Taormina, From Ancient Greece to Modern Day Tourist Magnet (Motherland Tour Stop 6)
Next stop…Taormina, on the east coast of the island. Perched on a cliff high above the water, Taormina is one of Sicily’s most famous tourist destinations, having earned this reputation with its dazzling views of the Gulf of Naxos and Mt Etna, fabulous Greek amphitheater, and beautiful collection of medieval churches.
Founded in the 4th century BC, it developed in to a prosperous destination under the Greek and Romans, but fell into obscurity ofter it was sacked by the Normans in 1087. Having been “rediscovered” by Northern Europeans in the late 18th century, it is now back in full tourist swing.
If you go, be prepared for large crowds and abundant touristy shops. It is a little bit of a shock if you are arriving from the less crowded central and western parts of the island. Good food and wine abound, but you may have to dig a little or get a good recommendation.
I will start of the Taormina posts with two shots of the Teatro Greco, the 3rd century Greek amphitheater, and its dramatic views over the bay and Mt Etna.
Roman Spa Life: Villa Romana del Casale (Motherland Tour Stop 5)
Here are a few more shots of the intricate mosaics from the Roman spa that had been hidden for 700 years before being discovered by local farmers.
From the prior post:
Hidden in a wooded valley 3 km southwest of Piazza Amerina lies the Unesco-listed Villa Romana del Casale, a lavish ancient Roman villa which is decorated with the richest, largest, and most complex collection of Roman floor mosaics in the world! The villa was thought to have been built around the early 4th century AD, and was presumed to have been the country retreat of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Maximianus.
The site was abandoned in the 12th century when a massive landslide buried the entire villa under up to 10m of mud, where it then remained (protected from the destructive elements and looters) for almost 700 years. It was not until the 1950’s that serious excavation work began to uncover the remains. What was discovered was the most elaborate collection of Roman mosaics in the world. Covering the entire floor of the villa, they are renowned for their vivid detail and intricate design as well as the range of subject matter and color.
We drove east from Selinunte on a day that was absolutely DUMPING rain, intending to tour the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. The Valley is one of the most outstanding examples of Greek art and architecture on the costal areas of Southern Italy and consists of seven temples dating back to the 5th century BC. These include the Temple of Concordia, which, due to its excellent overall condition, is ranked amongst the most notable edifices of the Greek civilization existing today. The skies were still dumping when we arrived, so we were only able to get a quick peek before continuing our long drive east.
We arrived in Piazza Armerina as the storm was clearing, and were treated to this amazing view of this 11th century town from our balcony. Piazza Armerina is the town which accommodates the guests who come to visit the nearby Villa Roman del Casale, which is the home of the richest, largest, and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world (see upcoming blog entries!).
This is the magnificent Pont du Gard aqueduct in Southern France. It is a short segment of the 50 km aqueduct which carried water from Uzes to Nimes. This engineering marvel was built by 1st century Romans and is listed as a UNESCO heritage site. It is the second highest Roman structure built, only bested by about 3 meters by the Roman Colosseum. It also contains the largest arch span ever built by the Romans, about 80 ft. I find the most amazing aspect of the structure is that it was built with no mortar! Held together only by friction, it has weathered storms and floods for 2000 years.
This shot is composed of three bracketed images at 2-stop intervals. I processed HDR with Photomatix, and touched up with Aperture. I really like this image for a few reasons, one is simply the majesty of the subject. In addition, I have recently been working with HDR and am impressed with the outcome of this shot, and lastly, I have been focusing on taking images that incorporate water, either flowing or with reflections.