Taormina, with its panoramic views of Mount Etna, is on the coastal road between Messina and Catania. The "Saracen" castle atop Mount Tauro was probably built by the Saracens on an older Byzantine structure, and later enlarged by the Normans. The larger castle (in the Castelmola district) overlooks the city. It affords a spectacular view, though it is somewhat distant from Taormina and is not particularly well preserved.
In 1919 D.H. Lawrence and his wife were able to obtain passports and travelled to Italy. The famous artist and writer moved to an old Sicilian farm-house near Taormina in 1920. The travel book Sea and Sardinia describes a brief excursion undertaken by Lawrence and Frieda, his wife aka Queen Bee, from Taormina undertaken in January 1921. Lawrence considered Sea and Sardinia "an exact and real travel book: no stunt," "rather a marvel of veracity," and "pretty vivid as a flash-light travel book" (Letters IV: 27, 35, 58-59). Lawrence acknowledged that:
"Italy has given me back I know not what of myself, but a very, very great deal. She has found for me so much that was lost: like a restored Osiris." But, he adds, "apart from the great rediscovery backwards... there is a move forwards. There are unknown, unworked lands where the salt has not lost its savour."
Johann Wolfgang Goethe, on his journey in Sicily visited the ancient theatre (built by the Greeks and reconstructed by the Romans), which prompted a description of the panoramic view:
Rechts zur Seite auf höheren Felsen erheben sich Kastelle, weiter unten liegt die Stadt, und obschon diese Baulichkeiten aus neueren Zeiten sind, so standen doch vor alters wohl eben dergleichen auf derselben Stelle. schon diese Baulichkeiten aus neueren Zeiten sind, so standen doch vor alters wohl eben dergleichen auf derselben Stelle. Nun sieht man an dem ganzen langen Gebirgsrücken des ätna hin, links das Meerufer bis nach Catania, ja Syrakus; dann schließt der ungeheure, dampfende Feuerberg das weite, breite Bild, aber nicht schrecklich, denn die mildernde Atmosphäre zeigt ihn entfernter und sanfter, als er ist.
Wendet man sich von diesem Anblick in die an der Rückseite der Zuschauer angebrachten Gänge, so hat man die sämtlichen Felswände links, zwischen denen und dem Meere sich der Weg nach Messina hinschlingt. Felsgruppen und Felsrücken im Meere selbst, die Küste von Kalabrien in der weitesten Ferne, nur mit Aufmerksamkeit von gelind sich erhebenden Wolken zu unterscheiden.
"On the right on two cliffs stand the castles, below stretches the city. Even though the town is of recent construction, it is easy to imagine that there has always been constructions at this spot. Then you see the slopes of Mount Etna, to the left you see the beach that goes all the way to Catania, or perhaps even Syracuse. The enormous smoking mountain of fire closes the scenery, without giving a sensation of fear; the atmosphere softens and makes Mount Etna seem sweeter and more distant than she really is."
If now you turn from this view toward the passage running at the back of the spectators, you have on the left the whole wall of the rocks between which and the sea runs the road to Messina. And then again you behold vast groups of rocky ridges in the sea itself, with the coast of Calabria in the far distance, which only a fixed and attentive gaze can distinguish from the clouds which rise rapidly from it."
Taormina, Monday 7 May 1787, Italienische Reise. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.