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Taormina is a town on the coast of north-eastern Sicily and to the south-west of Messina. It is located on a sunny 'terrace' on the side of Monte Tauro, in an attractive natural setting which makes it one of the most sought after tourist destinations in Sicily in both summer and winter.
Many visitors pass much of their time on one of the impressive beaches along the coast here, but we recommend you also take the time to explore all that Taormina has to offer - there are many architectural highlights in the town, dating back some 2300 years.
A visit to Taormina can start from the Via San Pancrazio and the Church of San Pancrazio, a 17th century church built on the site of the Ancient Greek temple of Serapis, and with frescoes dating from the eighteenth century.
Passing through the Porta Massima you enter the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, which is dominated by the Corvaja Palace, probably built in the early 16th century. It has a trapezoidal shape with four mullioned windows. Note especially the the main door, and the staircase which is decorated with various sculptures.
Next to the Palace is the Church of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, built in the mid-17th century and containing works of great value: a statue of the Holy Women (1705) by Paolo Greco and one by an unknown sculptor of the 16th century.
There is also a 16th century altar piece of the Virgin and Saints and another by Jacopo Vigneri (active in 1550). Finally, there is a painting by Antonio Alberti (1600-1649) called the Barbalonga (the 'Virgin in Glory').
From Piazza Vittorio Emanuele follow the Via Teatro Greco to reach the famous theatre of Taormina, dating from the Hellenistic period and with changes made by the Romans in the second century B.C. The theatre, second in size only to that of Syracuse, demonstrates how important Taormina was in Roman times.
Next to Corso Umberto I you can see the Via Naumachia, along which is the so-called 'Naumachie', a wall more than 120 meters long which is one of the most imposing Roman hydraulic works: it is the ruins of a massive reservoir which originally collected water to convey it to the city in case of need.
To the left of this Corso Umberto I is the Church of Piliere (XVI century), and other notable buildings such as the City Hall and the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas - dating from the thirteenth century, with three aisles, and important paintings such as the Virgin and Child with Saints Jerome and Sebastian (1504) by Antonello de Saliba (1466-1535).
In the Piazza IX Aprile in Taormina there are two more important monuments: the Church of St. Augustine (XVI century, with ogival arches and a small central rosette) and the Clock Tower or Middle Gate.
Through this gate you enter the Borgo (old town) on Via d'Orveille. Notable highlights here are the Church of the Varò (with a cross painted in the 14th century and a fresco attributed to Vincenzo Tuccari (1657-1734) called the Triumph of the Cross.
Other buildings of importance here are the Church of San Giovanni di Malta (mid-16th century) and the Ciampoli Palace (early 14th century, although renovated at various times over the years).
Continuing the tour of the Village as far as the Porta del Tocco, other important artefacts worthy of mention include the Church of San Michele (XVII century), the Palazzo dei Duchi di Santo Stefano (XIII century), Piazza Carmine, the Badia Vecchia (a tower of Norman origin), and the Church of San Francesco di Paola.
The trip to this city of art can finish with a visit to the famous Belvedere (about 200 meters above sea level) where you can enjoy the panorama across the rooftops of Taormina and out to sea. Beautiful.
Places to visit near Taormina
The area around Taormina also contains various sites of interest to visitors. For example, it is worth visiting Castelmola, home of the castle of Mola, of trapezoidal shape, which dominates the whole territory from its impregnable position.
For those who love the sea and the sun there is the beautiful beach of Mazzarò.
Also close to Taormina, as wall as an impressive landscape (for example the Gole of Alcantara, Mount Etna, the medieval castles) and beautiful beaches there are also villages such as Letojanni and St. Alexius.
While here be sure to sample the traditional cuisine of Taormina in one of the local restaurants, where the local Etna wine can accompany such dishes as ravioli of fresh pasta with shrimp and vegetable marrows, the piquant mussel, swordfish rolls, caponata, and fried squids.
See also Taormina history.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.