Taormina is a hilly town on the east coast of Sicily. It is situated near Mount Etna, an active volcano with paths leading to the summit.
The town is known for the Ancient Theatre of Taormina, an ancient Greco-Roman theatre still in operation today. Near the theatre, cliffs descending to the sea form inlets with sandy beaches.
A narrow strip of sand connects to the tiny Isola Bella, which has been a nature reserve since 1998 when it came under the management of first the WWF and then Cutgana. Today, these contribute to keeping this place a corner of paradise.
Taormina’s cultural heritage is a journey through the history of its influences and dominations that have left traces to which the city owes the charm and popularity it enjoys throughout the world.
The foundation of Taormina remains uncertain and little is known about it. According to the historian Diodorus Siculus, the city was founded around 396 B.C. by some indigenous Siculians.
Dionysius the Elder attempted to conquer it in 394 BC without success. Only two years later he succeeded in annexing the city to the territory of Syracuse, thanks to a treaty with the Carthaginians.
Despite this, the Greek city was not founded until 358 B.C., when Andromachus gathered the survivors of Naxos and their descendants and brought them to the site, which was named Tauromènio.
The city later came under Roman rule, which created one of the city’s symbols: the Naumachiae. That is, the terracing that included a cistern connected to an aqueduct. It was under the influence of Byzantium that Taormina became the capital of eastern Sicily, acquiring an important role for the Eastern Roman Empire, until the arrival of the Arabs, who stayed in the city from 902 to 1079, followed by the conquest of the Normans and that of the Spanish.
Myths, legends and the origin of the name Taormina
The name Tauromenium, today changed to Taormina, means dwelling on the Tauro, the mountain on which it was built.
The historian Diodorus, as mentioned above, attributed the naming of the city to both the Sicels and the Greeks.
However, there are numerous legends that derive the name from other sources. One speaks of a Minotaur that even appears on ancient coins, to whom the foundation and name of the city is attributed. Another tells of two princes of Palestine, Taurus and Mena, who are said to have founded the city and given it the name ‘Tauromena’.
Many other legends revolve around Taormina: some of them have Pythagoras as their protagonist. He is said to have spoken on the same day in both Taormina and Metapontum, to have had the laws of Caronda adopted in Taormina, and to have calmed the vehemence of a young local inhabitant by playing his flute. To tell the truth, Pythagoras lived in a completely different historical period from the one in which Tauromenium was founded.