FABRIZIO FIORENZANO | PHOTOJOURNALIST

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TAORMINA, PLACE OF SEDUCTION

by Fabrizio Fiorenzano

 

For who like me, of Sicilian origins, is used to spend in the maternal house his annual summery vacations in Taormina since the birth, this place does not represent only a place where to stay for a charming and relaxing period, but it is also a small city at which I feel so tied and from which I still continue, every time, to feel attracted and fascinated as never before. For who instead arrives at Taormina for the first time in the life, the little city succeeds to give magical and powerful emotions.

 

I have travelled a lot around the world and through Italy. I have visited and known cities of the world that surprised me so much for their beauty and mysteries, but I must recognize and admit that many of them can be distinguished from the others for a multitude of characteristics that place them to an advanced level. One of these places is, of course, Taormina itself.

 

Let’s begin to say that the "Planet Sicily" is so different from all the rest of the Italian regions, especially for its architectonic, historical, natural and geologic characteristics, so unique in its kind.

When we arrive by car o by train at the most southern city of Calabria, Villa San Giovanni, the place from where we have to take the ship in order to pass to the other side, we already begin to admire the Sicilian coast far only 5 kilometres. In front of our eyes, in fact, appears Messina with its low buildings waiting for us to the other side and ready to welcome us in the most beautiful and biggest region of Italy.

Taormina is located exactly just in the middle between the cities of Catania and Messina and it is far from both about 50 kilometres.

 

According to the history, the birth of this important tourist site began with the arrival of some Greek refugees that came from the near city of Naxos, today known and famous for its shoreline, its hotels and its structures oriented to the night life, but we should say that its notoriety is given to it by Taormina, without which, the Naxos bay and all the rest of it, would not be so known.

 

Settled on to hill of the Monte Tauro, approximately at 200 meters on the sea level, Taormina has a particular conformation that makes it resemble, in its structure, to a great terrace with a beautiful panoramic sight in which it detaches in an overbearing way the near and frightening volcano Etna, the highest one in Europe. Here the tourism is active all the year, except for the months between November and February, months in which we have the minimum number of visits and simultaneously, many people close the stores for holidays. Tourism in Taormina is facilitated, not only for its typical, cultural and naturalistic beauty, but also due its perfect receptive and recreational system and for the typical Sicilian human warm. Another particularity of the Sicilian people is their prompt and concrete intelligence, typical characteristic of this extraordinary people who, with the exception of some big cities, they know perfectly well how can be determining and important the influx of tourists. For this reason, all the organization that turns around the foreigners, is absolutely perfect.

 

Through the centuries, the city has been always a large tourist goal that has accommodated numerous and famous personalities belonging to the cultural and artistic world.

 

In 1787, J.W. Goethe discovered the beauties of Sicily and, in particular, the beauties of Taormina. Other famous people like Guglielm II of Germany, Maupassant, D. H. Lawrence, Oscar Wilde, Brahms, and some designers such as Christian Dior, illustrious women like the English lady Florence Trevelyan, the German painter Geleng. English and French noble visited Taormina and they were in love with it. The American writer Truman Capote spent many years of his life in Taormina and here he wrote two of his most famous books: "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" and "In cold blood".

 

Elisabeth Taylor, in 1967, spent the honey moon with her husband Richard Burton. She was 35 and it was her fifth wedding. During a jealousy crisis happened in the hall of the Saint Domenico Hotel, the beautiful American actress broke off, over her husband’s head, a guitar belonging to the orchestra, just because Richard Burton seemed to watch insistently a nice blond Italian dancer.

 

From 1950 to 1979, Taormina was the secret shelter of Greta Garbo. She always arrived here using a false name (Harriet Brown). She was scared and annoyed by the public and the journalists. Those few people that knew that that woman was Greta Garbo, pretended to recognize her because the wish of the "divine” was not to be recognized. When she reached Taormina she was hosted in the house of her friend, the German dietician Gayelord Hauser.

 

The main street, the “Corso Umberto”, crosses Taormina from a head to the other. It combines the two old doors of access to the city, the two old stone arches called Messina Door (door of north) and Catania Door (door of south). The greater part of the tourist life is carried out on this road in which the circulation for the automobiles is strictly forbidden, except for the first hours in the morning. Full of bars, exclusive restaurants and important high fashion points, can be very pleasant to take a walk for shopping. It can be very amusing to take a place at one of the many tables and to taste one cappuccino or a Sicilian granita (a fresh glass of minced ice with lemon or almond or strawberry) or an ice cream watching the tourists who crowd Corso Umberto. It can happen therefore to see some important and famous person to turn around the streets of Taormina mixed to common people and sometime dressed in eccentric way. Likeable, refines and elegant homosexuals contribute to give a touch of class and refinement to the social life. Other hidden wonders of the city, are the silent and perfume alleys adorned by flowers and colourful plants. We must walk through them and cover one of the many stairs that go up or come down at the sides of Corso Umberto to can better admire the panoramic and characteristic angles of Taormina and in which are hidden some of the most typical Sicilian bars, night club and restaurants wrapped by flowers and climbing plants.

 

Some of the most important historical and archaeological references of Taormina are:

The ancient Roman-Greek theatre:

The Ancient Theatre is not only an historical piece of the archaeological patrimony of Taormina. It is also a place of incomparable panoramic beauty. Here, in the past and now, have been realized very important theatrical and cultural manifestations, above all in the month of July. Here have been awarded artists coming from Hollywood like Cary Grant, Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Rita Hayworth, Joan Crawford, Lara Turner, Greta Garbo, Rudolf Nureyev, Woody Allen, Marlene Dietrich and many others.

From here is possible to admire a 360 degrees landscape, spacing from the Etna volcano to the Calabria’s coasts.

 

It is not clear if the old theatre of Taormina is of Greek or of Roman origins. Many experts and critical of art discussed about this but the most probable answer is that it was made during the Greek age and subsequently  restructured and widened during the Roman age. A prove of the fact that the theatre is of Greek origin is given from the presence, under the theatre, of stone blocks of Taormina (similar to the marble), that constitutes the real example of the way to construct buildings of the Greeks. It is believed that the Romans, in order to reconstruct it, has employed tens of years.

 

Palazzo Corvaja

It takes the name from the Corvaja family, one of most ancient and noble families of Taormina, than possessed it from 1538 to 1945. It is in the Badia square and it is the more important medieval palace boasted the city. Initially it was an Arabic tower built for military purposes. The right side of the Palace was realized at the beginning of the fifth century in order to allow the reunions of the Sicilian Parliament.

 

Municipal park

The municipal park of Taormina is a true example of architectonic wonder, it is formed from three hectares of dense and typically Mediterranean vegetation and by a poetic interlace of hedges and flower-beds. Characteristics are the turrets Chinese pagoda style, made with bricks and surrounded of pumice lava, hard wanted by the rich and noble English lady Florence Trevelyan, a convinced ornithologist, which in those turrets took delight in to the study of the birds. From the park is possible to admire a fantastic view toward the Naxos bay and the Etna.

 

The Naumachie

The rests of the Naumachie are constituted from a large and sturdy massive wall, than, after the Roman-Greek Theatre, is most ancient Greek ruin existing in Taormina. Its construction dates back to the 1° the century b.C. Its length is of 122 meters and its height is about 5 meters. There are 18 great niches, wide 3 meters, and deep 1,70 and high like the wall. Here were placed the statues of divinities and heroes.

 

In conclusion we can say that in the life of a any traveller or tourist, old or young, Taormina cannot absolutely lack. This is a so seductive and enchanting place from which can be so hard to accept the idea to leave it.

 

J.W. Goethe wrote:

"Without Sicily, Italy cannot be fully understood.

It is here that one finds the key to all things "