Giardini Naxos, Province of Messina, Sicily

Naxos, founded in 734 BC, was the first Greek colony in Sicily. Ancient Naxos was then destroyed, and the center that rose in its place in the Middle Ages as a fishermen's village. In the late 19th century elegant villas were built, used as holiday mansions by the upper classes. It is today a popular seaside-resort, that can be reached in less than one hour from Fontanarossa airport in Catania, offering more than 40 hotels, and a great number of vacation homes, restaurants, pizzerias and discos.


  • Population: about 9,000 inhabitants in 2019
  • Zip/postal code: 98030
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 0942
  • Demonym: Giardinesi
  • Patron Saint: Maria SS Raccomandata, celebrated on 8 September
  • Frazioni & Localities: Chianchitta-Pallio, Naxos, Recanati, Calcarone, Schisò Ortogrande.

History - Antiquity

Founded by Thucles the Chalcidian in 734 BC, it was never a powerful city, but its temple of Apollo Archegetes, protecting deity of all the Greek colonies, gave it prominence in religious affairs. Leontini and Catania were both colonized from here. Hippocrates, tyrant of Gela, captured it in 494 BC.

Its opposition to Syracuse ultimately led to its capture and destruction in 403 BC at the hands of Dionysius the tyrant, after it had supported Athens during that city's disastrous Sicilian expedition. Though the site continued to be inhabited, most activity shifted to neighbouring Tauromenium.

History - the Middle Ages and Modern Times

In the Middle Ages, Naxos had lost importance and even lost its name. During the Arabian period, it was called Al Kusus. During the Norman period Kusus became Kisoi and then Schisò. Since the area was widely cultivated with citrus orchards, it came to be known as "Giardini" and was part of the administrative area of Taormina. In 1846 Ferdinand II, King of the two Sicilies transformed it into an independent commune.

The economic development of Giardini Naxos started around 1870 after the opening of the railway Messina-Catania, and changed the small maritime village into one of the best tourist destinations in Sicily.

What to see

  • The Naxos Museum of Archaeology, located in the Tower of Capo Schisò, cointains archaeological items found during the recent excavations in the area of the old Greek colony, including prehistorical objects of the Neolithic Age, as well as items from the early Greek period to the late Roman and Byzantine ones.
  • Next to the Museum is the Archaeological Park, with remains of the old walls of Naxos, built in huge lava blocks, small temples (in Latin called sacelli), a sacred area of the 7th century BC dedicated probably to Aphrodite, furnaces probably used for baking pottery, votive items, construction tiles.
  • The Schisò Castle, that belonged for several centuries to the De Spuches family, still today private property and not open to visits or archeological research, which might date back to 1100. It has a square plant and four round towers and is surrounded by a large garden. The castle had an autonomous supply of water thanks to a well immediately outside. Underground passages connected to the "Vignazza Tower" an impressive defence garrison on the promontory of Naxos, and to another small fortress (recently changed into a museum), situated east of the castle.
  • Inside the Schiso' castle, also not open to the public, is the small Church of St. Pantaleo, evangelizer of Sicily during the Roman Age, and St. Pantaleo church, built in the Norman period, probably on the remains of a previous Greek-Byzantine temple. It was dedicated to the martyr St. Pantaleone, evangelizer of Sicily during the Roman age and whose festival was on July the 29th. In 1005 Queen Adelasia, Count Roger of Altavilla's wife, gave the church to the Basilian monks, granting them the right of fishing, free from taxes, in the sea off Naxos.

Where to stay