We got a message the other days from an old friend. He sent a photo with a painting from an art museum, nothing spectacular at first sight. “Weird choice, as he’s visiting Japan”… but wait, this church looks familiar! Then I understood his message, remembering of one of the best holidays we had together – the canvas was showing St Joseph’s Church in Taormina, Sicily’s well known gem.
This baroque style church built in late XVIIth century is small and simple, compared with other religious establishments in Italy, but it has its own charm. Located on a Piazza IX Aprilie, central point of Corso Umberto I, Taormina’s main street, it cannot be missed, even though it blends very nicely with the surroundings. The double stairs that lead to the entrance offer a great setup for standard touristic photos. Due to its picturesque location and romantic atmosphere, the church is very popular for weddings… who wouldn’t want to say the vows in such a place!
Next to the church, there is The Clock Tower. Entrance gate and part of the defence walls from the Roman city, the tower was destroyed and rebuilt several times after invasions. Nowadays, it peacefully guards the piazza, while the large clock reminds the tourists that time is still passing.
We visited Sicily a few years ago in September, when the heat and crowds start to cool a bit, but there is still enough summer feeling in the Mediterranean region. We dedicated one full day just to visit Taormina, as we wanted to enjoy the small city, Sicily’s most famous resort town.
Equipped with sunscreen and sunglasses, we started our tour near the Greek Theatre. Taormina’s most famous landmark, this was built in the 3rd century BC and fully restored one hundred of years later by the new Roman rulers. The hillside location offers spectacular views to the sea and Mount Etna and has excellent acoustics due to the large diameter that reaches 109 meters on the upside. Even if it is partly destroyed by passing of the centuries, the theatre is still used nowadays to host summer performances. I would highly recommend to attend show here, if you are in the area. It must be a magnificent experience, considering the natural scenery and the ancient feeling the place has.
Taormina’s old town is marked by two main gates, Porta Catania in the South, and Porta Messina, in the North, even though in the medieval times most of the population was living in the southern side. Corso Umberto lies between the two, and the narrow side streets around it form a pedestrian labyrinth. You can find countless monuments, churches, and palaces, with Greek, Roman and Arab influences, as a result of all the invaders that went through this region during the centuries.
After wandering for hours through the old streets, visiting small souvenir shops and admiring the architecture, our feet started to scream “we need a break, you should workout more if you want to do this again!”. Looking for a place to rest and have a drink, but not wanting to miss anything from this beautiful place, we reached an old gate, Porta di Mezzo. Passing through it, we entered the city’s most picturesque square: Piazza 9 Aprile. The piazza is actually a lively terrace with stunning panoramic views to the blue Ionian sea and mount Etna. There were crowds of tourists admiring the scenery, local artists doing sketches and portraits and the whole atmosphere was complete by a Sicilian street band playing old Italian music.
That moment for us was the true interpretation of “dolce far niente”, the Italian absolute relaxation. We stopped next to St. Joseph’s Church at one of the cafes for a cappuccino and a cold Apperol, just enjoying the fabulous views. Here we also tasted the famous pistachio cannoli, an amazing dessert as texture and taste combinations. Unfortunately (but actually good for for our diet), you can not eat this delicious treat in lots of places outside Sicily, so it is a must try when you go there!
As we left behind the magic scenery, we set our steps back to Porta Messina and from there to the Funivia, the cable car that offers a quick stunning ride from old Taormina to Mazzaro, the coastal resort.
Did you visited Taormina? How did you feel about this little town?
See what else we did during our 1 week holiday in Sicily.
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