About Taormina Amphitheatre
Taormina Amphitheatre (Teatro Greco Romano) in Sicily was initially built by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC before being rebuilt and enlarged by the Romans. While known as an amphitheatre, the site is actually an ancient theatre – not the gladiatorial arena of the type normally meant by the term. As well as being a major draw for tourists to the city, today the theatre continues to be used for concerts, plays and other events.
Taormina Amphitheatre history
The Ancient Greeks inhabited Sicily from 750 BC, establishing many significant settlements on the island to make use of Sicily’s fertile soil and advantageous trading location. Around the 3rd century BC at the time of Hiero II, the Greeks dug directly into the hard rock of Mount Taro to construct a theatre, removing around 100,00 cubic metres of rock. Large columns would have been hauled up the mountain by slaves to encircle the stage.
The Greek theatre was designed to accommodate dramatic or musical performances and so included an orchestra at the lowest levels of the theatre and a large scene where actors or dancers would perform. The cavea, or auditorium steps and seats, were designed so all 5,400 spectators could hear wherever they sat. Taormina’s theatre became part of the natural landscape; the light and splendid Calabrian coastal scenery providing a natural backdrop to performances.
After the Punic Wars the Romans annexed Sicily, forcing out the Carthaginians. While Sicily remained largely Greek culturally, the Roman settlers expanded the theatre and shifted its function to reflect Roman entertainment: gladiatorial games. The Romans expanded the orchestra, as well as adding columns, statues and covers.
During the Middle Ages, the grand Corinthian style columns were removed to adorn palaces and places of worship, including the Cathedral.
Taormina Amphitheatre today
Today, over 2 millennia later, the Taormina Amphitheatre remains a social space for watching performances. The entertainment offered includes theatre, concerts, symphonies, operas, ballets and the David di Donatell awards have all been held within the ancient auditorium.
The modern seating has had a mixed response, but allows this fantastic site that has weathered the ravages of time to continue functioning as was originally intended. Be aware the site is not very accessible for those who cannot climb easily. However, those who visit are rewarded with spectacular views of Mount Etna.
Getting to Taormina Amphitheatre
If driving, the theatre is a 50 minute drive along the A18 from Catania, just off Taormina’s SS114 road and up the steep SP-10. There is a parking block at Porta Pascale, 10 minutes walk. For those using public transport, the Interbus Terminal of Taormina is a 10 minute walk from the theatre.
Explore the Mediterranean's largest island through the footsteps of the Ancient Greeks in our guide to the most incredible Greek ruins in Sicily, from the Valley of the Temples to Selinunte and more.