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Milazzo, Province of Messina, Sicily

This port and seaside resort, also called "Città del Capo", 50 km from Messina, is located on a the 7-km long peninsula in the wide bay enclosed by Capo Rasocolmo and Milazzo promontory along the northern coast of Sicily, facing the Aeolian Islands. This can rightly claim to be one of the most interesting centers in Sicily: it was the land reached by Ulysses in the Odyssey, the beloved mansion of kings and emperors, the place where saints as St. Francis of Paola made miracles and St. Antony of Padua stopped in meditation.

Info

  • Population: about 30,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 98057
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 090

The Territory

Capo Milazzo
The area offers a wealth of historical and artistic treasures of almost all periods of Sicilian history, from the Bronze Age to the Greek, Roman, Byzanthine, Arab, Norman, Anjou, Spanish Ages. The city is divided into two: the higher part is older, while the lower rose more recently. The sea of Milazzo is rich of marine life and its clear waters make it a favorite destinations for ecological tourism and scuba diving. Its port is also a departure point for ferries to the Aeolians and Naples.

Milazzo was the setting of famous battles, including the naval battle fought between the Carthaginians and the Romans in 260 BC, and the defeat of the Bourbons by Garibaldi's army in July 1860 during the Risorgimento that finally led to Italian unity.

History - Antiquity

In ancient geological times the peninsula where Milazzo is located was created by a 30-km long delta of a large river, which left a very fertile land where man settled already in 4,000 BC. In the territory different necropoles were excavated from the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, Greek and Roman times.

Ancient historians told about the foundation of Mylai in 716 BC, during the earliest Greek period, and described the blue waters, grren vegetation, fertile soil and mild climate, as a place where the gods liked to stay, a starting point to reach the seven sisters (the Aeolian islands) where Aeolus, the keeper and god of the winds, lived with nymphs and satyrs.

History - the Middle Ages

Under Byzanthine rule Milazzo was a bishopry, then it was occupied by the Arabs who built a fortress (the original core of the present magnificent castle) and introduced modern agricultural systems. The Normans led by Roger d'Hauteville drove the Arabs out of Sicily, and in Milazzo established a castle, of which a square tower is still extant. Frederick II in the first half of the 13th century continued to fortify the citadel, and in the late 13th century James II of Aragon started to build the walls on the southern slopes of the promontory, to include also the Borgo.

In the mid-15th century new settlements started to be established, the so called Casali, and ALphonse of Aragon started a further outer enclosures of walls arount the castle. In this way the basic plan of Milazzo took the form of three different areas, the Citadel, the Borough, the Lower Town (Città murata, Borgo, Città Bassa).

What to see

  • The Sanctuary of San Francesco da Paola, founded by the saint in the years 1465-1467, with adjoining monastery, and fine works of art, among them an extremely beautiful wooden chapel with a painting of the Virgin with Child by Domenico Gagini (15th century) and six paintings by Letterio Paladino (1691-1743). In the Sanctuary is also preserved the body of the Blessed Candida Leonte from Milazzo.
  • The magical "Scarabeo", on the medieval walls facing the promontory, a strange figure created with black lava stone, in the form of a giant beetle. Its position and meaning is connected to the sun, since it marks the spot of sunrise on the day of the summer solstice.
  • The exceptional Castle, a national monument, occupies 7 hectares on top of the ancient Borgo. The most ancient structures go back to 4000 BC, then in the 8th cencury BC the Greeks colonizers built on it their citadel (the Acropolis), which the Romans and Byzanthines changed into a castrum. In 843 the Arabs built the massive central tower called Maschio and eight more towers around. In the following centuries Normans and Swabians added more buildings, the Aragonese strengthened the defensive system, and finally in 1529 the Spaniards surrounded everything with an imposing wall circle with bulwarks, creating the so-called Cittadella, a walled town. The works lasted almost 50 years, and the result was a massive defence system consisting of two huge parallel walls, separated at bottom and connected at top by a vaulted roof, under which were water cisterns, warehouses, stables and prisons. From the top of the castle it is possible to enjoy an astounding, all-round view, including the Aetna, both seas, the Messina Strait, the Milazzo plain and the gulf, the Aeolian islands.

Where to stay