Turning through the streets of Taormina, one might never really know what to expect. Around a bend one might find an open piazza with sweeping view of the sea, a hidden restaurant wafting in the scents of fresh pasta, or a narrow hallway opening up into a bright hand-crafted and painted pottery shop. On one early morning in Taormina, we climbed winding staircases, turned down a long street lined with vendors and found ourselves at the gates of an ancient ruin. As our guide swiped our tickets through the turnstile, we continued up the hill to find the beautiful Ancient Greek Theater.
By this point in the trip, we had encountered numerous temples, which were beautiful in themselves, but becoming repetitive. This vast theater, however, won me over with the natural backdrop of Mount Etna towering over the theater in the distance. This landmark, crumbling and covered in moss in several places, had been restored years ago to help it retain its original shape. As I wandered through the stadium seating, I thought back to the extravagant shows that once graced this stage and the throngs of historical people who once gathered in those very seats. As we sat down to listen to the stories of the theater, however, I discovered its history might be more recent that I realized.
This ancient theater was still used for modern performances! Recently, the Italian classical artist, Anthony Bocelli, performed on this very stage. While performing at one show, his crowd suddenly erupted into cheers and howls. Confused at why anyone would interrupt him in the middle of a performance, Bocelli stopped singing and stared at the audience with anger and hurt. Before he could walk away, however, his attendants shouted to him to turn around. Mount Etna was erupting and spewing hot lava during his act! While modern pyrotechnics and fireworks may have come a long way, there is no substitution for a volcanic eruption rousing a crowd at a live performance. The mixture of the Ancient Theater with modern art and music is a unique gem, making the island of Sicily ever more fascinating.