Among the excellences that the city of Messina can boast in its province is Taormina, one of the most important tourist centers in Sicily at national and international level. A land where natural beauties are accompanied by important historical monuments, making it an obligatory stop during a stay in Sicily.
Origins of the town
There are various and conflicting testimonies regarding the origin of Taormina. The most reliable indicates that the name derives from its hilly position, since it stood on the hill called Tauromenion. Taormina was one of the places that were part of the Hellenistic reign of the Sicilian ruler Agatocle. A membership that continued until 212 BC, when Sicily was conquered by the Romans.
During the Roman domination Taormina was considered one of the three Civitates foederatae, therefore its inhabitants do not have to pay taxes. It also has a strategic position, so much so that for about 62 years it was the last strip of land of the Eastern Roman Empire in Sicily. In 906, due to the betrayal of a Messina mercenary, Taormina was razed to the ground. Later, it was annexed to the independent Emirate of Sicily and partially rebuilt, being embellished with gardens and fountains. In 1130 it became part of the Kingdom of Sicily, remaining part of it both under the Swabian dynasty and the Aragon family. In the sixteenth century, Philip IV of Spain granted the city the privilege of permanently belonging to the crown and Taormina remained faithful even in 1675, on the occasion of the anti-Spanish revolt of Messina.
Over the years, Taormina has increasingly become an interesting tourist destination, attracting prominent figures such as writers and artists. His fame grew all over the world, for his splendid landscapes but also for the good life he offered. After the end of the Second World War, it expanded without touching its natural beauty and became even more famous.
What to see
Among the most important monuments of Taormina is the Duomo, which is one of the most extraordinary examples of a Sicilian church. Located at the end of Corso Umberto (or at the beginning, depending on where you are), it stands out for its medieval facade and its Baroque style door. Another building that deserves to be visited is Villa Comunale, with its huge public garden. A place that has a breathtaking view of the bay, as well as being ideal for a picnic surrounded by greenery. Do not forget the Greek Theater, which is the most famous historical monument in Taormina. Built in the III escolo BC, it remains well preserved. It is used for concerts and plays and allows you to take beautiful photos considering the panorama it offers.
What to do
During a stay in Taormina it is strongly recommended to take a tour of Corso Umberto, which is the main street of the city. It boasts a series of luxury boutiques and other kinds of shops, which justify the nickname by which Taormina is known or “the Sicilian Saint Tropez”. Also not to be missed is Piazza IX Aprile, which is one of the best viewpoints in the city. It has a terrace overlooking the bay below and Mount Etna. Especially at sunset, you can take beautiful photos.
What and where to eat
The culinary tradition of Taormina, as well as its history, is linked to the Greek, Arab and Norman cultures. Among the dishes that come from the Greek culture are the swordfish rolls, which later became an integral part of the Sicilian culinary tradition. Usually, thin slices of fish are stuffed with breadcrumbs which is seasoned with pine nuts, olives, capers, tomatoes, garlic and fresh basil. The final roll will then be breaded with breadcrumbs and olive oil. Other specialties of the area are pasta alla norma (macaroni seasoned with tomato sauce to which fried aubergines, ricotta salata and fresh basil are subsequently added), caponata (fried aubergines, tomato pulp cooked with onion, olives, capers , salt, pepper, vinegar and sugar), cuzzole (pieces of fried bread sprinkled with sugar), arancini and cannoli with ricotta. All to be enjoyed in restaurants that certainly will not disappoint you. Some examples are La Capinera,
Osteria Rosso Vino, Trattoria Don Ciccio, Da Cristina Taormina e Bistrot Siciliano Sikè.
At the foot of Taormina is Isola Bella, one of the most beautiful spots in the city as evidenced by the numerous postcards depicting it. Its beach is made up of pebbles and is bathed by crystal clear water. An ideal location for all tastes, as it allows you to do excellent diving but also a boat ride, jet ski or indulge in some healthy relaxation.
How to come
Taormina can be reached by car – for example – by taking the A18 Messina-Catania motorway and taking the exit for Taormina. Alternatively, there is the state road 114 Orientale Sicula Messina – Syracuse. In terms of trains, there is the Taormina-Giardini station, located on the Messina-Catania railway line. There are also interurban scheduled bus services.