Taormina, Palermo and Catania, the true and unspoiled beauty of Italy
Taormina, we will get back to shortly, but first Palermo.
In Palermo, a different era lurks around every corner – churches of the Middle Ages rub shoulders with Arabic domes, Spanish-inspired cathedrals and, not least of all, monuments from the great Norman era. The city also boasts several shady green oases such as Giardino Inglese, Villa Trabia, Villa Malfitano, and the botanical gardens. The city´s roots stretch all the way back to the 8th century when the city was a Phoenician trading center. Palermo´s golden age was the Norman period which lasted for approx. 100 years. At that time, the city was a large, thriving and very important cultural center but it later became the capital during the Romano-Germanic Empire under Emperor Frederick II.
Due to its cultural diversity, which the city has lived with throughout the ages, it is difficult to find other Italian cities with an equally varied cultural mix like Palermo. Palermo is extremely exciting to visit because it senses the presence of different influences and because it is a vibrant city with exciting restaurants, cafes, museums, markets, monuments and great shopping opportunities of all kinds. Streets offer hidden secrets and in the mild evenings, it is wonderful to sit at one of the local cafes and enjoy a nice glass of wine or visit one of the city’s many good restaurants.
See Palermo, the Cathedral, the Opera House, the Church of San Giovanni
Palermo offers a wealth of attractions to visit such as the cathedral where the Norman king, Roger II, and the Romano-Germanic Emperor, Frederick II, are laid to rest. Construction of this imposing cathedral was completed in 1185, but since then the church has been extended numerous times and is now a blend of Arabic, Norma, Gothic and Neoclassical styles.
The Teatro Massimo is Palermo´s s opera house. It was begun in 1875 and completed 22 years later in 1897. In the beginning, it was Europe´s second- most renowned and important opera house after Paris. In 1974, however, following a fire in one of Palermo´s cinemas, it was closed and rebuilt according to updated safety regulations. The theatre was reopened in 1997 to the tones of Mahler. Many movie buffs will doubtless remember the theatre from the film, “Godfather III”, the final scenes of which are staged in this theatre.
A visit to the gorgeous little church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti with its little orangery, the radiant Chiesa della Martorana overlooking the Piazza Pretoria with its impressive fountain, the royal Norman square with the Capella Palatina, or the old hospital of Lo Spasimo, now converted into an outdoor concert venue, are all to be recommended.
And if your cultural appetite has still not been satiated after experiencing all or some of the suggestions above, why not visit one of Palermo´s remarkable markets such as Vucceria, Ballaró, and Capo, which are famous throughout Italy for their fantastic selection of raw ingredients and excellent quality. Here, you´ll find the season´s fruits and vegetables in an amazing array of colours, huge, beautiful fresh tuna steaks, swordfish, eels, squid, bundles of fragrant herbs, bouquets of freshly- picked and beautifully- scented flowers, soft, runny cheeses, snails, hearty joints of meat – kid, lamb, pork, veal and many other exciting items of food.
Catania, just a stone´s throw from the ocean
The dark and elegant shades of almost all of Catania´s houses, roads and monuments come from the lava stone they are built of, from the volcano that overshadows the city. The city lies at the foot of Mt. Etna which has had a huge impact on the city, its history and the surrounding land that stretches all the way out to the eastern coast. Etna, only 10 km from the coast, is a real tourist magnet and visitors can ascend the slopes in stages, finally reaching the often smoking volcanic crater where you can trek around the rim and take the ultimate selfie at an altitude of approx. 3,300 m.
Taormina, the best climate on the island
Charming Taormina lies on a natural terrace with a magnificent view over the surrounding landscape. It owes its popularity with tourists to its mild climate and long, long history. Taormina and its Ancient Amphitheatre have been a magnet for visitors since the Middle Ages, with its unbeatable views, cobbled streets, flower-filled balconies and sweeping views over the Messina Straits and Mt. Etna. It is full of atmosphere and free of cars!
More travel tips in the Mediterranean
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- Lovely Malta with the amazing historic past and Maltese knights, that defended the island for centuries
- Cyprus is also an obvious warm and friendly destination in the Mediterranean
- Greece from Santorini to Crete, a must-read, if you seek sun and beach perfection