Focus on Tindari
So you’ve heard of Taormina, Palermo and Cefalù, and possibly of the splendid baroque towns of Noto, Modica and Ragusa in the south east of the island. But have you ever heard of Tindari? And if so, how much do you know about it?
Where is Tindari?
If you drive along the motorway on the north coast between Palermo and Messina, somewhere between Capo d’Orlando and Milazzo, you’ll catch sight of the spectacular Sanctuary of the Black Madonna. This is Tindari’s most famous attraction, built on the ruins of the Tindari Castle, with views of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the naturally formed lagoon of white sand that is the Marinello Lakes Nature Reserve.
Tindari is a hamlet of Patti, a small town with a historical centre with a cathedral, bishop’s palace, well-preserved churches and elegant 19th palazzi. Probably the best way to explore Tindari and the surrounding area is with a local expert who, as well as showing you the cultural sights, can introduce you to the best local gastronomy. Our week-long Cooking and Culture in Sicily experience includes cooking classes, a guided tour of Tindari, and excursions to Mount Etna and local food producers. If you prefer to explore independently, here’s a bit of background and some of the things to watch out for.
Tindari in Greek and Roman times
Tindari was settled in 1500BC but Dionysius I of Syracuse turned it into one of the island’s most important Greek centres in 396BC, taking the name of Tyndaris, in honour of Tindaro, king of Sparta. It became a Carthaginian naval base before falling under Roman control in 254BC and continued to be an important Roman settlement until 365AD when a major earthquake struck Sicily and North Africa.
Archaeological interest in Tindari
Evidence of this long history of Roman rule is still visible in the main archaeological site which can be reached on foot from the main square in Tindari. As you walk, you’ll see traces of the ancient city walls, once 3km long and a metre wide. Highlights of the archaeological site include the basilica, probably built at the end of the first century BC, and the theatre, built in the 3rd century with seating that looks out towards the sea. Still in use, the theatre has been showcasing an artistic festival of dance, music and drama since 1956.
Below the basilica, it’s possible to explore some of the original houses and baths, complete with remnants of superb floor mosaics and an extraordinarily efficient heating and sewage disposal system.
The Sanctuary of Tindari and the Black Madonna
The Sanctuary was built on the spot of the original castle of Tindari and enjoys views right along the coastal stretch to Capo Milazzo. It’s best known for its Black Madonna, a Byzantine statue made of cedar of Lebanon and steeped in mythology. The story goes that whilst being transported from the east to Europe, the statue prevented the ship from leaving the bay until it had been taken off board. After being carried up the hill, the statue was placed in a small church, which was in time replaced with a larger one that was better able to cope with the influx of pilgrim visitors. Thought to date to some time between the end of the eighth century and the early ninth century, the Madonna sits on a throne which bears the inscription ‘Nigra Sum Sed Formosa’.
The Marinello Lake Nature Reserve and the tongue of sand
Extending over 400 hectares, the Marinello Lake Nature Reserve is a natural lagoon of white sand and gravel. A protected area since 1998, the reserve stretches from Capo Tindari to Marinello, characterised by small lakes, strips of sand and in particular, a curious sand formation, that stretches 1.5km into the sea and is steeped in legend. Favourite myths include claims that a sorceress lived in the cave, luring sailors with her song before proceeding to eat them – hence the holes in the walls reputedly caused by the sorceress’s clawing fingers as her captives attempted to escape.
Cala di Volpe nature trail
For heart-stopping sea views as far as the Aeolian Islands, follow the well-marked panoramic trail, with wooden rails, that connects Marinello with the Tindari Sanctuary.
Did you know?
The town was included in literary works by Cicero, Quasimodo and latterly by Camilleri in one of the Montalbano books (La Gita in Tindari).
Where can I stay near Tindari?
We have an excellent choice of accommodation near Tindari, including a selection of villas with views of the Sanctuary of Tindari. Take your pick from a collection that ranges from a one-bedroom cottage on the Casa di Tindari estate to the luxurious Pizzo dell’Ovo complex for 31