Built between the late 1200s and the early 1300s, the Palazzo Duchi di Santo Stefano (Palace of the Dukes of Santo Stefano) was part of the medieval walls of Taormina. It is a masterpiece of Sicilian Romaneque and Gotic style, fitted with Arabic-Norman elements.
The building has a beautiful garden in front of its main facades, where there is still a well for the collection of rain-water which was the water supply for the whole palace.
The Palazzo dei Duchi di Santo Stefano is made up of three square overlapping sections. The entrance to the ground floor is an ogival arch constructed with squared bricks of black basalt (lavic stone) and white granite (Taormina stone). On the second floor there are four beautiful windows , two facing east and two facing north. The four mullioned windows have an elaborate structure with rosettes and small trilobe arches as well as triple cordons framing the ogival arches. On the top part of the palace a wide frieze runs along the east and north facades formed by a wavy decoration in lavic stone alternated with rhombus-shaped inlays in white Siracusa stone, together forming a magnificent lace of marquetry.
The palace was the residence of the spanish noble family De Spuches, dukes of Santo Stefano and Princes of Galati.
During the second world war it was damaged in large parts, yet it was completly restored in the 1960s after that the Municipality of Taormina bought it from Vincenzo De Spuches, a young descendant of the De Spuches family.
The Palace today houses the Fondazione G. Mazzullo. Many of the sculptures of Giuseppe Mazzullo are on show in the Palace.References:
First record of Kastelholma (or Kastelholm) castle is from the year 1388 in the contract of Queen Margaret I of Denmark, where a large portion of the inheritance of Bo Jonsson Grip was given to the queen. The heyday of the castle was in the 15th and 16th centuries when it was administrated by Danish and Swedish kings and stewards of the realms. Kastelhoma was expanded and enhanced several times.
In the end of 16th century castle was owned by the previous queen Catherine Jagellon (Stenbock), an enemy of the King of Sweden Eric XIV. King Eric conquered Kastelholma in 1599 and all defending officers were taken to Turku and executed. The castle was damaged under the siege and it took 30 years to renovate it.
In 1634 Åland was joined with the County of Åbo and Björneborg and Kastelholma lost its administrative status.