North of Messina
The coast road going north passes fishing villages with poetic names such as Paradiso, Contemplazione, Pace and Grotta, followed by Ganzirri with a salt lake in which mussels are farmed; finally the cape itself is Punta del Faro reached with the old lighthouse (Faro, 12km/7.5mi) standing alongside the enormous tower built for the strait cable. The mainland is here only 3km/2mi distant (view). The decision in December 1985 by the parliament in Rome to build a bridge between Calabria and Messina has gone no further than the drawing-board stage.It is possible to continue westwards through Acquarone to Spartà where a side-road turns off left and takes an attractive mountainous route through Castane di Furie back to Messina (18km/11mi).
Gesso, on the SS 113, 18km/11mi northwest of Messina, has a Capucin church (Chiesa dei Cappuccini) with a remarkable altarpiece by Antonio Catalano the Elder (1560-1630), which depicts the Adoration of the Shepherds.
Rometta lies at a height of 593m/1,946ft on the northern slope of the Monti Peloritani. The SS 113 leads from Gesso to Rometta Marea (7km/4mi) and there turns off left to Rometta (12.5km/8mi). This town has gained a place in history for its long resistance to the Arab invasion of Sicily. This began in 827 with the taking of Marsala but Rometta, as the last bastion, did not fall until 925.
Chiesa del Salvatore
The Chiesa del Salvatore in Rometta is a building in the Byzantine style. The exterior is an unplastered, almost square, block of stone, into which an interior on the plan of a Greek cross with four arms of equal length, has been created. Above the point of intersection of the four arms of the cross rises a low dome, which has an octagonal exterior. Side-chapels are built into the corners between the cross arms. The unconventional building dates either from the Byzantine period (before 925) or later, from the Norman era (12th century).
Capo d'Orlando, Italy
LocationThis attractive fishing village, which has developed into a resort, is situated in the eastern part of the north coast at the foot of the headland of the same name.HistoryThe ancient town of Agathyrnon once probably stood on this promontory. According to Diodorus it was founded by Agathyrnos, the son of Aiolos, the god of the wind. The only other piece of history to have been handed down about the town is that in 210 B.C. the consul Marcus Valerius Laevinus uprooted 4000 exiles, who had settled here, and moved them across to Bruttium. Inscriptions and coins have not been found.A collection of contemporary art can be seen in the town hall. On the headland jutting out to the north, can be seen the ruins of a castle and a pilgrimage church dating from the 16th century. To the east of the promontory extends a stretch of coast 2km/1mi long with bays and rocky cliffs. It leads to the holiday village of Test del Monaco.Cultural eventsOn August 15th a procession of boats takes place.
Bay of Gioiosa Marea
To the east of Capo d'Orlando, beyond Testa del Monaco, stretches this wide bay, along which are situated the villages of Brolo, Gliaca and Gioiosa Marea. The bay ends at Capo Calavà.
The little mountain town of Naso with its nut-tree and chestnut plantations (11km/7 mi southeast, reached by the winding SS 116) lies at an altitude of 497m/1,631ft. There is a medieval Chiesa dei Minori Osservanti. The road continues on to Randazzo at the northern foot of Mount Etna (65km/40 mi from Capo d'Orlando).
Castroreale Terme, Italy
LocationThis resort, which with its thermal springs of Ciapazzia and Fonte di Venere forms part of the municipality of Terme Vigliatore, is situated on the wide bay of the Golfo di Piatti on the northern coast of Sicily.
At San Biagio (2km/1mi west on the SS 113) the ruins of a Roman villa dating from the second century A.D. have been uncovered. Rooms with beautiful mosaic floors are arranged around a large peristyle; in addition there is a well preserved steam bath. A key giving access to the excavations can be obtained from the butcher's shop in the main street.
Situated at a height of 394m/1,293ft, Castroreale (16km/10mi southeast of Castroreale Terme) can be reached via Barcellona Pozzo di Grotto on a scenically attractive road. Alongside Baroque churches can be seen the tower of a fortress dating from 1324.
Novara di Sicilia
Novara di Sicilia (20km/12mi south) is reached on the SS 185. Situated at a height of 650m/2,133ft, the town serves as a starting-point for the ascent of the Rocca di Novara (1,340m/4,396ft), the highest summit in the Monti Peloritani.
LocationThis mountain village lies at a height of 560m/1,837ft, not far from the north coast, and owes its importance to the monastery of San Filippo di Fragalà with its church consecrated to Saint Philip.
San Filippo di Fragalà
Founded as long ago as the fifth century, the monastery in Frazzanó was always highly regarded and survived even the destruction meted out to it by the Arabs in the ninth century. The reconstruction, which was undertaken immediately after the Norman conquest of Sicily, was concluded in 1090 under the abbot Gregory. The church dates from this year; it has the outline of a T-shaped Anthony cross with three projecting apses facing east.Despite alterations in the 15th, 17th and 18th centuries, when the lantern and bell towers were built, the original character of this Basilian church (designed for Greek Orthodox monks) is still easily recognizable. Besides the outline of the apses, the windows, a doorway on the north side, several arches and the barrel vaulting over the side aisles have all been preserved. The polychromy evident in the building is also Basilian: it derives from the use of black lava, red brick and yellow-pink stone on the otherwise unadorned exterior.
LocationThe pretty town of Giardini lies below Taormina on the east coast of Sicily, on the bay between Capo Taormina and Capo Schisò. Long stretches of sand and shingle beaches have led to it becoming a popular holiday resort.
2km/1mi to the south the basalt rocks of Capo Schisò jut out into the sea. To the south the headland is bordered by the fertile estuarial plain of the Alcántara. This was where Naxos, the first Greek town in Sicily, was situated.
Montalbano di Elicona, Italy
LocationThis little town in the northeast of Sicily has a superb position on the western slope of the 960m/3,150ft high Monte Burello, above the Torrente Elicona. It is a starting-point for mountain walks and drives.
Montalbano - Chiesa Madre
In the Chiesa Madre in Montalbano there is an altar relief depicting the life of St Nicholas, a work of the Gagini school. The castle was built by Frederick of Aragon (1302-11).
Montalbano - Portella Zilla
A winding road runs southwards as far as the pass of Portella Zilla (12km/7mi; 1,104m/3,622ft), just underneath the summit of Monte Castellazzo (1,311m/4,301ft).
The Monti Nébrodi, also called Caronie, are composed of chalk and sandstone and constitute a continuation westwards of the Monti Peloritani range. At Monte Soro they rise to a height of 1,847m/6,060ft and at Rocca di Novara to 1,430m/4,692ft. Their border with the Monti Peloritani can roughly be taken to be the SS 185 (Taormina-Castroreale Terme), while the line with the Madonie range to the west is the area around GangiRound tripThis range is accessible through various mountain roads, for example from Sant'Agata di Militello on the north coast; from there the mountain hide-out of San Fratello is reached, followed by the watershed of Portella della Femmina Morta (1,524m/5,000ft) and finally on a road off to the left, Monte Soro (1,847m/6,060ft, view).
The Peloritani range is the Sicilian continuation of the Aspromonte on the Italian mainland and stretches from Messina southwestwards. It is made up of gneiss, crystalline slate and granite, while deep indented valleys, the fiumare, characterize the landscape.The highest mountains are the Rocca Novara (1,340m/4,396ft), the Pizzo di Verna (1,286m/4,219ft) and the Antennamare (1,124m/3,688ft). The latter can be reached from Messina on a panoramic road which follows the line of the ridge.In the west the Monti Peloritani merge with the Monti Nébrodi, the line between the two running more or less along the SS 185 (Taormina-Castroreale Terme).
Map of Messina Attractions