During the 20th century Taormina was the most famous holiday destination on the island. It is renowned for its magnificent position, above the sea 200m/656ft from its rocky plateau of Mt Taurus, over the sea to Mount Etna. Since 1970 foreigners constructed villas in the city. Most of the hotels and villas are are surrounded with verdant gardens, magic with medieval churches and palaces, the tiny streets and Roman remains.
Corso Umberto is the main street and runs from Porta Messina to Porta Catania, connecting three squares: Piazza Duomo, Piazza IX Aprile and Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Porta Catania or Porta del Tocco has the Aragon family emblem on the outside.
Piazza Duomo. Close to Porta Catania, is the attractive square facing the Duomo, St Nicholas of Bari, founded in 13th century. The facade has a late rose window and portal of 1636. In the piazza is a charming fountain of 1635, a symbol of Taormina, the bizarre figure on the top would appear to be the bust of an angel on the body of a bull, adapted here is a pregnant female centaur with only two legs.
Piazza IX Aprile. Often called Piazza Panoramica, this delightful square offers wonderful views overlooking the sea over the bay and across to Mount Etna. The date refers to 9th April 1860, when the people of Taormina rebelled against the authority of the Bourbons during the Risorgimento.
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Often called Piazza Badia, it is the place of the ancient agora and the Roman forum. On the west side of the square you can see Palazzo Corvaja, early 15th century the central part is a 10th century Arab structure. The building houses the tourist information office, where you will find a collection of authentic marionettes, Museum of Art and Popular Traditions. It’s filled with 18th century oil portraits, painted glass and donkey carts. The most interesting pieces in the collection are secular portraits of the mid 19th century Sicilian bourgeoisie.
Behind the tourist office, on the other side of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, is the Roman Odeon, a small theater partly covered by the church of Santa Caterina next door. The Romans constructed this theater around A.D. 21. Much smaller than the Greek theater and with similar architecture, it was discovered in 1892 by a blacksmith digging in the area. A peristyle (colonnade) was also discovered here, perhaps all that was left of a Greek temple dedicated to Aphrodite.
From Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, via teatro Greco leads east coast souvenir shops and Villa Papale on the right, once Palazzo Cacciola and the residence of Florence Trevelyan.
The magnificent Greek theatre stands testament to its creative past and you can still see plays and concerts against the backdrop of distant Etna. It was built in the Hellenistic period and then transformed and enlarged by the Romans. What remains today dates from the 2nd century AD and it is the most visited monument in Taormina, offering a view of rare beauty of the seacoast and Mount Etna.
The public gardens. Sometimes called Parco di Cesarò, the gardens in Taormina are colorful at all times of the year, with many different varieties of flowering plants and a vast array of Mediterranean and exotic trees. They were created in 1899 by Florence Trevelyn Cacciola (1852-1907), the Scottish lady was invited to leave Britain after a well plucked romance with the future king, Edward VII, son of Victoria. whose bust has been placed just inside the main entrance on Via Bagnoli Croce. The gardens are open daily 8.30am to 7pm (6pm in winter), admission is free.
Madonna della Rocca
Above the town, a path leads up through trees to the tiny church of the Madonna della Rocca, carved into the rock. Te crucifix in front of it, which dominates all Taormina, was erected in 1743 by the grateful population when an epidemic of plague passed them by.
The castle, at a height of 398m, stands of te remains of the Greek acropolis, and shows signs of construction dating from Byzantine, Arab, Norman and Spanish times, forming part of a defensive system completed by the castles of Castelmola and Calatabiano, it was never captured by the enemy. The slaves were tortured and then thrown from a high precipice. The return can be made by the 738 steps that link the serpentine loops of the Castelmola road.