Thursday, March 16, 2017

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 290

Taormina, Italy

The Ediz. Cartoleria NIGRT CARMEN postcard above has an aerial photo view of Taormina, Italy.  The card is unused and one that I must have picked up at an Antique Mart or small shop.  There are modern looking road systems and buildings in the picture so it must date to the mid to late 20th century.  Taormina is what we would probably describe today as a suburb of Messina on the island of Sicily, Italy.  The beaches, some seen as lagoons on the card, are famous and became accessible by an aerial tramway built in 1992.  Taormina has been a popular tourist destination since the 1800s.

This location was inhabited even before the Greeks arrived in 734 BC and founded a town called Naxos.  People from Naxos then settled in what became known as Tauromenium under the Romans and today is called Taormina.   The city or town is perched on a cliff overlooking the Ionian sea.  From Cicero’s writings we learn that Tauromenium was one of three allied cities in Sicily that enjoyed special privileges and had some independence.  During the Servile War in Sicily (134-132 BC), the city fell into the hands of insurgent salves who were able to hold out against Publius Rupilius until they were reduced to famine and the citadel was betrayed into the hands of Sarapion who put all the survivors to the sword.  Because Tauromenium was a strong fortress it was used during the wars of Sextus Pompeius in Sicily against Octavian.  It also featured in a sea-fight that almost resulted in total destruction.  Local inhabitants were expelled when Augustus imported colonists to form a new Roman colony there. 

By the middle ages Taormina continued to be one of the more important towns in Sicily under the Byzantine emperors but was captured by the Fatmids after a 30-week siege in 962 AD.  The town was renamed “Al-Mu’izziyya” and came under Muslim rule until 1078 when Roger I of Sicily, a Norman count, captured it.  The language of the town at that time was predominately Greek.  In the centuries that followed the city suffered several other sieges and changes in rulership.

Trivia:  Taormina has the second oldest railroad station in the region.  The spectacular views and beaches made it a tourist destination in the 19th century with famous people such as Oscar Wilde, Nicholas I of Russia, Goethe, Nietzsche and Richard Wagner among those who visited.  It has been of favorite place for artists, photographers, writers, and intellectuals and there was an expatriate colony.  It was also known as a gentlemen’s destination in part due to Wilhelm von Gloeden’s photographs of male nudes.  During the 20th century D.H. Lawrence, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais visited.  It is about 45 minutes away from Mount Etna, a live volcano, by car. 

Main attractions include a Saracen castle on a very steep rock, portions of ancient walls around the summit of the hill, fragments of buildings from earlier centuries, a Greek theater that is used for theatrical performances and musical concerts today.   There is also a fountain dating from 1635, the Palazzo Corvaja from the 10th century, plus several other old churches and gardens. 

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