Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Taormina ~ the Ruins

By the time we reached Taormina I think everyone in our party was groaning over the thought of more ruins since we'd already seen several sets. But I learned a very important lesson with this last tour in Taormina. Each site holds it's own unique story. It's own unique view. Yes, they all share a lot of the same aspects but there is always something unique in each ruin site you will visit. One of my fellow travelers pointed out that even if every house in an American housing tract looks the same on the outside, there is a totally different story in each homes inside. Good thing to remember.
 Our tour began in town with a very small amphitheater. Very steep stairs led down to the entrance tunnels and out to the seating and a very small stage. Probably the smallest of the performances spaces we had seen on our trip.
 What fascinated me was how exacting the brick work looked to be. I got a few stares as I inspected this wall but I'm always amazed how some of this work was done without the machinery we depend on today.
 Being mildly claustrophobic it never makes me happy to go into tunnels but this one seemed to glow. I had to take a moment to try to capture the golden light.
 Of course a lizard found me. We sat down to listen to the presentation from our guide and suddenly he popped up between the two seating stones. And he wasn't in a hurry to rush off either!
 The tunnel we took back creeped me out a bit. Dark and longer than I really wanted it to be I barely took the time to take a photo for comparison before dashing out.
 On the way up to the Ancient Amphitheater of Taormina we were delighted to find this 5 star hotel right near the entrance. The Grand Hotel Timeo.
 With gorgeous wrought iron details and the bougainvillea in bloom it was definitely one of the more romantic places we had seen. Of course you will pay about $500 a night to stay here but with the ruins so close and all of the town at your fingertips it might be worth every penny!
 We walked up a small hill from the entrance and right away started seeing a difference from the other ruins we had seen before. Along with the brick, which we saw at the smaller amphitheater in town, we now saw remnants of marble columns.
 Ornate design was poking out here or there as we made our way up to the top of the entrance of the actual amphitheater.

 At one point we were able to look back, from the small staircase at the entrance, and see inside the amphitheater. From there we could not only see the seating but also more columns.
 We walked down into a very large tunnel like entrance hallway which led out to the actual amphitheater floor. It was here that we listened to our guide tell us about how the brick denotes a Roman influence and the columns the Greek influence. So, unlike the other Greek ruins we had seen before, these were both Roman and Greek!
 We were allowed to wander the floor or hike to the top but since we were on limited time I wanted to explore the floor and it's sights rather than climb to the top for the over all view. I have heard that the view from the top is beautiful so if you have time for both then make the climb after exploring the floor.
 Some of the columns were still intact and held up with wire or iron supports. The wonderful thing is that they are still a backdrop for opera and theatrical performances to this day.
Others had fallen down so you could get a close up look at the designs and texture of the marble. Some were touching it to feel the smooth surface but I figured that the less touching that went on meant that it would be there for more generations to see. 
 When you leave take a few moments to enjoy that view. From the top of the staircase it feels like you can see for forever.
On the way back to the main street you will pass through a bunch of vendor stalls and shops. As with all tourist areas please keep in mind that what you buy there, unless marked otherwise, could well have been made in China or Taiwan. For me this isn't a big deal. I figure that, no matter where it was made, I bought it while on a trip to Italy, or Greece or England. That piece will represent that place for me. I do take time to see if I can find stuff from local artisans but I'm the Queen of Kitschy Souvenirs! I love the little magnets and tiny figures and miniature buildings and I carefully pick at least one small item that will come home with me and live on a shelf or stick to my fridge. If you are looking for more here then keep walking past these stalls and shops and back to the main street and side streets further up. But as you pass the stalls and shops look for the beautiful architecture that is Taormina. They really pay attention to the details here and a simple doorway becomes breathtaking when the home is painted sunny yellow, there are pots and plants all over the side of the home and the stairway and even the trees have been trimmed to hang over the steps. Lovely and charming. But then, that is Taormina in a nutshell.

Next week I'll cover "Hidden Sicily" and all the hidden treasures we discovered on our final roam of this part of Sicily!


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