“No audience in any other theatre ever beheld such a view“, wrote Goethe in his Italian Journey arriving in Taormina from Catania. Still today his words best represent the indelible image it leaves in anyone, who will visit it.
Since ancient times Taormina was chosen by both Greeks and Romans to control the surrounding places from its strategic point of view, but since the 18th century it became an important stage of the Grand Tour and, consequently, frequented by the nobles of other European States. It became for them a refuge and an elite tourism destination, especially in winter months.
Taormina was famous because during the “learning cenacles” everything was allowed. Everyone could live there as they were not able to do in their own cities.
We walk around the city ideally visiting some of the places, where the celebrities of the past lived. Let’s start from the house of Fontana Vecchia, in the last years turned into a Bed & Breakfast, where lived first David Herbert Lawrence with his wife Frida and then the writer Truman Capote, who summoned here his friends including Peggy Guggenheim and Christian Dior. Going down towards the centre of Taormina we stop at the Hotel Victoria, where Oscar Wilde stayed, attracted by the archaic climate and mythological suggestions of the city. The Casa Cuseni saw orbiting in its intellectual chambers the likes of Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalì, Ernest Hemingway, beyond Greta Garbo and Tennessee Williams. The latter was also a frequent visitor to the San Domenico Palace Hotel, as well as Thomas Mann, Guglielmo Marconi, John Steinbeck. In the last century there were filmed several movies, with international actors like Monica Vitti, Jean Reno, Carlo Verdone and so on.
We cannot miss the chance to stop at the Mocambo Bar to admire the impressive “Let’s the party begin”. The mural portraits the owner Roberto “Robertino” Fichera with his friends and frequent visitors to the bar and among these we find Sigmund Freud and Albert Einstein.
We ideally end this walk on the wonderful terrace on the Ionian Sea of the Villa Mon Repos, which even Marlene Dietrich fell in love with. When the villa was turned into a casino it was possible to meet international stars like Gregory Peck and Cary Grant.
If you want to look at Taormina through the eyes of celebrities of the past, who for a period have stayed here, then we recommend the tour The Pearl of the Ionian Sea. If, instead, you want to discover the scenic and architectural wonders of this stretch of coast we recommend the tour The taste of beauty in Eastern Sicily.