We passed by the 20 foot high, Golden Madonna Della Lettera as our ship came into the Harbour. She is known as the protector of the Harbour and stands on top of one of the tall tower's in the Fort.
I could see a large inscription: "Vos et ipsam civitatem benedicimus" which translated means... ("We bless you and your city").The harbor statue was unveiled on August 2, 1934 and fitted with a special device, allowing it to be illuminated from the Vatican in Rome.
It is believed the Madonna's intervention saved Messina during the earthquakes that shook most of Sicily in 1693. On January 9 of that year, when the first tremors began, the Virgin Mary appeared to a sick girl named Paola and said, "Fear not."
The Madonna returned during the night and asked to save the City. Messina suffered damage and flooding but was was spared the brunt of the disaster.
I could see a road leading to where the Madonna is located, and there is also a Naval base there.
Messina is a large port city, the gateway to Sicily from the mainland of Italy, with the port filled with water vessels from the rowboats to the large cruise ships, but walk a couple of blocks inland and the streets come alive with homes, businesses, and vendors of food. I always find the fruit vendors carts are most helpful to satisfy the thirst one builds up from walking a city.
Plucking a fresh orange or an apricot from the cart, will not only cleanse the palate and refresh you, but a world of conversation with the vendor as you attempt "how much" in your limited Italian to pay for it. Not only do they give you the answer " in English" but will act as if they knew you for years. What a neat way to learn about the people and city you are visiting. In Messina, the carts come alive with conversation.
Situated in the harbor of Messina, in the Falcata Zone, stands the old fort walls with a large inscription " Vos et ipsam civitatem benedecimas" ( We bless you and your city) written on the side with a tower that rises to a large statue of the "Blessing Madonna", the protectress of Messina who legend has it gave a letter to the people of the city through an embassy official of Messina. The monument was lit up, electrically, by Marconi in 1934 with a radio remote signal from the Vatican in Rome.
In Italy, we've talking about the famous bridge over the Messina strait for the latest 30 years! Nobody seems to be able to take a final decision as there is a mixture of technical problemes (eartquake prone area, environmental impact...), social problems (temporary job creation vs. strong mafia-influenced environment) and economical problems (is it really worth to save 30 minutes in crossing by bridge while the mototrways network on both sides is so poor?)
Anyway, this is the point where the pillar should be, by the Sicilian side - very close to Ganzirri.
The area around Messina strait is famous because of the swordfish fishing system they use to catch that huge fishes. In the picture you see one of them: the man from above is the one who will spot the fish.. quite brave!
A few km North of Messina there are two tiny lakes named after the location nearby: Ganzirri. It is definitely a lovely and peaceful place to visit, while the city of Messina itself is not that much interesting.
Faro is a district a few Km off the city centre, easily reacheable by bus and car.
It is situated at the farther point of Messina, nearby the lakes of Ganzirri . Just a simple district of simple people and fishermen activity.
Its beaches are very crowded in summer and of dance and music events.
Good pizzerias and fish eating places too all around.
On the same coast, North of Messina, not too far from the city is the Ganzirri lake.
It is of marine origine, formed by sand, as is the Faro lake. It has an elongated form and its surface is 338.400 square meters with a depth of 6.50 meters.
The narrow part of the lake is near the mountain side where a natural source of mineral water can be found. Gas bubbing can be seen as well. The locals tell about a phenomenon in which rain can be predicted by an increase or decrease in the gasses. It is an almost closed off lake, it periodically connect to the sea by means of two canals.
A third canal connect it to the lake Faro.
Its unique enviroment aids in the proliferation of crostaceans. Mussels and clans are cultiveted in this lake.
Near the Cape Peloro lies lake Faro which is smaller and rounder than the Ganzirri. The higher volume of water is due to its depth which is about 28 meters deep and is in comunication with the sea by means of two canals. The fauna is richer and more diverse than the Ganzirri lake; anchovies, branzini, eels, saraghi, spigole, orate, cefali may be found there.
Both lakes, however offer the tourist extraordinary beauty and especially in summer, offer a calm and tranquil haven.
The mountain chain called the Peloritani, that surrounds Messina, offers beautiful scenery and a ridge from which two seans may be seen, and culminates in the Rocca Salvateste area at the mountain peak of Novara and continues into a small plain at the summit of Monte Scuderi and finally end at the summit of Dinnamare, the nearest city.
There are many different touristic itineraries on the Peloritani. One of the most inexpensive and breathtaking excursions, which can be done little by little or withouth stops is easily accessible by a two hour bus trip that leaves from the city and begins in "Masse".
The visibility from the bus is better than from a car for obvious season, the bus being talker then a car. I every season this itinerary, offers an extrordinary scenery. In springtime, the citrus trees may even still have fruit on them as well as flowers that inebriate with their delicate scent called "zagara" or the orange flower.
There is an alternating of arrid mountains, green valleys, rock-filled streams surrounded by Spanish broon, flowered praires, cultivated fields and noisy teeds. There is a view of two seas: the Ionio and the Tirrenean divided by the steap mountain ridge of the Peloritani. Towards the South, past Dinnamare, if one takes a road not to far off the main road of Castanea, the snowy peaks of Etna can be seen , at the extreme northen point, there is a linghthouse that faces the strait of Messina, and directly at its side, as if two lucid eyes tie the two lakes, the Faro and the Ganzirri.
On my way up the mountain, I saw a shepard with his sheep. Although Mt Etna is very active and there is always the threat of eruption, people go about their daily lives and still work and live here. The soil here is very rich due to the minerals in the lava from past eruptions.
Take your time to discover some unusual spots...and make some art :-).
This was an ugly looking empty house but with some tricks it came out like this...lol!
Hope you enjoied this short day-trip to Messina!
Related sites: Italy/Taormina and Catania
Many old town and villages have narrow streets, like Cefalù or Taormina.
Just go out of the usual tourist tracks and walk on these streets. You will find very nice and tasteful details on the old houses, some very ancient and historical.
In the surroundings of Messina, in a valley at the feet of Peloritani Mountains, we find the wonderful medieval church of ' S. Maria della Valle o della Scala' ( St. Mary of the Valley or of Stairs); the church was born nearby an important communication road, which, through
long stairs climbing up the Peloritani,connected the eastern valley to the Tyrrhenian zone and to Milazzo plains. Its foundation goes back to the XI century, and was realized by Benedictine nuns, who, near the Abbey, possessed also a Monastery, whose remains are scarce. From its foundation, Badiazza had a great prestige, collecting many royal privileges ( beginning with that of William II d'Hauteville, in 1168), that were reconfirmed by all medieval sovereigns. About its foundation, a legend exists. Once, in the interior, there was a picture of the Virgin, who had stairs nearby. According to the legend, a ship, with merchants coming from Syria, landed to Messina and, after discharging goods, prepared to leave, hiding the Virgin's picture, stolen in the East. After many attempts, merchants realized they were holded by a supernatural force, and so decided to declare the possession of that precious picture. They went to the Archbishop and, in front of King Frederick II Hohenstaufen, declared their theft. So, it was decided to disembark the picture and the ship was able to sail; in the meantime, the picture was loaded on a cart pulled by oxen, and it was let free, until it stopped in the place where now the church lies. In 1282, during the Vespers' war, French soldiers, who were besieging the city, after pillaging the church, set it on fire.
It was rebuilt and enlarged by Frederick II of Aragon and was later abandoned, because of the great pestilence, in 1348, when Virgin's image was brought in procession to the city, to avoid the pestilence. After it came to an end, nuns decided to move to a new Monastery, built inside the city, and used to return to the old one only in summer. Its decline, anyway, growed, because of torrents' overflowings and earthquakes. From 1982 it underwent a new restoration. The church is a fine example of medieval art and puts together many aspects of Sicilian architecture of that time. The Latin cross church is divided into three aisles; the cupola, which collapsed in the XIX century ( but we can see it in some printings), was hemispherical, maybe influenced by Arab architecture. Later, gothic-like forms were added, as we can see in its characteristic ogival elements: apses' shrines, cross-vaults ( with mixed material of limestone and lava) and the portals. Aisles are divided by powerful pillars, surmounted by fine capitals with vegetable motives ( with hooked leaves and crosses). We do not possess almost anything of church's artistic patrimony. Apses were covered with fine Byzantine-style mosaics, made in the Swabian period: of them, only a little fragment remains, which represents St. Peter's head (now in the Regional Museum). In the Regional Museum, we also find a wonderful 'tondo' ( circle), in majolica, of the 'Madonna della frutta' or 'Madonna col bambino' ( Virgin of the fruit or Virgin with the child), attributed to the Florentine Luca della Robbia, of the XV century. The painting of the ' Madonna della Scala' ( Virgin of the Stairs), moved to the new Monastery in Messina, has been lost because of 1908's earthquake. The exterior of the church, in the entire perimeter, is characterized by a battlement, recently restored.
Milazzo is just 30 minutes from Messina and is a cute town from where you can enjoy wonderful landscapes of the Eolian Island, to where you can take the boat from the harbour of this town