Lucia shares one of her favourite memories from a recent holiday to Sicily - a day that included Marinello Beach and the historic village of Tindari.
Every time I go to Sicily on holiday I always remain surprised by how much this island can offer you, from several points of view, such as its heritage, the sea and obviously, its food. These aspects are usually linked to each other, as in Sicily, wherever you go you will find both a monument to visit, traditional dishes to taste, and along the coast, a fantastic sea.
This is what I discovered when my friends and I went to the beach of Marinello, which is along the Tyrrhenian Sea and approximately 55km away from Messina. In fact, when I entered the beach, I literally remained open mouthed at the sight of a small unspoilt paradise made up of tiny pebbles and natural vegetation. The marvel of the nature in front of my eyes was full of surprises. As we ventured deeper, I realised that it wasn’t simply a beach, but a small bay with a thin tongue of earth that extended for some hundreds of metres in length.
We walked a few metres to arrive to the centre of the bay and we laid on our towels to sunbathe, enjoying the peace of the soundtrack of the sea while being kissed by the sun and sea breeze, and there were only a few people present. After some relaxing, we moved on for a walk. We were excited walking along this thin tongue of earth, witnessing both the sea and the prominent and high rocks above the sea, where upon the summit sits the fabulous shrine of Tindari.
Moreover, an interesting thing here is that the sea water out of the small bay has a strong flow that doesn’t allow you to easily have a dip, while inside the bay the sea was unbelievably calm. What’s more, differently from the Ionian Sea (at least in Messina province), you could walk some metres from the foreshore before reaching the high-water level, where interestingly the water was hotter, like being in a big salted swimming pool with crystalline water.
So, we could have a really relaxing bathe as we floated in this small portion of the Tyrrhenian Sea; very refreshing in the hot sun. Funnily enough, every time we came out of the sea, our swimming costumes became more and more white due to the really salted water.
In the mid-afternoon, we decided to ascend the hill to visit Tindari, a really small village oozing culture of the past, but before leaving we explored the inside of the beach. We discovered different lakes hidden by natural vegetation in some points and some caves that made you feel like you were on a fascinating desert island, like in the set of a film.
Afterwards, could we not stop to have a refreshing granita? Of course! In fact, as long as we found a cafe in the surroundings we could sit and taste this delicious drink. Once replenished, we headed towards the top of the hill to discover this ancient village. When we reached our destination, we parked the car outside the city centre where we caught a shuttle bus to avoid walking up in the burning sun.
After a few minutes, we got off in a small square filled with some stalls that sold typical Sicilian food, but we didn’t stop and instead headed to a bigger square where the shrine appeared in front of us in all its majesty. From the outside, we could understand that this wasn’t an ancient church, but when we entered, the modern aspect of the church was not so evident. In fact, I noticed that the shrine had the traditional shape with a Latin cross plant and three naves, delimited by tall and big white marble columns with capitals similar to the Corinthian ones.
We immersed ourselves in a magical atmosphere created by the sunlight entering, mainly through the round, colourful windows set in both sides of the building, and from a big glass wall at the entry point. Wherever you looked, you could only be amazed by the magnificent pieces of art located in every corner of the building.
First of all, I was fascinated by the masterful mosaics representing the Mysteries of the Rosary, located in chronological order on the spans of the lateral nave walls: from the Annunciation at the beginning of the left nave near the transept, to the Assumption at the beginning of the right one.
Not to mention the big painting representing the Triumph of Madonna on the ceiling vault; I risked falling backwards as I remained hypnotised by its beauty, but also by its relevant length! But the main attraction of this sacred place was the altar. In fact, in addition to including a lovely white marble sculpture under it denoting The Last Supper, above it there was an authentic masterpiece built on different levels, with two bronze sculptured angels that sustained the tabernacle at the bottom.
On the upper level, there were four bigger angels on two clouds that supported the real protagonist of the shrine: Madonna del Tindari, the wood sculpture of the Black Madonna with Jesus on her legs showing the Latin writing “Nigra sum sed Formosa” (I am black but beautiful) below her feet, and above her two angels which held her crown.
After having been in adoration to the black Madonna, we discovered a small entry in the right nave close to the altar. Here we found two other marvellous mosaics presenting important moments in the history of this shrine. Such as, according to the legend, when some fishermen discovered the Black Madonna statue in a wooden box along the beach and began to adore her, as they thought to have been saved from the storm thanks presence. In fact, what we visited was only the new shrine, that was built from 1957 to 1975, in order to be able to welcome the growing number of pilgrims who arrived at this sacred place, as the old one, on the back of the modern church, was unfortunately closed.
After spending an hour inside, we got out and had a walk along a terrace overlooking the sea. In fact, as we headed towards the right of the church square, we discovered a striking view of the bay of Marinello, precisely outlined in its shape, and also the Aeolian Islands in the distance thanks to the sunny and clear weather of that day.
We then walked down one of the alleys of the village, filled with dwellings and shops selling local products, and further along running alongside the remains of the Roman walls, beyond which the countryside appeared in front of us with the typical Mediterranean vegetation of olives trees and shrubs. After this romantic short walk, we headed to the archaeological area of Tindari.
As soon as we approached the entrance we realized that it was closed. I’ll let you imagine my disappointment, like that of a child who is not allowed to go into a playground, as I love the Greek/Roman monuments! But I didn’t give up, and when I glimpsed a person inside the archaeological park, I called him to ask if it was possible to enter anyway, and unbelievably the kind man, who was probably the keeper of this area, allowed us access to it.
Indeed, this is not so surprising as the Sicilian people are well known for their great hospitality. We ran down the stairs and entered a small building that housed a museum (the Antiquarium), home to a really interesting collection of Greek and Roman epigraphs and memorial stones, mosaics, coins, medals and everyday furnishings. After this we continued down the stairs and ended up in a bigger area home to some stones that seemed to simply be the walls of some buildings.
We thought we’d find nothing special to see here, but when we entered we discovered some beautiful and almost completely intact mosaics on the floor. We found out that in that area, the ancient thermal baths were housed and were made up of a frigidarium (the cold room having a bath of unheated water), two tepidari (the warm rooms between the cold and the hot ones) and a calidarium (the hot room). The other spaces represented the remains of some houses where we could admire what remained of a peristyle, through some columns which were still standing.
The most majestic monument of this archaeological park is the ancient Basilica, used for the public meetings, or the Gymnasium, used for athletic exercises. Here we could admire the big arches made up of large stones, creating a gallery as well as its entry point. As usual, all this rich cultural heritage was immersed in the typical Mediterranean vegetation, included my beloved centuries-old olive trees.
On the opposite side of this park we entered into an area devoted to entertainment, bathed in the magic atmosphere of the sunset. Here stood the Greek-Roman theatre where still today they organize some exhibitions in this fabulous setting, which includes a spectacular sea view which can be admired from the semi-circular stairs.
After this quick exploration of the archaeological park, we decided to come back home, but not before stopping in a rotisserie that sold typical Sicilian street food, such as arancini, pidoni (a kind of fried, folded pizza). Here we could taste some delicious arancini, not only in the classical form like the Arancino alla Norma, but also one with pistachio nut.
Well, what else can I say? Nothing more than that it was a perfect day, one of my many perfect days on this wonderful island. It is not an accident that every time you visit Sicily you can make a new discovery accompanied by joy, enthusiasm and surprise; all things that make you not want to leave this paradisiacal island.
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