Taormina and Messina

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Taormina and Messina, an Eastern pride 

Eastern Sicily: a history book carved in the stone and in the lava stone too that paces the rhythm of history. Baroque cities and Greek icons feature the Northern-Eastern side of the ancient Trinacria as well as the sea and its depth that deserve to be explored. In such a beautiful landscape Taormina stands out, two butterfly’s wings perched on a rocky promontory high above the sea.

It is among the best destinations chosen by travellers from all around the world and it has seduced a long list of writers, artists, royal people and International jet set celebrities for ages. The most amazing monument remaining in Taormina is with no doubt the Ancient Greek theatre dating back to the third century B.C., designed as a perfect horseshoe, high between the sky and the sea, it is the yearly set for a number of artistic events in July and August when “Taormina Arte”, kermesse of cinema, theatre and music is held. The background wall of the natural stage made of bricks shows like a perfect theatre scenery a deep cut from which you can see the amazing Schisò bay next to the Etna and Schisò Cape, that surrounds the Giardini Naxos’ bay towards the South; the excavations from the 1960s have unearthed the most ancient Calcidesian colony of Sicily to be visited when walking amongst lemons.

On the other hand, the colour of the water of its famous beach is bright blue. Don’t miss the Beautiful Island (Isola Bella) leaving from Taormina: it’s a tiny island, lush and WWF’s natural reserve. Messina is located on the Northern edge of the Ionic coast: big, lively, with a big city centre, wide avenues, elegant palaces dating back to the beginning of the XXth century and one of the most beautiful cathedral of Sicily. Messina has always been identified with its strait, the narrow strip of sea that separates the island from the peninsula. Ancient Greek who knew it as Zancle - sickle – because of the shape of its harbour mythologized the opposite stream with the sea monsters Charybdis – the whirlpool and Scylla, the monster with six heads.

The mountains and coast’s line shaped as a sickle – as it is shown in the plates’ background by Antonello da Messina – can still suggest its role as crossroads towards the Eastern countries and its opening to Europe as no other Sicilian town can witness. Before exploring its surrounding area you must visit the town and the cathedral, a piece of jewel belonging to the Norman architecture that keeps a number of precious works of art such as a richly engraved altar, the third biggest one in Europe and an inlaid pipe organ. Another precious icon, the golden cloak dating back to 1659 and carved by Innocenzo Mangano in order to cover the sacred images during religious celebrations, is kept in the cathedral’s museum. Outside, a sixty metres bell tower shows an astronomic clock built in Strasbourg and inaugurated in 1933.

 Before the bell tower you can see the Orion fountain, made of white marble that pictures the mythical Orion the founder of Messina. Near there in piazza Catalani, the Church of the Annunciation of the Catalans, with three naves and vaults is a piece of jewel belonging to the Arab-Norman architecture. You can’t miss the Regional Museum as well since it contains a number of very important paintings such as the triptych of San Gregorio made by Antonello da Messina, the Virgin and Child and the Saints by the same artist and two paintings by Caravaggio, the Adoration of Shepherds and the Resurrection of Lazarus.

Luciana Francesca Rebonato

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