Francis Ford Coppola may have helped put Sicily, Italy, on the map when he chose to film parts of the Godfather saga there, but first-timers to the destination will find far more to interest them than references to the Mafia.

The popular resort city of Taormina on the island's east coast has also drawn more than its share of conquerors. In fact, a key attraction is the ancient Greco-Roman theater, which is perched dramatically on the cliffs in the village center, overlooking the Ionian Sea and Mount Etna beyond.

The beautifully preserved arena on the Via Teatro Greco was originally built by the Greeks, who founded the city in 735 BC. It is a huge draw for tourists, but in recent years, tourism officials have transformed the space into a venue for a host of concerts, operas and dance performances.

The town and its surroundings pack a punch in terms of appealing attractions, cuisine and climate. It is poised for a tourism boom among repeat visitors from the U.S. eager to move on from such better-known Italian destinations as Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast.

Famous visitors to Taormina over the centuries include Johannes Goethe, Alexandre Dumas, Guy de Maupassant and Truman Capote.

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