Dominicans. In the early twentieth century was transformed into a luxury hotel. During the Second World War following the bombing the church and the convent have been largely destroyed, only the south cloister of the XVI century and the church tower (XVI and XVIII) are preserved.
Following the scenic Via Roma you get to Villa Comunale or Duke of Cesarò Giovanni Colonna Park, a beautiful botanical garden donated to the city in 1922 by Lady Florence Trevelyan, an English noblewoman cousin of Queen Victoria, who lived in Taormina in 1884 and married the mayor of that time, Prof. Salvatore Cacciola. The fanciful constructions such beehives, pagoda-style, were used by Lady Trevelyan to spend time with friends, as quiet places to read or study the birds, as passionate ornithologist. There are also megaliths in memory of his dogs.
Along the Via Luigi Pirandello is the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, is believed to be the oldest Christian church in Taormina. It was probably built on an ancient greek temple, since Hellenistic archaeological artifacts have been found. The entire floor of the church was full of graves and was used as a cemetery until the 80s. It was probably originally the chapel-mosque of the great Saracen necropolis built between the tenth and eleventh centuries. At the top of Via Pirandello it is possible tosee some loculi of the necropolis. They also think that the Saracen cemetery is located on the former Byzantine necropolis.
The Church of St. Pancrazio was built in the late seventeenth century on the ruins of a greek temple dedicated to Jupiter Serapis, which are still visible limestone blocks of Taormina and in the courtyard a column of gray granite. The church is dedicated to St. Pancrazio. Its statue is above the altar sitting in his vara which is solemnly carried in procession during the celebration in his honor on July 9. The statue of St. Pancrazio is papier-mâché in gold decorated. S. Pancrazio, disciple of St. Peter, was the first bishop of the Sicilians and the patron saint of Taormina.
The Church of St. Anthony of Padua is so called because it was held by the Sisters Antoniane "Daughters of Divine Zeal." In 1550 the Capuchins reached Taormina and built their monastery outside the walls next to the old Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria. This was sold in 1610 to the Capuchins who were enlarging the monastery and it was renamed and dedicated to St. Joseph. The Capuchins also brought water for the needs either of the Monastery or the people of that district. The same sources still provide water to the Fountain of the Capuchins, located near the Arc of Via Cappuccini, i.e. the second door that opened into the third wall to the north. The Sisters took possession of the former monastery January 12, 1902, restructured the whole monastic complex creating the girls' orphanage and schools.
The Church of Madonna della Rocca is located on the mountain overlooking Taormina and was built in a cave infact his ceiling is made of solid rock. Dates back to the period of Norman domination (XII), but it was restored and rebuilt in 1640. Behind the Sanctuary there is a small monastery of the Basilian now disused, and on the south-east an open space that was once the kitchen garden of the hermits. On the edge of this square stands a big cross, built in 1930, facing east, lit at night it is visible from almost every corner of Taormina.
A little further on, at an altitude of 398 meters above sea level there are the ruins of a castle of the Arab-Norman period and therefore called Castello Saraceno. From here they could control the south side, the Alcantara valley and the southern Ionian coast, the north side the northern Ionian coast up to Cape St. Alessio. In Greek and Roman period, the fortress of the Taurus was the lower acropolis of Tauromenion. The upper part was further north, near the present Castelmola. The exterior walls are well preserved and rise more than four metres, while the internal ones because of the collapses are a little less than a metres high. Still inside it is possible recognize remains of walls of an earlier structure.