The Church of Varo is not the easiest of the Taormina churches to find. It is best approached up the steps on the left off Corso Umberto just before the clock tower and Piazza 9 Aprile. These lead to a small square on via d’Orville with the church on the top side. The outside of the church just looks like plain stone building constructed of Taormina stone. The only indication that is is a church is a red brick cross on the top of the steps. I walked past it several times before I realised.
The church dates back to C15th, when the Spanish ruled Sicily and the word Varo is Spanish for Visitation. The crypt at the back of the church dates from the early years of Christianity. The church was restored and enlarged in the late C18th/C19th. Originally the church used by important noble families, hence the elaborate decoration. By the end of the C19th, the congregation had dwindled and the church was closed. It has recently been restored and reopened.
It is worth finding as it is a wonderful example of Baroque work with walls and ceiling covered with decorative plaster. Even the pulpit and the gallery above the west door are covered with decorative plaster. The only light comes through small windows set in the ceiling and a window above the gallery.
The walls are lined with small altars with a statue set in a niche surrounded by pillars and cherubs.
The main altar is dominated by a huge gilt and silver host box surrounded by big retable with more plaster pillars with cherubs and a half canopy at top. In a glass fronted niche is a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, which is carried in procession round the town every Easter. Above is a crucifix with paintings of the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene on either side.
The fresco on the ceiling above the altar dates from1699 and represents the Triumph of the Cross with Archangel Michael wielding a cross and surrounded by angels.
The impressive tomb to the right of the main altar is the tomb of the Count Giovanni Romano Denti who died 1699. The Romano family are thought to have been responsible for funding the original church.
Not many people get here, but it is a wonderful church.
There are more pictures of Taormina “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherholidays/sicily/day_five/index.html