Taormina (Greek: Ταυρομένιον, Tauromenion; Latin:
Tauromenium; Sicilian: Taurmina) is a comune (municipality) in the
Metropolitan City of Messina, on the east coast of the island of
Taormina has been a tourist destination since the 19th
century. Its beaches on the Ionian sea, including that of Isola Bella,
are accessible via an aerial tramway built in 1992, and via highways
Messina in the north and
Catania in the south.
1.1 Ancient Tauromenion
1.2 Middle ages
1.3 Modern age
2 Main sights
3 Culture and tourism
4 Cultural references
6 Notable residents
7 See also
10 External links
The area around
Taormina was inhabited by the
Siculi even before the
Greeks arrived on the Sicilian coast in 734 BC to found a town called
Naxos. The theory that
Tauromenion was founded by colonists from Naxos
is confirmed by
Strabo and other ancient writers.
The new settlement seems to have risen rapidly to prosperity, and was
apparently already a considerable town at the time of Timoleon's
expedition in 345 BC. It was the first place in
Sicily where that
leader landed, having eluded the vigilance of the Carthaginians, who
were guarding the Straits of Messina, and crossed direct from Rhegium
(modern Reggio di Calabria) to Tauromenium. The city was at that
time still under the government of Andromachus, whose mild and
equitable administration is said to have presented a strong contrast
with that of the despots and tyrants of the other Sicilian cities. He
Timoleon with open arms, and afforded him a secure resting
place until he was enabled to carry out his plans in other parts of
Sicily. Andromachus was not deprived of his position of power when
all the other tyrants were expelled by Timoleon, but was permitted to
retain it undisturbed till his death. Little is recorded about
Tauromenium for some time after this. It is probable that it passed
under the authority of Agathocles, who drove the historian Timaeus
into exile; and some time after this it was subject to a domestic
despot of the name of Tyndarion, who was contemporary with Hicetas of
Syracuse and Phintias of Agrigentum. Tyndarion was one of those who
concurred in inviting Pyrrhus into
Sicily (278 BC), and when that
monarch landed with his army at Tauromenium, joined him with all his
forces, and supported him in his march upon Syracuse. A few years
later we find that Tauromenium had fallen into the power of Hieron II
of Syracuse, and was employed by him as a stronghold in the war
against the Mamertines. (Id. p. 497.) It was also one of the
cities which was left under his dominion by the treaty concluded with
him by the Romans in 263 BC.
There is no doubt that Tauromenium continued to form a part of the
kingdom of Syracuse until the death of Hieron, and that it only passed
under the government of Rome when the whole island of
reduced to a Roman province; but we have scarcely any account of the
part it took during the Second Punic War, though it would appear, from
a hint in Appian, that it submitted to Marcellus on favorable
terms; and it is probable that it was on that occasion it obtained the
peculiarly favored position it enjoyed under the Roman dominion. For
we learn from
Cicero that Tauromenium was one of the three cities in
Sicily which enjoyed the privileges of a civitas foederata or allied
city, thus retaining a nominal independence, and was not even subject,
like Messina, to the obligation of furnishing ships of war when called
upon. The city, however, suffered severe calamities during the
Servile War in
Sicily (134–132 BC), having fallen into the hands of
the insurgent slaves, who, on account of the great strength of its
position, made it one of their chief posts, and were able for a long
time to defy the arms of the consul Publius Rupilius. They held out
until they were reduced to the most fearful extremities by famine,
when the citadel was at length betrayed into the hands of the consul
by one of their leaders named Sarapion, and the whole of the survivors
put to the sword.
Tauromenium again played a conspicuous part during the wars of Sextus
Pompeius in Sicily, and, from its strength as a fortress, was one of
the principal points of the position which he took up in 36 BC, for
defence against Octavian. It became the scene also of a sea-fight
between a part of the fleet of Octavian, commanded by the triumvir in
person, and that of Pompeius, which terminated in the defeat and
almost total destruction of the latter. In the settlement of
Sicily after the defeat of Pompeius, Tauromenium was one of the places
Augustus to receive a Roman colony, probably as a measure
of precaution, on account of the strength of its situation, as we are
told that he expelled the former inhabitants to make room for his new
Strabo speaks of it as one of the cities on the east
Sicily that was still subsisting in his time, though inferior
in population both to Messana and Catana. Both Pliny and Ptolemy
assign it the rank of a colonia, and it seems to have been one of
the few cities of
Sicily that continued under the
Roman Empire to be a
place of some consideration. Its territory was noted for the
excellence of its wine, and produced also a kind of marble which
seems to have been highly valued.
Juvenal also speaks of the sea
off its rocky coast as producing the choicest mullets. The
Itineraries place Tauromenium 32 miles from Messina, and the same
distance from Catania. (Itin. Ant. p. 90; Tab. Peut.)
The courtyard of the 10th century
The Duomo dates from the 13th century
Casa Cipolla in
Taormina dates from the 15th century.
After the fall of the Western Roman Empire,
Taormina continued to rank
as one of the more important towns of Sicily, and because of the
strength of its position was one of the last places that was retained
by the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) emperors; but it was taken by the
Fatimids in 962 after a siege of 30 weeks.
Taormina was renamed
"Al-Mu'izziyya" in honour of Caliph al-Mu'izz (reigned 953–75).
Muslim rule of the town (see History of Islam in southern Italy)
lasted until 1078, when it was captured by the Norman count Roger I of
Sicily. At this time
Taormina and the surrounding
Val Demone were
still predominately Greek speaking.
After the fall of the Normans and of their German (imperial) heirs,
Taormina followed the history of
Sicily under the
Angevins and then the Crown of Aragon. In 1410 King Martin II of
Sicily was elected here by the Sicilian Parliament. Later
under Spanish suzerainty, receiving the status of "city" in the 17th
In 1675 it was besieged by the French, who had occupied Messina.
Bourbons dynasty of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, which
lasted until 1860,
Taormina did not have a relevant role; however, it
obtained an easier access when part of the Catrabico promontory was
partially cut and a seaside road connecting it to
Messina and Catania
was created. It received also a station on the second-oldest railroad
in the region.
There is some speculation about
Taormina being an early gentlemen's
Capri had a similar reputation, as tolerant of gay
men and artists. Taormina's first important tourist was Johann
Wolfgang Goethe, who exalted it in Italian Journey, a record of his
1786 journey published in 1816. Starting from the 19th century
Taormina became a popular tourist resort in the whole of Europe:
people who visited
Taormina include Oscar Wilde, Nicholas I of Russia,
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,
Friedrich Nietzsche (who here wrote his
Thus Spoke Zarathustra),
Richard Wagner and many others. In the late
19th century the city gained further prominence as the place where
Wilhelm von Gloeden
Wilhelm von Gloeden worked most of his life as a photographer of
predominantly male nudes.
Also credited for making
Taormina popular was Otto Geleng (1843-1939),
a German landscape painter who settled there from the 1860s. He was
one of the first artists to capture the beauties of Sicily, and his
exhibitions in Berlin and Paris lured northern Europeans to see for
themselves. He married an Italian woman and settled in Taormina,
renovating a palazzo into the first full-scale hotel to greet these
In 1905, the English artist Robert Hawthorn Kitson, heir to Kitson and
Company but driven from Britain by homophobia, built a house in
Taormina. He commissioned
Frank Brangwyn to design murals and
furniture for the Casa Cuseni.
Alfred East also contributed. The
property, including extensive gardens, was inherited by his niece
Daphne Phelps just after World War II. She intended to sell, but ended
up staying, running the place as a pensione for half a century, with
guests such as Bertrand Russell, Roald Dahl, Henry Faulkner, and
Tennessee Williams. In 1999 she wrote A House in
Sicily about life in
Taormina in general and Casa Cuseni in particular.
In 1907, the English architect C. R. Ashbee, a prime mover of the Arts
and Crafts movement, came to
Taormina on commission from an old
client. Colonel Shaw-Hellier set him the task of designing the Villa
San Giorgio,. Biographer
Fiona MacCarthy judges it "the most
impressive of Ashbee's remaining buildings"; it is run as the
During the early 20th century the town became a colony of expatriate
artists, writers and intellectuals.
Albert Stopford grew roses in his
D. H. Lawrence
D. H. Lawrence stayed at the Fontana Vecchia from
1920 to 1922. (He wrote a number of his poems, novels, short stories
and essays, and the travel book Sea and Sardinia.) Thirty years later,
from April 1950 through September 1951, the same villa was home to
Truman Capote, who wrote of his stay in the essay "Fontana Vecchia."
Jean Cocteau and
Jean Marais visited the place. Charles Webster
Leadbeater, the theosophical author, found out that
Taormina had the
right magnetic fields for
Jiddu Krishnamurti to develop his talents,
so the young Krishnamurti spent part of 1912 in the city. By this
Taormina had become "a polite synonym for Sodom", as Harold Acton
described it. Later, however, after the
Second World War
Second World War Acton was
Evelyn Waugh and, coming upon a board
advertising “Ye Olde English Teas” he sighed and commented that
Taormina 'was now quite as boring as Bournemouth'.
Icelandic writer Halldór Laxness, who won the Nobel Prize in
Literature in 1955, wrote most of his first novel, Vefarinn mikli frá
Kasmír ("The Great Weaver from Kashmir"), in
Taormina which he then
praised highly in his book of autobiographical essays, Skáldatími
("The Time of the Poet", 1963).
43rd G7 summit
43rd G7 summit was held in the town on May 26–27, 2017.
The Teatro Greco ("Greek theatre").
The present town of
Taormina occupies the ancient site, on a hill
which forms the last projecting point of the mountain ridge that
extends along the coast from
Cape Pelorus to this point. The site of
the old town is about 250 metres (820 ft) above the sea, while a
very steep and almost isolated rock, crowned by a
rises about 150 metres (490 ft) higher. This is the likely site
of the ancient Arx or citadel, an inaccessible position mentioned by
ancient writers. Portions of the ancient walls may be traced at
intervals all round the brow of the hill, the whole of the summit of
which was occupied by the ancient city. Numerous fragments of ancient
buildings are scattered over its whole surface, including extensive
reservoirs of water, sepulchres, tesselated pavements, etc., and the
remains of a spacious edifice, commonly called a Naumachia, but the
real purpose of which it is difficult to determine.
Ancient theatre of Taormina
Ancient theatre of Taormina is built for the most part of brick,
and is therefore probably of Roman date, though the plan and
arrangement are in accordance with those of Greek, rather than Roman,
theatres; whence it is supposed that the present structure was rebuilt
upon the foundations of an older theatre of the Greek period. With a
diameter of 109 metres (358 ft) (after an expansion in the 2nd
century), this theatre is the second largest of its kind in Sicily
(after that of Syracuse); it is frequently used for operatic and
theatrical performances and for concerts. The greater part of the
original seats have disappeared, but the wall which surrounded the
whole cavea is preserved, and the proscenium with the back wall of the
scena and its appendages, of which only traces remain in most ancient
theatres, are here preserved in an uncommon state of integrity. From
the fragments of architectural decorations still extant we learn that
it was of the Corinthian order, and richly ornamented. Some portions
of a temple are also visible, converted into the church of San
Pancrazio, but the edifice is of small size.
Other sights include the 10th century
Palazzo Corvaja, a 1635 Baroque
fountain, the Church of San Domenico, the Anglican Church of Saint
George, and the municipal gardens (Giardini della Villa Comunale).
Culture and tourism
Taormina viewed from the bay of Giardini Naxos
Just south of
Taormina is the Isola Bella, a nature reserve; and
further south, situated beside a bay, is the popular seaside resort of
Giardini Naxos. Tours of the Capo Sant'Andrea grottos are also
The village of
Taormina is perched on a cliff overlooking the Ionian
Sea. Besides the ancient Greek theatre, it has many old churches,
lively bars, fine restaurants and antique shops.
approximately a forty-five-minute drive away from Europe's largest
active volcano, Mount Etna.
Taormina inspired the naming of 'Toormina', a suburb of Coffs Harbour,
New South Wales, Australia.
A part of the movie
The Big Blue
The Big Blue (1988) was set and filmed in
Taormina, where the main characters take part in the no limits
freediving World Championships.
The British songwriter
Mark Knopfler evokes the town in his song
"Lights of Taormina" in his 2015 album Tracker.
Many exhibitions and events are organized during the summer in
Taormina. The exceptional stage for pop and classical concerts, opera
and important performances often recorded by television (for example,
the ceremony of the Silver Ribbon Award, the Festivalbar, the Kore) is
the Ancient Theatre. Since 1983, the most important performances are
Taormina Arte, the cultural institution which organizes a
music, theatre and dance festivals.
Within the program of
Taormina Arte there is the
Taormina Film Fest,
the heir of the Cinema Festival of
Messina and Taormina, dating from
1960, which for about twenty years has hosted the David of Donatello
Awards. During the
Taormina Film Fest
Taormina Film Fest the Silver Ribbons are awarded,
a prize created by Italian Film Journalists.
Since 2005, in October,
Taormina Arte has organized the Giuseppe
Sinopoli Festival, a festival dedicated to its late artistic director.
Tyndarion (278 BC), tyrant of Tauromenium
Pancras of Taormina, sent to
Sicily in 40 AD by Saint Peter as first
Bishop of Tauromenium
Wilhelm von Gloeden
Wilhelm von Gloeden (1856 in Wismar – 1931 in Taormina), German
photographer who worked mainly in Italy, best known for his pastoral
nude studies of Sicilian boys. Resident from 1880
Pancrazio Buciunì (1879 - 1963), Gloeden's model, lover and heir
Robert Hawthorn Kitson, (1873 in Leeds - 1947 in Casa Cuseni), British
watercolour painter, resident from 1899
Daphne Phelps (1911 – 2005), Kitson's niece and heir, a writer.
Resident from c. 1947.
Carla Cassola (born 1947), actress and composer.
Francesco Buzzurro (born 1969), musician
Guido Caprino (born 1974), actor
Norma Murabito (born 1987), sprint canoeist
List of Catholic dioceses in Italy
^ Diod. xvi. 68; Plut. Timol. 10.
^ Diod. l. c.; Plut. l. c.
^ Marcellin. Vit. Thucyd. § 27.
^ Diod. xxii. Exc. H. p. 495.
^ Diod. l. c. pp. 495, 496.
^ Diod. xxiii. p. 502.
^ Sic. 5
^ Cic. Verr. ii. 6. 6, iii. 6, v. 19.
^ Diod. xxxiv. Exc. Phot. p. 528; Oros. v. 9.
^ Appian, B.C. v. 103, 105, 106-11, 116; Dion Cass. xlix. 5.
^ Diod, xvi. 7.
^ Strab. vi. pp. 267, 268.
^ Plin. iii. 8. s. 14; Ptol. iii. 4. § 9
^ Plin. xiv. 6. s. 8
^ Athen. v. p. 207.
^ Juv. v. 93.
^ Loud, G. A. (2007). The
Latin Church in Norman Italy. Cambridge
University Press. p. 494. ISBN 978-0-521-25551-6. At the end
of the twelfth century ... While in Apulia Greeks were in a
majority – and indeed present in any numbers at all – only in the
Salento peninsula in the extreme south, at the time of the conquest
they had an overwhelming preponderance in Lucaina and central and
southern Calabria, as well as comprising anything up to a third of the
population of Sicily, concentrated especially in the north-east of the
island, the Val Demone.
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 January 2014.
Retrieved 2 January 2014.
^ Bradford, Eveleigh. "
Robert Hawthorn Kitson
Robert Hawthorn Kitson (1873-1947) Artist,
Patron, Exile". The Historical Society for Leeds and District.
Retrieved 6 October 2017.
^ Boswell, David M (28 January 2006). "Obituary: Daphne Phelps". The
Guardian. Retrieved 6 October 2017.
^ Phelps, Daphne (2000). A House in Sicily.
^ RIBA archive drawings
^ MacCarthy, Fiona. The Simple Life: C.R. Ashbee in the Cotswolds.
University of California Press, 1981. Most of chapter 7, "The death of
^ MacCarthy, Fiona. The Simple Life: C.R. Ashbee in the Cotswolds.
University of California Press, 1981. p 161
^ The Evolution of the Grand Tour: Anglo-Italian Cultural Relations
Since the ... - Edward Chaney - Google Books
^ Ross, Joseph E. Krishnamurti The
Taormina Seclusion 1912.
^ "A Village to Make Us Proud", The Coffs Coast Advocate
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Smith, William, ed. (1854–1857). "article
name needed". Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography. London: John
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