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Taormina or Cefalu?

woman in cefalu

Taormina or Cefalu? It is a really difficult choice to figure out which is the best destination for your holiday in Sicily, but with Sicilianblog we will try to solve this conundrum by giving you an accurate description of the differences between Cefalu and Taormina.

Let’s start by saying that the two towns are about 150km apart: Cefalu is in the province of Palermo and is located in the stretch separating the Sicilian capital from the city of Messina (thus to the east of Palermo), while Taormina is perfectly halfway between Messina and Catania, directly on the east coast of Sicily.

Taormina: the choice of the G7 in 2017

The 43rd G7 summit took place at the Palacongressi in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, on 26 and 27 May 2017. The meeting was led by Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni. For the fourth consecutive time since Russia’s suspension from the G8 in March 2014, the summit was held in the G7 format. Taormina is a hilly town on the east coast of Sicily. It is located 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 is a nature reserve.

The ancient theatre of Taormina

The original layout dates back to the 3rd century BC. This is documented by the remains of the isodomic block wall, incorporated into the stage building, and three seats with an inscription from the cavea. The remains of the small sacred building at the top of the cavea date to the same period. However, it is partly Roman in its present-day appearance. The original structure was linked to a small sanctuary, the base of which remains on the belvedere above the cavea.

An initial reconstruction of the building took place in the Republican or Early Empire period, perhaps under Augustus, but an extension in the first half of the 2nd century A.D. gave it its present form. The building reached a maximum diameter of 109 metres, with a 35-metre diameter orchestra and a capacity of about 10,000 spectators[1][3].

In the middle and late Empire, the building was adapted to host venationes (gladiator and ferocious beast combat shows): the orchestra was changed into an arena by replacing the lower tiers with a vaulted corridor that connected to a hypogeum in the centre of the arena, where stage machinery allowed the ‘special effects’ of combat. Finally, in late antiquity, the portico behind the stage was built. Its abandonment can probably be attributed to the Vandal siege and the subsequent decline of the Empire.

Isola Bella

aerial view of Isola Bella
Aerial view of Isola Bella

Donated in 1806 by Ferdinand I of Bourbon to Pancrazio Ciprioti, mayor of Taormina, it was purchased in 1890 by Florence Trevelyan, who enhanced it by building a small house and planting rare and valuable trees. She planted non-native species and rare shrubs there. The island was later bequeathed to lawyer Cesare Acrosso, nephew of Salvatore Cacciola, husband of Florence Trevelyan. In 1954, it was bought for ₤ 38,000 by the brothers Leone and Emilio Bosurgi, who built a village with 12 self-contained residences and a tiny swimming pool camouflaged among rocks and plantations, in order to cheer and accommodate their business and banking friends.

The Bosurgi family owned Sanderson, a historic citrus processing company in Messina. Its bankruptcy in 1982 paved the way for the sale by judicial auction of the family’s assets that guaranteed the company’s debts with sureties. Among these assets was Isola Bella with its villa. A first auction was therefore set for 17 October 1984 with a base of five and a half billion lire and a minimum bid of one hundred million, but it fell through.

Meanwhile, institutions moved to protect the islet. On 8 October 1984, the Sicilian Region, at the urging of the Municipality of Taormina, the Regional Department of Cultural Heritage declared Isola Bella a monument of historical and artistic interest of special value as an ‘isolated example of a unicum of naturalistic, historical and cultural value’, subjecting it to protection restrictions. The decree regarded the island as a ‘natural monument’. A new auction on 6 March 1985, despite the fact that the base had been lowered by 20 per cent, saw no buyer show up.

In 1990, the island was finally bought by the Department of Cultural Heritage of the Sicilian Region. In 1998, it was established as a nature reserve, managed by the WWF, then by the Province of Messina, and recently handed over to CUTGANA, the environmental protection centre of the University of Catania. With the establishment of Archaeological Parks in 2010, the management, enjoyment, protection and enhancement of the Isolabella are currently the responsibility of the Naxos Archaeological Park.

Monte Tauro Castle

The castle of Monte Tauro, or Taormina Castle, is located in Taormina.

Perched on the rock of the same name, at an altitude of almost 400 metres, its position allows a view of the wide natural backdrop of the Ionian coast bordered by the Strait of Messina to the north, the valley of the Alcantara River and the slopes of Mount Etna to the south, and the urban layout of the city of Catania in the distance. To the west is the Peloritani mountain system, characterised by a set of particular historical, natural and landscape aspects of considerable interest.

Taormina: useful Links

Ancient Theatre of Taormina >

Isola Bella >

Cefalu: pampered in a gem near Palermo

It is located on the northern Sicilian coast at the foot of a rocky promontory. A popular tourist destination, the town is one of the largest seaside resorts in the region and is part of the Madonie regional park,

The city’s cathedral, included in the site Palermo arabo-normanna and the cathedrals of Cefalù and Monreale in 2015, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Duomo di Cefalù

The cathedral of Cefalù, by which the cathedral basilica of the Transfiguration is known, is a minor basilica located in Cefalù, in the metropolitan city of Palermo, and cathedral of the diocese of the same name.

According to legend, it was built following a vow to the Holy Saviour by Roger II, who escaped a storm and landed on the town’s shores. The real motivation seems rather to be the desire to build a dynastic church on a Carolingian-Norman model with twin towers and a forepart (westwerk) .

The construction events were complex and it was finally completed in the Swabian period. An ambulatory carved into the thickness of the wall and the same roof, consisting of three roofs, of different epochs and construction techniques, testify to the changes in the design. The monument has a Romanesque style with Siculo-Norman and Byzantine features.

A national monument since 1941, since 3 July 2015 it has been part of the World Heritage List as part of the Arab-Norman Itinerary of Palermo, Cefalù and Monreale.

Medieval wash-house

In Via Vittorio Emanuele is the public washhouse known as the Medieval Washhouse, near the late Renaissance Martino Palace. In 1514, it was demolished and rebuilt in a position further back from the city walls, and the open flowing river was covered over in the 17th century. Restoration work was completed in the summer of 1991. The wash-house has a flight of steps in snail-like limestone that leads to a floor smoothed by time and to a series of basins filled with water flowing from twenty-two cast-iron mouths (fifteen of which are lion heads) arranged along the walls surmounted by low vaults. Through a small cavern, the water reaches the sea. In the basins, the supports that were used for rubbing cloths are evident.

Municipal Theatre

Located in Via Spinuzza, owned by the Barons of Bordonaro, it has had a troubled history: closed and reopened several times, it was even used as a lazaret during a plague epidemic. From the 1920s it was also used as a cinema. It was abandoned in the 1980s and passed into the ownership of the municipality, which began its recently completed restoration. It is now named after Maestro Salvatore Cicero, musician and 1st violin of the Sicilian Symphony Orchestra.

The hall has three tiers of boxes. It preserves a pictorial decoration from 1885 by Rosario Spagnolo (ceiling canvas, backdrop and curtain).

Cefalu: useful links

Excursions >


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