Sicily Part 24 137In A Street Of Taormina.

In A Street Of Taormina.

The Driveway Up To Taormina.

The Driveway Up To Taormina.

A Courtyard In Taormina.

A Courtyard In Taormina.

Etna, From The Stage Of The Greco Roman Theatre.

Etna, From The Stage Of The Greco-Roman Theatre.

The favorite spot from which to see the marvelous surroundings of this mountain town is the upper wall of its half-ruined Greco-Roman theatre. Cut. from a natural hollow in the side of Monte Tauro (whence the name "Tauromenium"), twenty-three hundred years ago, no theatre in the world commanded such a prospect as this stately edifice. In almost every structure of the kind now extant the stage is practically ruined, and only the ascending rows of seats are tolerably well preserved. But here the reverse is true. For while a few rough blocks of stone, emerging from the grass-grown slope, alone remain of all its former tiers of rock-hewn benches, the stage itself is in a better state of preservation than that of any ancient theatre in the world, except a rarely visited one at Aspendus, in Asia Minor. Moreover, it would have been in a far better condition had not a certain titled bandit, called the Duke of Santo Stefano, carried away most of its columns, statues, and marble facings to adorn his palace. Still, with a little effort of the imagination, one can easily picture to himself how splendid must have been the appearance of this structure, when all the masonry, which now looks so defaced in its uncomely masses of rough brick, was covered with a marble coating, and when from the enormous robing rooms at either side of the proscenium distinguished actors stepped forth on the ample stage, to represent the plays of the great dramatists of Greece, and when these walls, which still give back the human voice in absolute distinctness, resounded to the noble lines of Ęchy-lus and Sophocles.

Entrance To The Theatre.

Entrance To The Theatre.

Interior Of The Greek Theatre.

Interior Of The Greek Theatre.

The Matchless View.

The Matchless View.

One hears much of the Taormina sunsets visible from this theatre, and they are indeed magnificent. But sunrise there presents, in my opinion, a much finer spectacle. The truth is, that Mount Etna rises too far west of Taormina for visitors there to witness at its best the alpenglow upon its summit. Moreover, the blue strait, four hundred feet below the town, is, at the ringing of the Angelus, already somewhat shadowed by Sicilian mountains. But since Mount Etna turns toward Taormina its northeastern slope, the rising sun imparts to it a splendor that is indescribable. Happily, too, one need not undergo the least real hardship to enjoy it. The southward-facing balconies of several hotels, notably at the southern end of the town, command the entire field of vision necessary for the glorious panorama. I can recall few more impressive sights than that which I enjoyed here on the morning after my arrival. When I awoke, the eastern sky was brightening with the coming dawn; and, hastening to my balcony, I watched for nearly half an hour a vision never to be forgotten. Southward and westward rose in kingly majesty the mighty mass of Etna, whose cold white dome transformed itself by almost imperceptible degrees into the tenderest hues of pink and orange, as the morning light rose gradually from the violet mountains of Calabria, and flashed its gorgeous colors on the huge volcano opposite. Even when, at last, the glittering rim of the sun's golden disk peered over the Calabrian parapet, and the first wave of solar life and light rolled westward over the still sleeping world, Etna's colossal eastern slope swept downward through a scale of ever deepening colors, till its purple base-line touched the amethystine strait, which lay with tranquil face upturned toward heaven, as if awaiting breathlessly the benediction of the dawn. Meanwhile from the volcano's cone a slender shaft of smoke rose perpendicularly toward the empyrean, till, at a certain altitude, its summit delicately parted to the right and left, like an expanding lily on a snow-white stem. A pagan might have fancied it a white-robed priestess of Apollo, worshiping the solar deity with outstretched hands.