History, facts and travel tips about Taormina
The climate is a dream, its position, perfect panoramas, monuments and luxurious flora and fauna render Taormina a location admired by all who visit it. The city lies on a terrace, with a view of the ancient Amphitheater against a backdrop of citrus groves with Mount Etna engulfed in the glory of the Ionian Sea beyond.
Taormina's genesis and early history began with the Greeks who founded and named the town in 358 B.C.; travelling to Naxos and settling there had later extended their territory to Taormina. Desired for its strategic position overlooking the sea and valley, it was seized by the Romans, and later fell into Byzantine hands. The Arabs, on their arrival, enriched the surrounding countryside, building an efficient irrigation system for crops, ensuring Taormina's desirability and verdant beauty.
During the Sicilian Struggle for freedom from the French, and the Sicilian Vespers uprising, Taormina gave its support to the Spanish Aragon family, who, once established in Sicily, rewarded the city richly. Various Spanish and Aragon ruling families funded the building of churches and great houses in the charming Gothic Romanesque style.
Taormina has proved a source of inspiration to novelists and writers throughout the centuries from Ovid to Goethe and D.H. Lawrence who, whilst in Taormina wrote "Lady Chatterley's Lover", and based various aspects of his novels on his experiences in the city. Goethe praised Taormina in his "Italian Journey", to such a degree that it became an integral part of the Grand Tour, upon which fashionable English gentlemen and intellectuals embarked for purposes of education and refinement in the 1800's. Basking in its new found international popularity, Taormina expanded with the creation of numerous new hotels, many of which are still thriving, as Taormina's popularity has not waned.
Taormina had graduated to status and became an exclusive, high-class haunt, frequented by an array of artists and personalities. The list is somewhat inexhaustible, but to name a few: Alexander Dumas, Johannes Brahms, Gustav Klimt, Richard Wagner, Oscar Wilde, Truman Capote, John Steinbeck, Ingmar Bergman, Francis Ford Coppola, Leonard Bergman, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Federico Fellini, Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Elizabeth Taylor, and Woody Allen.
During the Second World War, Taormina was subjected to bombing raids by the allies who invaded Sicily in 1942, shortly before the fall of Mussolini. Damage inflicted in the town included destruction of part of the ancient (and very beautiful) amphitheater and St. Dominic's church. However, much of what had been damaged was restored soon after the war and Taormina appears to have survived relatively unscathed.
During the 1960's something of the city's exclusivity declined. The quantity of cement accumulated, infringing on the pleasant and peaceful greenery and began to spread indiscriminately. The beaches became more oriented toward mass tourism, populated by salesmen, speculators and low budget hoteliers. Thus, something of its ancient peace and dignity departed.
Today however, a tasteful balance has been struck between the affluent refinement and luxury of yesteryear and the requirements of the more modest modern wayfarer. Thus Taormina's reputation as a a city infused with poetic beauty and history with views of splendour in plenty, remains true for every traveller.