Taormina Tourist Attractions
On the east coast of Sicily, on a rocky terrace high above the Ionian Sea with a view of Mount Etna and its mainly snow-covered peak, lies Taormina. Its position, the lush vegetation and mild winter climate as well as a town showing a happy amalgam of urban features and history all combined to make Taormina Sicily's most popular holiday resort as long ago as the 19th century.
Siculans settled on Tauros Mountain near the present castle. In 396 B.C. the Carthaginian Himilkon founded the fortress town of Tauromenion here after he had taken Messina, and populated it with Siculans from the surrounding area. After only four years, however, it was assigned to Syracuse under the peace treaty with Carthage. Dionysios I drove out the Siculans and settled his own mercenaries here. Syracusan rule did not last long either, however, and in 358 B.C. Andromachos moved to Tauromenion those citizens of Naxos who had survived the town's destruction at the hands of Dionysios in 403 B.C. Under Andromachos, the father of the historian Timaios, Tauromenion prospered. In 345 B.C. Andromachos welcomed Timoleon from Corinth on his way to Syracuse, in return for which Timoleon, after he came to power, allowed Andromachos to remain in control as the sole Sicilian Tyrant. About 350 B.C. Agathocles from Syracuse ruled the town, and after his demise it passed to the Carthaginians. Power changed hands repeatedly in the years that followed: after 285 B.C. the Tyrant Tyndarion ruled in Tauromenion, in 278 B.C. he allowed Pyrrhos of Epeiros to land and to carry out his Sicilian campaign. Later came Hiero II from Syracuse, but after his death Tauromenion quickly transferred its allegiance to the Roman Marcellus, as a result of which Rome bestowed upon it the rank of civitas foederata. In the first Slave Risings the town was one of the slave strongholds until Consul Rupilius conquered it in 132 B.C. after a prolonged siege. Octavian (later known as Augustus) suffered a heavy defeat here against Sextus Pompeius but in 30 B.C. he re-built the town as a home for veteran soldiers. During the Empire (Principate) the town prospered, as witness the ancient buildings which have survived.
From the sixth century onwards the town, in common with the whole of eastern Sicily, formed part of the Byzantine Empire, and in the ninth century it held out for a long time against the Saracens; after Syracuse had been taken by them in 878 Taormina took over its function as capital and did not fall into Saracen hands until 962. It gained greatly in importance after the Normans had driven the Saracens out in 1079. In 1410 the Sicilian Parliament met here to elect a successor to the late King Martin of Aragon. In the following centuries Taormina served as a base in the battle against pirates.
In the 19th century a new aspect came to the fore - the town gained favor as a health and winter resort for the upper classes and intellectuals of central Europe. The flair and spirit it displayed then and before the First World War in particular lasted through the Second World War too, when - as the site of German commando positions - it suffered intense Allied attacks, and this natural flair can still to some degree be seen today shining through the superficiality of mass tourism.