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The tourist origins of Taormina

We are in the year 969 and Tauromenium was overthrown and plundered by the Saracens for the third time. The chief of the Saracens, Caliph Al-Moezz, ordered the destruction of the entire town as punishment for its resistance which lasted a good 5 years. The siege lasted for over 100 years and in 1078, Count Ruggero D’Altavilla arrived at the walls of Taormina with his army to liberate it, driving away the muslims.

Count Ruggero, who had actually made peace with Sicily by chasing away the invaders from other cities, found it easy because the Taorminesi were tired of the Saracen siege. In fact, after about three months of attacks and war by the muslims, exhausted without any food, water or hashish left, surrendered and were chased away. Count Ruggero conquered the town, so instead of being recognised for this, he behaved like many other invaders, destroying, plundering everything that had not been already plundered by the Saracens.

This is how Taormina received the final blow and it no longer appeared in the political or military events in Sicilian history. Taormina had lost its hegemony as a dominating military stronghold in that all its strong points had been destroyed, the Theatre, the Gymnasium, all or almost all of the main monuments, even the walls that surrounded the town. Having lost these symbols, the town lost all its power and vitality. But there was something that had not been lost or had not disappeared.

Its extraordinary geographic position, its splendid climate, the colours of the sky and of the sea, its corners, the panorama of its spaced out areas facing towards the sea its vegetation and for this reason, the Normans consecrated it as Residential Tourist Headquarters and since then has become a centre for congresses and meetings, of visits and holidays, as one would say today, Tourist Centre.

Perhaps the destiny of Taormina was exactly this because the ‘Siculi’ chose it many years before as their headquarters. After the ‘Siculi’ were chased away, the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Saracens then arrived to dominate it but each wanted to stay and perhaps this was because they felt good there. Therefore there was a coming and going of people until the first important tourist, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, arrived.