Taormina – Greece Travel

When you have ascended to the top of the wall of rocks [at Taormina], which rise precipitously at no great distance from the sea, you find two peaks, connected by a semicircle. Whatever shape this may have had originally from Nature has been helped by the hand of man, which has formed out of it an amphitheater for spectators. Walls and other buildings have furnished the necessary passages and rooms. Right across, at the foot of the semicircular range of seats, the scene was built, and by this means the two rocks were joined together, and a most enormous work of nature and art combined.

Now, sitting down at the spot where formerly sat the uppermost spectators, you confess at once that never did any audience, in any theater, have before it such a spectacle as you there behold. On the right, and on high rocks at the side, castles tower in the air—farther on the city lies below you; and altho its buildings are all of modern date, still similar ones, no doubt, stood of old on the same site. After this the eye falls on the whole of the long ridge of AEtna, then on the left it catches a view of the sea-shore, as far as Catania, and even Syracuse, and then the wide and extensive view is closed by the immense smoking volcano, but not horribly, for the atmosphere, with its softening effect, makes it look more distinct, and milder than it 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 fixt and attentive gaze can distinguish from the clouds which rise rapidly from it.

We descended toward the theater, and tarried a while among its ruins, on which an accomplished architect would do well to employ, at least on paper, his talent of restoration. After this I attempted to make a way for myself through the gardens to the city. But I soon learned by experience what an impenetrable bulwark is formed by a hedge of agaves planted close together. You can see through their interlacing leaves, and you think, therefore, it will be easy to force a way through them; but the prickles on their leaves are very sensible obstacles. If you step on these colossal leaves, in the hope that they will bear you, they break off suddenly; and so, instead of getting out, you fall into the arms of the next plant. When, however, at last we had wound our way out of the labyrinth, we found but little to enjoy in the city; tho from the neighboring country we felt it impossible to part before sunset. Infinitely beautiful was it to observe this region, of which every point had its interest, gradually enveloped in darkness.