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Taormina

TANTALISING TAORMINA

What Sorrento is to Italy, so Taormina is to neighbouring Sicily; a fantastic, implausible brew of café thronged, cliff top squares, ancient, weathered churches and amazing, nearby ruins that stand ominously close to the silent slopes of a hopefully long extinct volcano; in this case, Mount Etna.

The old town gained a reputation as a haven for writers, and played host to both F.Scott Fitzgerald and Truman Capote. amongst many others. Rising around seven hundred and fifty feet above sea level, Taormina itself is topped by an ancient Saracen Castle, perched like an eagle on a rocky outcrop, some four hundred and fifty feet further up.
It’s most obvious attraction is the amazingly preserved, Greco-Roman theatre that dates back to the eighth century BC. Set in a spectacular cliff top location, the semi circular seating has amazing views out over the sparkling Mediterranean. Built mainly of brick, many of its original, elegant columns are still preserved to this day. So perfect are the acoustics that it is still used for summertime evening concerts to this day. Flanked by rows of beautiful plane trees, it enjoys a quite remarkable stance, set against a stunning backdrop of sea and sky.
Also well worth a look is the Palazzo Corvaja, a petrified stone palace with an elegant courtyard that dates back as far as the tenth century.

The essence of Taormina can be found in the beguiling string of winding, cobbled streets that snake like the strands of a spider’s web through it’s interiors. Bars, shops and pavement cafes abound here. Lines of clean washing hang between windows, flapping lethargically in a milk warm breeze.
It’s a place where cats curve lazily in the shade of ancient, impossibly ornate fountains to enjoy their afternoon siesta, while tourists throng the conga lines of pavement cafes to indulge in the ancient sport of people watching, just as their Roman ancestors did many centuries ago. it seems that some things never change.

The town itself also boasts a thirteenth century Duomo that is part castle, part cathedral. Just beyond the town is the nature reserve of Isola Bella and, beyond that, the small, pretty seaside resort of Giardini Naxos, with it’s dusky brown beaches and breezy string of waterfront bars and restaurants.

After a hard day exploring the glut of old world wonders that Taormina wears like some sumptuous, ancient crown, some espresso and a little antipasti could be just what the doctor ordered.

Getting there: cruise ships tend to anchor off Giardini Naxos, and tender their passengers ashore. Taormina is around three kilometres away, and is best reached by local bus. These are plentiful and reasonably cheap, too.

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