Guide the ancient village of Tindari, a Sicilian jewel suspended between sea, history, and myth

Tìndari is a fraction of Patti, an Italian municipality in the metropolitan city of Messina, in Sicily.

The inhabitants are called tindàridi, tindaroti, tindaritani, tindaridei (in homage to the Dioscuri sons of Tindaro); in Sicilian tinnaroti.

Tindari is located on a coastal promontory that protrudes, from a height of 268 m, overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Oriented Natural Reserve of the Marinello lakes. The reserve at the foot of the promontory is connected to the sacred area and the archaeological park via the path called Coda di Volpe.

The city (in ancient Greek: Τύνδαρις, Týndaris) was founded by Dionysius I of Syracuse in 396 BC. as a colony of Syracusan mercenaries who had participated in the war against Carthage, in the territory of the Sicilian city of Abacaenum (Tripi), and took the name of Tyndaris, in honor of Tindaro, king of Sparta and husband of Leda, putative father of Elena and the Dioscuri, Castore and Polluce.

During the first Punic war, under the control of Gerone II of Syracuse, it was a Carthaginian naval base, and in its waters the battle of Tindari was fought in 257 BC., in which the Roman fleet, led by the consul Aulo Atilio Calatino, put the Carthaginian one on the run.

With Syracuse. it later passed into Roman orbit and was the naval base of Sesto Pompeo. Taken by Augustus in 36 BC, who deduced the Roman colony of Colonia Augusta Tyndaritanorum, one of the five of Sicily, Cicero cited it as a very noble civitas.

In the 1st century AD, it suffered the consequences of a great landslide, while in the 4th century it was subjected to two destructive earthquakes

Episcopal see, it was conquered by the Byzantines in 535 and fell in 836, into the hands of the Arabs from whom it was destroyed.

There remained the shrine dedicated to the Black Madonna of Tindari, progressively enlarged, which houses a Mary with the Child carved in wood, considered the bearer of thanks and miraculous.

There are several literary references to the city. In Verrine, Cicero lingers for a long time on Tindari and on the spoliation suffered by it during the judiciary of Verre. Furthermore, Salvatore Quasimodo dedicated the famous poem Vento a Tindari to her and gives the title to a detective novel by Andrea Camilleri from the Montalbano series, La gita a Tindari, and to the episode of the television drama taken from it, also entitled La gita in Tindari.

Let’s discover together this dreamy place!

 

Sanctuary of Maria Santissima di Tindari

The Basilica Sanctuary of Maria Santissima di Tindari or sanctuary of Tindari or sanctuary of the Black Madonna or primitive cathedral of Tindari is located in Tindari, a hamlet of Patti, in the metropolitan city of Messina. It rises on the top of the homonymous hill and dominates the Marinello lakes inserted in the homonymous oriented natural reserve.

The current building identifies and covers the area where the primitive fortress or castle of Tindari is documented. The hypothesis of the existence of the fortress or castle of Tindari is supported by the presence of battlements or crowns in the pre-existing buildings of worship that reinforce the thesis of ancient churches obtained in primitive fortified buildings.

The origins of the Byzantine statue of the black Madonna of Tindari are linked to a legend, according to which the sculpture, transported by sea, prevented the ship from leaving after it had taken refuge in the bay of the lakes of Tindari to escape the storm. The statue had left the Orient to escape the iconoclastic persecution.

The sailors gradually deposited the cargo on the ground, thinking that this was preventing transport, and only when the statue was also brought there was the ship able to return to the sea. The statue was then brought to the hill above, inside a small church which later had to be enlarged several times to accommodate pilgrims, attracted by the miraculous fame of the simulacrum.

The wooden sculpture (in cedar of Lebanon) is oriental, Byzantine, and can be dated between the end of the eighth century and the first decades of the ninth century. The Madonna is black, with a characteristic and original long face not easily found in other religious statues, and is a Theotókos Odigitria represented as Basilissa or as “Queen seated on a throne”, while holding the Baby Jesus on her lap holding her right hand raised, blessing.

On his head, he holds an oriental-style crown or turban.  Under the throne, the writing “Nigra Sum Sed Formosa” takes up the phrase of the Song of Songs 1.5, and 1.6, and means “I am black but shapely” or, less literally “I am brown but beautiful”.

On 8 September 2018, the sanctuary was elevated to a minor basilica by Pope Francis.

 

Greek Theater of Tindari

The theater of Tindari is the second monumental pole of its kind in the province of Messina.

Built in Greek forms in the late 4th century BC and later remodeled in Roman times, with a new decoration and adaptation to a venue for amphitheater games.

The theater is the monument symbol of the city. It dates back to the fourth century BC and was built by the Greeks although later in the centuries the Romans remodeled the structure to transform it into an amphitheater for gladiator games.

For a long time abandoned and known only for the illustrations of the 19th century, it was supported by the natural concave conformation of the hill, in which the steps of the seats (0.40 m high and 0.70 m deep) of the cavea were excavated, which was supposed to reach a capacity of about 3000 seats.

In Roman times, there was added a portico in brick work and the reconstruction of the scene, of which only the foundations and an arch remain, restored in 1939.

The orchestra was transformed into an arena, surrounding the cavea with a wall and suppressing it the four lower steps.

Since 1956, there has been an artistic festival that includes dance, music, and of course theater.

Since 2001, the Theater of the Two Seas festival has hosted it together with Taormina.

Since August 2014, Indiegeno Fest takes place, a music festival where artists from the Italian scene have played such as Afterhours, Brunori Sas, Niccolò Fabi, GnuQuartet, Marta sui Tubi, Carmen Consoli, Eugenio Finardi, Daniele Silvestri, Levante.

 

Marinello Lakes

It is among the most popular destinations in Italy, Sicily, especially in summer. Yet, this region known for its splendid sea, its idyllic villages and the remains of ancient civilizations, still reserves (many) surprises, like, for example,  Marinello Lakes nature reserve.

Established in 1998 and extending over 400 hectares, the reserve of the Marinello lakes is located in the province of Messina, under the promontory of the sanctuary of Tindari. Together with the lakes of Ganzirri (also in the province of Messina), it constitutes one of the few surviving examples of coastal brackish environment in north-eastern Sicily.

It is a lagoon area, this one, whose territory is subject to morphological variations which, by changing the coast, have created incredible brackish ponds to see.

It seems that the Marinello lakes originated between 1865 and 1895, due to the particular conditions that the sea and the weather have in this area and some tectonic processes: the transport of sand and gravel on the coast, in fact, it is due to the deepening of the seabed, caused by the action of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

On the beach, there is also a cave which, always according to an ancient legend, is populated by a sorceress who lured sailors with her own song and then eat them.

The holes on the walls are the lunges of the sorceress’s fingers, furious when the sailors managed to escape.

Among the species of ichthyofauna indicated in the reserve, we can find the macrocephalous goby (Millerigobius macrocephalus), a small goby that lives at modest depths on the muddy bottoms of the “Green” lake, previously mistakenly identified as Buenia affinis, deserves a mention. Other fish species present are the eel, the little goat, the bosega mullet, the black goby, the small goby, the peacock and the needle fish, to which are added, in environments with marine salinity, the conger, sea bass and he murmurs.

Patti

Patti is an Italian town of 13.121 inhabitants in the metropolitan city of Messina.

The origin and history of Patti are closely linked to the decline of the ancient Greek-Roman city of Tindari, today its hamlet and one of the most important archaeological and devotional sites in Sicily. The physiognomy of the inhabited center is very developed with a large historic center perched on the hill around the Cathedral, the bishop’s palace, the seminary and the other historic buildings, which slopes down towards the coast to its seaside village called Marina di Patti.

This enchanting seaside resort consists of over ten kilometers of beaches, whose quiet and docile sandy profile is embellished with caves and imposing rocks. In front of the coast, like natural cathedrals built by time and bad weather, numerous rocky stacks stand out majestically, which give the coast an arcane and magical aspect.

The wide beaches of Marina di Patti are mainly free, and the waters are very clean, perfect for diving and observing the beautiful seabed!

The historic center of the municipality of Patti has a typically medieval layout, both from the point of view of the structure of the streets and from the architectural point of view. By walking through the streets, it is possible to come across beautiful religious buildings, but not only: among the streets of Patti it is also possible to admire some elegant nineteenth-century buildings and well-preserved churches.

The town still retains some parts of the ancient city walls, dating back to the 14th century.

The main religious building in Patti is the cathedral basilica of San Bartolomeo, built in the eleventh century, which stands next to the bishop’s palace.

Archeological Park of Tindari

The archaeological area of ​​Tindari is located in the municipality of Patti in Sicily.

Founded by Dionysius I, tyrant of Syracuse in 396 BC. C. approximately, in a portion of the territory of Abaceno, a city in turn allied to the Carthaginians,  on the promontory inserted in the Gulf of Patti in the stretch of coast on the Tyrrhenian Sea overlooking the Aeolian archipelago, between Capo Calavà and the Mylae peninsula. Bays, coves, inlets at the foot of the overhangs constitute natural shelters for boats, since ancient times fishing for tuna has been practiced, which migrate in the waters in front. Landing site and seat of the primitive seasonal factories for the processing and marketing of fish.

The housing nucleus occupied the flat part of the relief on the east – west route exposed to the north, slightly sloping towards Patti. The fortresses, surrounded to the south by the Peloritani chain and the first reliefs of the Nebrodi mountains, constituted a strategic outpost and stronghold protected by steep coasts on wide horizons where to install Locresi, Messeni and Medmei, Greek mercenaries in the service of Aristotile. The allocation with the concession of the territory took place as compensation for the failure to pay the engagement and the forced removal of Aristotile. The new colonists were particularly devoted to the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux, according to legend, sons of Jupiter and Leda, former wife of Tindar king of Sparta. Populations otherwise known as Tìndaridi, hence the name of the colony in Tìndaride and of the city called Tindari (Τύνδαρις, Týndaris).  The Dioscuri were elected protectors of the city, as evidenced by the reproductions depicted on coins found during excavations.

The Syracusan tyrant opposed on the southern front of the island by Annibale Magone, had the upper hand again following the latter’s death from plague, a fact that effectively prevented the newborn colony from freeing itself from the hegemony of Dionysius I. The population in the 344 a. C. flanked the expedition of Timoleon, leader of Corinth, called to restore democracy in Syracuse, troubled by the tyranny of Dionysius II, serious internal political disturbances and the Carthaginian threat. Since the victory of Timoleonte, Tindari enjoyed about 60 years of peace, during which it grew and was enriched with beautiful monuments and temples.

A new danger for the newborn colony arose from the presence of the Mamertines, mercenaries from Campania who were already allies of the Syracusans who, due to the failure to pay the compensation, took possession of the city of Messina threatening the geopolitical balance of the northern coast and of Syracuse itself. Gerone II retired home, reconstituted an army of Syracusans. Tyndaris, Abakainon, Ameselon and Tauromenion declared themselves in favor of Syracuse. With these supports, Gerone advanced to the Longano torrent, fighting in 269 BC. C. the Battle of the Longano near today’s Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto, where he destroyed the contingent of the Mamertines and captured their commander Cio or Cione, quickly conquering Mylae and Alaisa.

The first nucleus of Greek houses dating back to the Timoleontean period on which the great Roman domus in the vicinity of the Basilica developed date back to this period. Equipped with an imposing city wall built at the time of Dionysius, primitive fortifications strengthened later by a double square stone wall. These walls meet along the southern slope that leads to the top of Capo Tindari, along the route the imposing bulwarks stand out.

 

Coda di Volpe Path

Coda di Volpe path is located in Patti within the Laghetti di Marinello Oriented Nature Reserve.

It represented the preferred route used since ancient times to connect the port area of Marinello directly to the ancient city of Tindarys, a stretch that was subsequently used as a pilgrimage route to the Marian shrine.

Along the path, immersed in the great biodiversity of the Mediterranean scrub, it is possible to appreciate the magnificent landscapes of the Gulf of Patti, the Aeolian islands, but above all a unique scenario of the Marinello lagoon system.

The path can be travelled downhill to reach Marinello starting from Tindari or uphill to reach Tindari starting from Marinello.

The foxtail route is about 1 km long and connects Marinello with the Tindari Sanctuary. It offers a magnificent view of the sea which includes the Aeolian Islands heading north and the Gulf of Patti to the west. On the opposite side, however, it is possible to see Capo Milazzo. Don’t forget to look down, where the Marinello lakes extend – which are also worth a visit – with their characteristic sandy beaches. Finally, pay attention to the vast Mediterranean maquis inside which you will find yourself literally immersed in prickly pears and gorse.

The panoramic path, once the only link between the lakes and Tindari, is now practiced mainly by the faithful on pilgrimage to the Sanctuary and by hikers.

The beginning of the Tindari – Coda di Volpe nature trail is located in Via Monsignor Pullano in Patti. From this point on it is possible to travel it enjoying the landscape that it offers. Once you arrive at your destination, after the obligatory stop inside the Sanctuary, it is advisable to visit the nearby archaeological area. The foxtail route is about 1 km long and connects Marinello with the Tindari Sanctuary. It offers a magnificent view of the sea which includes the Aeolian Islands heading north and the Gulf of Patti to the west. On the opposite side, however, it is possible to see Capo Milazzo. Don’t forget to look down, where the Marinello lakes extend – which are also worth a visit – with their characteristic sandy beaches. Finally, pay attention to the vast Mediterranean maquis inside which you will find yourself literally immersed in prickly pears and gorse.

The panoramic path, once the only point of connection between the lakes and Tindari, is now practiced mainly by the faithful on pilgrimage to the Sanctuary and by hikers.

The beginning of the Tindari – Coda di Volpe nature trail is located in Via Monsignor Pullano in Patti. From this point on it is possible to travel it enjoying the landscape that it offers. Once you arrive at your destination, after the obligatory stop inside the Sanctuary, it is advisable to visit the nearby archaeological area.

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