What to see in Taormina
It was built during the greek period, probably in the 3rd century B.C.: parts of the wall under the scene, some inscriptions on the steps of the cavea and rests of a little temple situated on the panoramic viewpoint overlooking the cavea belonged to this period. In the second half of the 2nd century B.C. the Romans enlarged the theatre (it was the second biggest theatre in Sicily, after that one of Siracusa); it counted nine sectors of steps and behind the cavea was built a wall decorated by columns and a portico. The scene (an oriental scene common in Greece) was characterized by a front with three gaps that inserted the beautiful panorama in the performances. On the sides of the scene there were two halls for the spectators. Until this period the theatre was used to perform comedies and dramas, instead during the late Roman age it was used for the fightings of gladiators or animals (venationes), so it was modified in an amphitheatre: the Greek orchestra was changed in an arena and a roofed hallway and a portico behind the scene were added. During the Middle Age parts of the theatre were used as residence. Today it is still used for several performances.
- Address: Via Teatro Greco - Taormina (ME)
Cattedrale di San Nicola
The cathedral was built around the 13th century on the ruins of a pre-existing medieval church and dedicated to San Nicola di Bari. It was rebuilt during the 15th and 16th century and adjusted during the 18th century. On the façade, between two windows of the 15th century in Gothic style, there is the main door, rebuilt in 1636 on request of the administrators. The portal is characterized by two columns in Corinthian order; on the capitals there are two angel’s heads. The doorjambs are dated back to the 15th century and are decorated by eleven figures per side. These twenty-two figures represent: St. Paul (sword of Faith), St. Peter (keys) King David (cithara), the four Evangelists with their symbols: the lion (St. Marc), the eagle (St. John), the calf (St. Luke) and the Angel (St, Matthew) and other Saints or Apostles. The two figures on the top, the two Bishops, are S.t. Nicholas and St. Pancras. The doors of the side façades belong to different ages. The east door is dated back to the 16th century, the west door (opposite to the Town Hall), decorated by lava stones, is dated back to the second half of the 15th century and is decorated by bas-relieves representing grapes, symbol of Christ. On the architrave Christ between St. Peter and St. Paul. The façades are decorated by pink windows in sandstone of Siracusa. The layout of the church is a Latin cross, with three naves divided by six marmoreal columns (four of them probably belonged to the greek theatre) and three apses. The ceiling is in inlaid wood with Arab decorations. The chapels on the sides of the main altar are remarkable: the left chapel (of Sacrament) is dated back to the 17th century and it’s in Baroque style; the right chapel (dedicated to Virgin Mary of Grace) was rebuilt in 1747 using gothic structures from another church. Several statues and paintings adorn the church; one of the most considerable is the polyptych of Antonello de Saliba (nephew of the well-known Antonello da Messina) dated 1504. From 1945 to 1948 the cathedral was restored by the architect Armando Dillon.
- Address: Piazza Duomo - Taormina (ME)
Chiesa di San Pancrazio
Before arriving at Porta Messina, in Largo Giove Serapide, the Church San Pancrazio stands. It was built on the ruins of an ancient greek temple dedicated to Jupiter. During the Byzantine age (6th – 11th Centuries) the temple became a church and parts of the greek building were inserted in the new building. The current building dates back to the second half of the 17th century (when the ancient church was renewed and enlarged) and it’s in Baroque style. The main façade is characterized by a monumental door, made of Taormina’s stone, with four columns in Ionic style: between the columns on the right side there is the statue of St. Procopio (Bishop of Taormina murdered during the Arab domination), between the columns on the left side is the statue of St. Pancrazio (first Bishop of Taormina and patron of the town). The church has only a nave and the floor and the altars are made of coloured marble of Taormina; on the altars some pictures of the 18th century. On the main altar there are eight angels with the symbols of Christianity and of the Bishops; in the middle God giving his blessing and under him Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus. On the both sides of the main altar there are two frescos that represent the martyrdom of St Pancrazio (on the right) and his arrival (on the left). Behind the main altar, the statue of the Patron Saint, created in the 19th century in gold and paper mache.
- Address: Piazza San Pancrazio - Taormina (ME)
The building is located on the ancient greek agorà, then roman forum: it was the place of the public and social life. During the Arab period the area became a defense zone and the first part of the building was built: the cubic tower (11th century). It was probably modified by the Normans. Between the 13th and 15th century the building was enlarged and today we can admire a mix of several styles: Arab and Norman styles with references to Catalan and Sicilian Gothic styles. The right wing (the main body) was added probably at the beginning of 15th century; inside there is the hall of the Parliament, where in 1411 queen Bianca of Navarra gathered the Sicilian Parliament to choose the new king of Sicily. From 1538 to 1945 the building was property of the powerful family Corvaja. After the Second World War the building was restored by the architect Armando Dillon in 1946. On the façades we can read some inscriptions that reveal the moral choices of the owners; the inscriptions refer to the four most important virtues (faith, justice, fortitude and temperance). DEUS DILIGERE PRUDENTIA EST A EUM ADORARI JUSTITIA (Prudence is loving God, justice is adoring Him) PAR DOMINUS E COELO SED MINORI DOMINO (Such Home come from Heaven, but under a lord lesser then God) NULLIS IN ADVERBIS AB EO ABSTAHI FORTITUDO EST NULLIS ELLECEBRIS EMOLIRI TEMPERANTIA EST ET IN HIS SUNT ACTUS VIRTUTUM ESTO MIHI LOCU REFUGII (This place be my refuge). Today the building houses the Museum of Sicilian folk arts and traditions and a tourist information point.
- Address: Piazza Santa Caterina - Taormina (ME)
Near the Carabinieri Station there are the rests of the Roman Thermal Baths (1st – 2nd century). We can see three big rooms realized in bricks, where we find the frigidarium (a pool with cold water), the tepidarium (with warm water) and the calidarium (with hot water). Under the floor some fire were lighted to warm up the locations. Probably the complex was bigger and it is still undiscovered under the buildings of the area.
- Address: Vico Zecca - Taormina (ME)
Chiesa di Santa Caterina D’Alessandria
The church was built on the ruins of an ancient Roman Odeon in the second half of the 17th century in Baroque style. The structure is made of sandstone of Siracusa but the main door is in pink marble of Taormina. Over the portal there is a statue of St. Catherine sculpted by Paolo Greco in 1705. The church has only a nave and on the right there is a statue of Santa Caterina dated back to 1493, that belonged to the ancient church of Santa Caterina (today church of Cappuccini). The main altar is decorated by coloured marbles and a big picture in painted wood dated back to the 17th century. During the renovation in 1970s the crypta and the rests of a Roman structure were found.
- Address: Corso Umberto - Taormina (ME)
The villa was built for Lady Florence Trevelyan, a Scottish noblewoman who had to leave her country because of an affair with Edward VII, heir of the english throne. Lady Trevelyan arrived in Taormina in 1884 and marry the Major Salvatore Cacciola, who wanted the building of the villa for his wife. The garden became municipal property in 1922. Still today we can admire inside some edifices, called “victorian follies”, built in obedience to Lady Trevelyan for ornamental reasons.
- Address: Via Bagnoli Croce - Taormina (ME)
Chiesa di Sant’Agostino
The church, in Sicilian-Gothic style, was built in 1486 and dedicated to St. Sebastian and in 1530 the convent of the Agostinian order was erected. Outside we can admire the small bell tower and the portal in marble of Taormina, realized in 1700. The structure became municipal property after the union of Italy (1861) and since 1933 it became the seat of the municipal library.
- Address: Piazza IX Aprile - Taormina (ME)
Chiesa di San Giuseppe
The church overlooks piazza IX Aprile and it was built in the second half of 17th century in Baroque style. A monumental staircase in sandstone of Siracusa leeds to the churchyard. The façade in Baroque style is characterized by three doors; the main door is in colored marbles, on the sides it is decorated with two columns in ionic style. Over the main door there is a skull with crossed tibiae and on the top in a recess is the statue of Christ giving His blessing; over Him another skull. The sloping roof of the façade is decorated by flames and a burning human being. All these symbols (skulls, flames) refer to the Purgatory, because the church was entrusted to the “Brotherhood of Purgatory’s souls”; flames are symbol of purification and in the Purgatory souls are purged of their sins. The church has only a nave with a transept covered by a dome. The dome is painted with the figures of San Giovanni Bosco and the Virgin Mary and the Child. In the middle there is the white dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit. The walls are richly decorated by floral motives and angel’s heads in stucco, according to the Baroque style. Also there are some pictures that represent gospel’s scenes and prophets. On the floor a gravestone, decorated by black and white marbles, is the entrance of the crypta. The main altar is in colored marbles of Taormina and is decorated by the figure of Virgin Mary elevated on the Purgatory’s souls, that are burning in the flames.
- Address: Piazza IX Aprile - Taormina (ME)
Porta di Mezzo - Torre dell’orologio
The gate marks the entrance to the Medieval part of Taormina. The original tower was erected during the 12th century, probably on ruins dated back to the 4th century B.C., but it was destroyed in 1676 during a french invasion. The tower was rebuilt in 1679, when the clock was inserted. The bells of the tower ring for the election of the Mayor and on 9th of July, when the patron saint (San Pancrazio) is celebrated.
- Address: Piazza IX Aprile - Taormina (ME)
Fontana della Centauressa
In the Cathedral square there is the fountain symbol of Taormina. It was created in 1635 in obedience to the local administrators ( their names are engraved on the smallest basin). It’s called also “Four Fontains” because of the four columns decorated by seahorses that surround the main body. The main body is characterized by two basins and in the middle a column supports the statue of the so-called “Centauressa”(a mythological creature half woman and half horse).
- Address: Piazza Duomo - Taormina (ME)
Palazzo Duchi di Santo Stefano
It was built between the 13th and the 14th century and it was inserted in the medieval fortified walls. It’s an example of Sicilian Medieval architecture with its mix of styles (Norman-Gothic style and Arab-Catalan style). The building overlooks a small garden and it is characterized by typical Gothic windows called bifore and on the top by a decoration in lava stone. The building was the palace of the De Spuches family, Princes of Galati and Dukes of S.Stefano. During the bombing in 1943 the palace was seriously damaged and it was rebuilt according to the original structure. Today it is the seat of the Mazzullo Foundation that exhibits several works of art.
- Address: Via Des Spuches - Taormina (ME)
The word comes from Greek and it means “naval battle”; during the Roman age the term was used to name performances that reproduced naval battles and the seat in which these shows took place. The Naumachia of Taormina is a Roman wall, 122 m long and 5 m high, characterized by recesses that hosted statues. This wall surrounded a large area and inside a tank was found. So Philippe D’Orveille in 1700 thought that the wall was part of a building in which naval battles were performed. Recently new investigations proved that the tank served the water system of the town and that the wall belonged to a Roman gymnasium.
- Address: Via Naumachia - Taormina (ME)