Taormina is a coastal city located in the metropolitan area of Messina, in Sicily. Its territory overlooks the Ionian Sea and extends along the coast from Capo Sant’Andrea to Capo Taormina, where there are beautiful and internationally renowned beaches such as Mazzarò, Lido di Taormina and Isola Bella
Taormina was inhabited since the archaic era, by the Sicilians and the inhabitants of “Zancle” (modern Messina). The Sicilians (traditionally called “Sikeloi” from the name of a legendary king Sikelòs) were an indoeuropean population of Italic origin (protolatins): they reached Sicily from the continent around the 13th century AC, and outcompeted the previous inhabitants, the Sicanes (probably of Phoenician origin, but living in Sicily since the Bronze age) establishing (approx.. 1000 BC) their kingdom that encompassed the south-eastern part of Sicily. The original name of the city was Tauromenion, from the “Mount Tauros” (=Bull) on which it was first built. In 403 BC the city saw another immigration from nearby Naxos, destroyed by Dionisius, tyrant of Syracuse. Later it was occupied by the Greeks, but in 34 AC became a federated city of the Romans when Octavian founded a colony there.
In the Middle Ages it fell (902-963) under Arab dominations but in 1079 it was occupied by the Normans, who built numerous Basilian monasteries in the area. The Normans, following their policy of “benign dominating elite”, addressed the problem of healing the wounds of decades of war. And did so with great success, proving to be one of the most enlightened dynasties of the time and prompting a new era of prosperity for Sicily. At later times, the “kingdom of Sicily” to which Taormina belonged was governed by the Hohenstauffen (Svevians) and by the Aragonese dinasties.
The local population actively participated in the so-called Vespers War (1282), supporting the Aragonese contender; after a brief French occupation, the city remained under Spanish governments, until in 1734 it became part of the “Reign of the two Sicilies” as the Borbons unified the Reign of Naples with the older Reign of Sicily. The Expedition of the Thousand in 1860 organised and led by Giuseppe Garibaldi brought about the later annexation of Sicily to Piedmont and therefore, to the Kingdom of Italy.
The economy of the modern Taormina is mainly linked to tourism, both seaside and cultural; therefore it is active all year round. Traditional activities, agriculture and fishing, are accompanied by the presence of industry, which still represents an important share of the local economy.
The typical gastronomic offer of Taormina is very varied, but the best specialties are based on fish, like the typical pasta with swordfish, linguine with lobster and sea urchins, mixed grills and fish soups, turbot fillet with black truffle and herbs or with asparagus tips.
The desserts in Taormina are special, the most renowned are: gianduia and coffee profiterols and almond and pistachio “semifreddo”. The characteristic almond wine is also excellent. The town hosts several events all year round, such as the Sicilian Cart Festival, the Festa della Madonna della Rocca, the evocative rites of Holy Week and Piazza Jazz in Piazza Armerina. Naturally the best known is the Taormina Film Fest, held in July.