Suspended between the rocks and the sea, Taormina is located on the side of Monte Tauro at an altitude of 200 metres above sea level in the Province of Messina.
Its origins are uncertain, however. It is likely that the first settlement dates back to the period prior to the establishment of Naxos, the first Greek colony founded in Sicily in 753 B.C..
Over the centuries Taormina was occupied by the Greeks, the Romans, the Goths, the Byzantines, the Arabs and finally the Bourbons. Since then many famous writers and artists (Goethe, Maupassant, Rouel and others) were attracted by its amenities and by its archaeological beauties.
From that day on, Taormina began to develop into a tourist resort for the élite, initially attracting travellers from England such as Lady Florence, daughter of Baron Spencer Trevelyan, whose paternal grandmother was Lady Maria Wilson, first cousin of Queen Victoria, who decided to live in Taormina where she married Salvatore Cacciola, a wealthy philanthropist who was mayor of Taormina and a friend of the Duke of Kent.
Other visitors to Taormina included King Edward VII, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Friedrich Nietzsche, Kaiser William II of Germany, Oscar Wilde and Tsar Nicholas I.
Taormina became the social tourist resort par excellence in Sicily, thanks to its natural beauties and stunning views over Etna and the gulf of Isola Bella. Numerous aristocratic villas, palaces and luxurious hotels were constructed during this period.
Mass tourism arrived at the end of the 1960s and led to excessive construction in the surrounding area.
Nowadays Taormina attracts thousands of travellers from all over the world. Its small historic town centre welcomes tourists who can admire its architectural jewels, shop at one of its numerous small shops and enjoy wonderful views over the gulf below from one of the numerous cafés and restaurants that can be found in the town.
The heart of the town, however, is the unique and magnificent Greek theatre which overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and offers breathtaking views of Etna. Every summer the theatre stages numerous theatre productions and concerts.
Taormina is a small town which is difficult to reach, especially in summer, and the best means of access is either the cable car, which takes you right into the centre of the town, or one of the shuttle buses which run between the various car parks and the town centre.
The coast of Taormina has some beautiful beaches such as Isola Bella, Lido Spisone, Mazzarò and Giardini Naxos, however, these become very crowded in August.
Taormina is around 30 minutes from Catania and Messina by car and close to the Etna nature reserve.
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