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The 7th Wednesday after Easter and the 3rd week end in September
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The Most Holy Crucifix
Starts May 1st
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Always in August usually after the 15th, a moveable date

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Late August

Santa Lucia
December 13


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The 'dolce vita' town of Taormina

Posted by Suzanne on 06 Dec 2013

Taormina beckons me every time I am in Sicily. It is a dramatic, curious 'la dolce vita' town from antiquity with secret gardens and follies, and alleyways which lead off open vibrant piazzas. Perched 200m above the blue Ionian Sea on Sicily’s eastern coast at the foot of Monte Tauro, about 50 minutes from Catania, it manages to keep what Raleigh Trevelyn calls 'its mountain village charm'. 

Travellers over the centuries from the writers, Goethe, D. H. Lawrence and Capote to the film goers and stars who attend the Taormina film festival held every year in the summer in the classical ruins of the dramatic Teatro Greco have been enticed.

It has unhurried 'sophisticated' hotels and stirring views to the Ionian Sea, strung with the lights of Giardini Naxos and Catania, and crowned by Mount Etna. 

Taormina is not to be missed when holidaying in Sicily. It invites a spoiling which can be justified for a night or two: a bed at the good looking San Domenico Palace Hotel  is a pleasure and a drink at the Literary Terrace and bar at Grand  Hotel Timeo is a great spot to people watch and enjoy a fabulous night view wiling away a couple of hours.

Taormina the town that was: named Taoromenion in 403 BC by the Greeks, was the capital of Byzantine Sicily in the 9th century, a favourite of the aristocratic Spanish in the 15th to 18th centuries, and a haunt for international writers and holidaymakers, is a town for idling about in and to discover some wonderful treasures.


No.1 The road up to Taormina

Enjoy the road up to Taormina – the moment the A18 autostrada is exited Via Nazionale travels along the sea with views to the stunning nature reserve of the tiny islet, Isola Bella and the Ionian Sea.Turning into Via Pirandello up to Taormina the curvy road passes subtropical bougainvillea and oleander, citrus trees and houses centuries old. On a clear day mainland Italy can be seen.   

Arriving by train at the elegant, small Taormina Giardini railway station on the sea is a nostalgic way to arrive in Taormina and is only a 2 kilometre cab ride or bus trip up Via Pirandello. 


N0.2 Corso Umberto - Piazza IX Aprile

The main street Corso Umberto cuts through Taormina from the medieval gates of Porta Catania and Porta Messina and is free of cars. It is flanked by fabulous 15th   century palazzos which house bars, restaurants and small hotels: Hotel Isabella is an intimate one and the Metropole has not long opened after a fabulous renovation.

There is a wide selection of boutiques and shops selling perfumes, wines, almond pastries, marzipan fruit and animals and the seasonal sweet blood oranges from Etna. Narcisse, Corso Umberto 33, sells a great range of Italian and international perfumes and soaps not always found and it is worth a look.

About halfway down Corso Umberto the wide open Piazza IX Aprile has a fabulous belvedere and here the view to Mount Etna and the sea is uninterrupted. When Mount Etna is erupting this is the spot to enjoy its spectacle of colour and dusk is perfect for taking in the shimmering lights of Giardini Naxos below as night falls and as the tables of Bar Mocambo and Wunderbar fill up. It is a great spot to watch the evening stroll – the passeggiata and enjoy a pre- dinner drink and be part of the illusion. Children play, adults saunter, artists sketch caricatures in front of the 15thcentury church of Sant’Agostino, now a small library and the Rococo Church of San Giuseppe, a favourite for weddings.


No 3 Corso Umberto - Piazza del Duomo

The duomo, Cattedrale di San Niccolo is small and sits on the northern side of the Piazza del Duomo. It has a fabulous crenellated façade and looks to a Baroque fountain adorned with a Greek female centaur dug up on the site.

Ristorante Al Duomo which is just off the piazza inVia degli Ebrei has exceptional fresh Sicilian sea food - the fritture di calamaretti and the daily fresh fish. With a terrace overlooking the piazza dining outside is a must.


No 4 Corso Umberto - Piazza Vittorio Emanuele

Palazzo Corvaja is Taormina’s most eccentric building and it sits on Taormina’s main square, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele next to the delightful  small church of Santa Caterina d’ Alessandria which was built over a Roman theatre. The ruins of the Roman theatre can be seen through a glassed in part of the floor.  With a 'crenellated' Arab tower and a fairytale looking 'parapet' Palazzo Corvaja is a bit of magic. It is now a tourist office and a visit to the tourist office is worthwhile just to enter the secret courtyard.


No 5 San Domenico Palace Hotel

If not staying at San Domenico Palace Hotel definitely go for dinner or a drink in the courtyard open to the bluest of skies. To sit under the spectacular magnolia tree and palms or in the lush sub- tropical garden is a lovely way to spend some time. It was a former 15th century monastery and has been well restored after suffering heavy bombing in WW II. The cloisters are a true refuge and are intact.


No 6 Giardino Pubblico

Meander through the 'tiered' and 'lush' sub- tropical public gardens along mosaic pathways and enjoy the lovely oriental style follies built by the 'eccentric' English woman Florence Trevelyan in what were her delightful gardens. She 'bequeathed' the gardens to the people of Taormina nearly 100 years ago


No 7 Isola Bella

Below the cliffs of Taormina the beautiful nature reserve Isola Bella is a perfect spot for swimming in the warm Ionian Sea and also great for snorkelling and diving. There are a few fishermen here who rent their boats out for some leisurely slow boating and discovery of small grottoes. Isola Bella's pebbled beach has a great lido in the summer. The cable car ride down from Taormina’s Via Pirandello makes the beaches an easy outing from Taormina.


No 8 Teatro Greco

The majestic setting of the Greek Theatre with a backdrop of just the 'sky and sea' - said to be the only backdrop for the Greeks, is stunning and the acoustics are phenomenal. Built in the 3rd century BC by the Greeks and altered quite a bit by the Romans in the 2nd century AD, it has lost none of its drama. The seats 'hewn out of the hillside' are sat on today for classical theatre productions, and festivals of film, music and ballet. The Taormina Arts festival runs through the summer from June to August.

When in the La Dolce Vita town of Taormina be idle, explore the ancient ruins and  'be part of the illusion'.






A Note: Background reading: Insight Guides Sicily and Raleigh Trevelyn's Sicily 2/9/15 Suzanne

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