Travel between the Ionian and the Tyrrhenian sea, Messina Monti Nebrodi. The discovery of the fortresses of the norman, the homes of fishermen and delights of the culinary tradition
Messina on the road. The city of the Straits is the ideal bridge between the island and the continent. And around, medieval villages immersed in the woods and fishing villages, scenic routes and gastronomic delights. A journey in the triangle of the north-eastern part of the island that touches two seas, the Tyrrhenian and the Ionian sea, and crosses the Nebrodi Mountains, where, between green forests and ancient villages, meet age-old traditions of pork butchery. An opportunity to know a part of Sicily, authentic, far from the usual tourist routes. Before getting behind the wheel, it is worth to spend a few hour in the city of the Straits. Starting from the viewpoint of Christ the King, the highest part of the city, a privileged observation point where you can see Scilla and Cariddi, the point of encounter and confrontation between the Ionian Sea and the Tyrrhenian sea. A little further down you can admire the spectacle of the’clock of the Piazza Duomo, one of the timepieces in the astronomical largest in the world, when at noon the figures of the bronze brilliant move at the sound of the Ave Maria of Schubert. The ancient Church of the Catalans is a jewel of Arab-Norman art, come almost intact up to us: it is the only building that remained standing after the earthquake of 1908, which completely destroyed the city. The regional museum of Messina houses many works have been saved from collapse of the ancient churches, among which two canvases of Caravaggio and a polyptych by Antonello da Messina. In addition to the city of art, there is also the parable of the good food. Messina is considered the birthplace of focaccia and pidoni, typical expressions of street food local. This is a rustic stuffed with escarole, tomato, anchovy and cheese and you can buy in bars and bakeries of the city. Excellent taste accompanied by a beer, a native of the great traditions in the city: the Beer of the Strait, produced on-site from the Brewery Messina, the co-operative was founded by 15 former workers, have become entrepreneurs, the symbol of Sicily, an island that knows how to roll up their sleeves and react in the face of difficulties.
Messina on the road, what to see: Ganzirri, fishing village
Left behind, Messina, it makes a stop in Ganzirri, a fishing village with picture-postcard scenery. Here you can discover the old trades of the sea, you can climb aboard a felucca (boat, traditional, local) and participate in a hunt for swordfish. Have lunch at the fisherman’s house after spending the day on a fishing boat, and “dropped the nets” together with the crew, is an experience not to be missed. Flat-worship: the sword fish in dripping-pan, or dried cod stockfish made soaked in water and seasoned with tomatoes, potatoes, olives, capers, celery and onions. To try the typical swordfish rolls of the Strait, from the stuffed soft-made with breadcrumbs, olive oil and parsley. In this case, the suggested pairing is with the new this year, Beer Messina Crystals of Salt, with a pinch of salt crystals and sicilian is produced, in part, to Messina at the cooperative, in part at Massafra, in the Puglia region, and is marketed and distributed by Heineken.
The route to Messina on the road: Tindari, archaeological area and the Black Madonna
The journey continues along the state road 113, route on the road to excellence in Sicily, which connects all the countries of the tyrrhenian coast (from Messina, if you want, up to Trapani) and allows you to discover places that are still unexplored and authentic. You can proceed without hurry, stopping here and there, where suddenly opens a view or enjoying with calm landscape. A stop is required to Milazzo, a thin finger of land stretching out towards the Aeolian Islands: it has almost the impression that you can touch view from the terrace of the castle, a fortified citadel of over 12 thousand square metres that stands on the landscape at the top of the old village. How not to miss is the stage at the ancient Greek theatre of Tindari, and the archaeological area: a visit at sunset is an experience that leads to long in the heart.
Worth then head to the shrine that houses the statue of the Black Madonna: probably came from Egypt in the byzantine era, to escape the fury iconoclast, is made of wood of cedar of Lebanon, has some oriental and a harmonious face stretched. The state route follows to the west of the ancient via consolare Valeria, an important artery during the roman era. Not surprisingly, along the way we encounter traces of the past such as the roman villa of Patti Marina, in the fourth century d.C., a living testimony to the luxury of the aristocracy of the time. Despite the slowness of the restoration works of the site, remains the wonder of a majestic peristyle, with its columned portico, and the colors of the polychrome mosaics and a surprisingly vitality of the wild animals depicted.
Messina on the road: the Park of the Nebrodi mountains, between the villages postcard and gastronomy
Left route 113 begins the journey to the mountain landscape of Nebrodi park, the protected natural area, the most extensive of the island. Here, tiny villages of ancient foundation climb between rock complexes of the wild, unspoilt nature. Many villages keep intact the imposing monuments of the norman period. Frazzanò, less than 700 souls, with its tiny medieval town centre, and the basilian abbey just outside the village, ensures that the few visitors peace and rest. The abbey is today known as the Monastery of San Filippo di Fragalà, is an example of rustic architecture norman on the plant, buckwheat, and even if it no longer hosts the friars devoted to St. Basil continues to offer a spectacular terrace of sighting in the heart of the Nebrodi. To stop for a tasty treat you can point to Myrtle, the paradise of the black Nebrodi pig, pig autochthonous recovered in the last few years, to get prized meat, but also delicious hams, bacon and lard fragrant. The place that brings together the history of the norman dynasty of Altavilla, and the passion for pork products is Sant’angelo di Brolo, with its saracen tower and the basilian abbey in the norman style, today known as the monastery of San Michele Arcangelo. Its striking octagonal spire is reminiscent of the typical views of the Normandy but it’s a taste of the typical salami of the place, the authentic goodness of the peasant is protected by the Igp disciplinary regulations, immediately reports on the island. Here you can enjoy platters of fine meats and local cheeses, accompanied by hazelnuts Nebrodi and a sip of beer as the Beer Messina, a lager, golden, lightly bitter, a classic recipe that dates back to 1923.
The altopiano dell’argimusco
During the tour Messina on the road, pushing towards the inside, you will discover even places of great charm such as Montalbano Elicona, from 2015 among the “most beautiful Villages in Italy” thanks to the majesty of its castle: a stronghold of the swabian on which, two centuries later, the Aragonese built a sumptuous dwelling, still be visited today. The small town is near the dell’Altopiano dell’argimusco, one of the most fascinating and mysterious of Sicily. A complex of megaliths in the calcareous soils, from the forms so bizarre to think of a Stonehenge of sicily, which stimulated the birth of many folk legends and the spread of ancient cults and esoteric.
Not far from there, Novara di Sicilia, also inserted in the circuit of the “Borghi più belli d’italia” for the beauty of its medieval old town with small houses, the plot of narrow streets, alleys surmounted by arches, and the elegance of the palaces. Stopping to listen to the speeches of some senior you can discover an ancient gallic-italic dialect, quite different from the more well known sicilian. The inhabitants of Novara, in fact, are direct descendants of the settlers and soldiers from northern Italy and from southern France who settled in these areas, with the norman conquest of Sicily.
Messina and its surroundings, a location from the film: Forza D’agrò and Savoca
After the stop at the Alcantara Gorges, a spectacular canyon that you can follow for a good stretch, after Taormina, we reach Forza D’agrò. Less than a thousand souls, perched on hill tops, rocky, where there still stands the norman castle which can be reached after climbing a long and steep staircase. The effort is immediately rewarded by the view from the old balcony, an outpost for the privileged of the Ionian sea. Just stretch the view to see at a glance Calabria, l’Etna, Taormina and Messina. The streets and alleys of ancient stone clear thanks to Francis Ford Coppola, who filmed some scenes of The godfather. Not far Casalvecchio Siculo, another medieval village, enchants the sparse visitors to the beauty and grandeur of its Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, the most important architectural works of norman origin, of the whole of the valley, compared to the great cathedrals in sicily : Monreale, Palermo and Cefalù to the plan of three naves. A true architectural treasure arrived intact up to us and almost unknown. Also the small village of Savoca, that preserves an old town centre is very charming with the remains of an ancient synagogue and a crypt which houses the bodies embalmed of some of the notables of the time, appealed to Coppola, who here decided to shoot some scenes inside the iconic Bar Vitelli. The bar of the Godfather still exists, and even if it has recently been renovated, has not lost its charm. You can still sit in the shadow of the famous pergola and drink like the locals a beer, a classic Beer of the Strait or a Beer Messina Salt Crystals, a worthy reward for the effort of a tour that shortly you will end just beyond where it started: the city of the Straits.