Dear traveller, today I wanted to discuss about one the most evocative places of my loved Sicily. That is the so called strait of Messina, namely the narrow channel that represents the most important connection between Sicily and Italy. The strait starts at the North Eastern tip of Sicily, at the port in the city of Messina and finishes at the South Western tip of Italy, at the port of Villa San Giovanni in Reggio Calabria. In the following paragraphs, I didn’t talk only about tourist information and history of the strait, but I also added helpful tips to undertake a wonderful tour around the Mediterranean sea. This tour will lead you straight to a beautiful Italian fishing village where you will have a wonderful vacation. Are you ready to discover more details about the strait of Messina and this fabulous tour? Well, read the subsequent paragraphs.
The strait of Messina is a spot where the Mediterranean, the Tyrrhenian and the Ionian sea meet. It is characterized by strong tides, followed by violent vortexes that arrive up many kms per hour. The most known and picturesque is the one called Scilla and Cariddi. That got the name from the myth of Homer. The waters, during their violent spinning, offer an intriguing view. If we could dry all the waters of the strait, we would be able to see a deep and high wall canyon that is as beautiful as the one in Colorado. This deep gorge is also called the valley of Messina and is covered by banks of sand left by the tides that trigger in two entrances of the strait. Along the canal, tides start every six hours. During the high tide, the Tyrrhenian sea drops onto the Ionian sea, the vortex created by this phenomenon, in the direction from Messina to Catania, is called descendent. The flux of this tide reverses the phenomenon and the waters of the Ionian sea drop onto the Tyrrhenian, through the lines of Ganzirri (Messina) and Punta Pezzo (Reggio Calabria). This phenomenon is called ascendant. It spans from the waters of Capo Peloro (Messina) to the most Southern tip in Capo Taormina. Due to their force, these tides are channeled to the seabed formed by Messina canyon. There, they gain further force creating oceanic storms that can eradicate seaweed and various sea flora.
Through this description, I provided you a first clue about the tour you can undertake in the Messina strait, namely Ganzirri, where you can admire a beautiful lake ( see the image), Capo Peloro, Taormina, in Sicily and then, the port of Messina to reach Punta Pezzo, in Reggio Calabria and the picturesque fishing village of Scilla. While you are at the port in Messina, you can also admire the western tip of Reggio Calabria in front of you and behind you, the spectacular sight of Etna mount (see the image above).
For these picturesque views and its particular geographical position, the strait of Messina is regarded as the gateway to Italy, namely to the mainland of the Italian boot. The above mentioned views are possible because the strait is at a short distance from the most Southern coastal zone of Italy, 3 kms only. The tip where the strait begins, called Punta Faro, is one of the three Sicilian tips of Sicily that gave to the island the triangular shape and the traditional name of Trinacria. It spans up to the coastal tip in Calabria called Punta Pezzo. The seabed of this strait is inhabited by an abundant flora and fauna, planktons and, above all, swordfish. Indeed, the economy of the coastal zones of the strait of Messina is devoted to the swordfish fishing. The abyss of the strait is also the natural habitat of Poseidonia forest, a beautiful species of seaweed that is violently eradicated from the waters during the strong tides. Instead, the sky of the strait is every year crossed by many species of birds, especially raptors, such as honey buzzard and marsh harrier. Furthermore, during the summer, when the sail activity is more intensive, it is possible to see some sharks. This sighting always does not occur, but if you are fortunate, you can admire a big shark crossing these Sicilian waters.
Anyway, a daily ferry service is available in every season, to bring people, goods, cars, trucks, and trains from Messina to Reggio Calabria. For trains and trucks, the transfer prices depend on the length of the carriages. The forward ticket is from 14 euros and from 24 euros for the round-trip. You can find complete information about tickets to cross the strait of Messina on this website: https://carontetourist.it/en/caronte/schedule-strait-messina-passengers.
History of strait of Messina
The strait was also known in very ancient time. The Romans called it Fretum Siculum, namely the Latin translation of Strait of Messina. This channel formed over 125000 years ago and it was due a tectonic depression formed by violent earthquakes that gradually separated the North Eastern tip of Sicily from the Southern coasts of Calabria and from the rest of the mainland. It is probable that in the future, other geological phenomena and earthquakes will make the tip of Sicily join back to Italy and the strait will not exist anymore. If all this happens, the strait of Messina will turn only into a bay you can cross on foot. The geological structure of this zone has been the main reason that prevented the construction of the bridge on the strait. However, the history of this Sicilian channel is above all linked to myths and legends, such as the one of Ulysses and the two female monsters called Scilla and Cariddi. These are the two guardians of the two opposite promontories of the strait of Messina. Cariddi guarded the tip of Sicily and Scilla the one in Calabria. To defend this channel, they capsized the boats, causing the sailors to drown in the waters. That is why, the most dangerous currents of the strait are also called Scilla and Cariddi. If you don’t pay the due attention, while you are swimming in these waters, you could be dragged away from them. In reality, Scilla and Cariddi were two beautiful nymphs turned into monsters for revenge. Due to this legend, Scilla and Cariddi ended up to represent also an idiomatic way of saying relating to being suspended between good and evil or finishing from the frying pan into the fire. Scilla is also the name of the beautiful fishing village you can visit during your cruise along the strait of Messina.
What to see
Before reaching the beautiful village of Scilla, I want also to inform you about what you can see while you are on the Sicilian tip of the strait of Messina. The strait, also called Torre Faro (see the image) or Capo Peloro, is one the most evocative places of Sicily. Torre Faro is also a stunning and evocative bay. There, the waters are crystal and clear, and the sight of the nearby Calabria is really breathtaking. There, we are in the most northern tip of Sicily, where the strait becomes narrower and takes the shape of a funnel. For Sicilians, looking at the nearby coastal zone of Calabria from the strait is as looking at the entire Italy. Thanks to his favourable position, Torre Faro is wet from two seas and has several beautiful beaches. Rocky and rich in fishes, the seabed fits for scuba diving. There are also sandy and pebbled beaches. In this zone, you can also find outfitted and free beaches. At the Northern tip of this zone, you can see the pylon of Cariddi. This pylon was used to transport energy, but today it is unused. Never swim in the point (Punta Ganzirri and Punta Pezzo) in which the tides meet because you ‘ll risk to be dragged into the seabed. I often visited the beaches of the strait of Messina, the most quiet is Ali Terme (see the image). That is a silent and secluded beach, where you may enjoy nature, crystal waters and a helpful thermal facility. While you are there to admire the strait, take a day to visit Messina, also. Above all, you should visit the cathedral of Messina, the statue of the Virgin Mary that blesses the ships from the Port and the sanctuary of Dinnamare. It lies on the tip of the Peloritani mounts, just called Dinnamare. It is the highest part of the mounts and reach 1127 meters above the sea level. It is near the city of Messina. The sanctuary is dedicated to the Virgin of Dinnamare, the patron of Larderia, a picturesque, small village, made of grottos, churches and Norman castles. Dinnamare is the ideal destination for hikers. From this mount, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the strait ( see the image), Aeolian islands and Milazzo. The tip of Dinnamare is only 20 kms away from Messina. The hiking is quite enchanting with slopes alternating false plains and deep zones. The first part has dipped into the woods and into the forest of the hills, then, from a certain stage, the road becomes panoramic and you can hike it while you are looking at a stunning landscape. However, Messina is greater, but seen that I am talking about a tour along the strait, I would like to bring you also to the beginning of Italy. After you took the ferry, land at Villa San Giovanni and drive to the beautiful village of Scilla, in Calabria ( see the image). That is a fishing village regarded as one among the most beautiful sea towns of Italy. The centre of this village lies on a rocky promontory that stretches just the strait of Messina. Its name, Scilla, comes from the legend of Homer. It is the opposite rocky promontory of Cariddi, in Messina. These two promontories represent the two mythological creatures Scilla and Cariddi that guarded the Strait of Messina.
In Scilla, alleys and beaches are very similar to the ones in Sicily, but this picturesque Italian town is worth a visit, at least, to admire the view of Sicily from the coast, ancient palaces, churches, a Norman castle and enjoy the best of the Italian cooking at the nearby restaurants. Moreover, from these coasts, you can also observe an optical phenomenon, namely a mirage, called Fairy Morgana ( see the image). It forms on the strait of Messina and is due to light which goes through air layers of different temperature. With this phenomenon, you can admire the entire city of Messina as if it was just next to the coast of Calabria. The name of this mirage comes from the legend of Fairy Morgana, a sort of ancient witch who enchanted the sailors to bring them to die in the sea.
How to get to the strait of Messina
To get the strait of Messina, you can ride the highways A19 ME-CT e A20 ME-PA. Exit the deviation Messina Boccetta and keep going along to the shoreline toward the village of Ganzirri and Capo Peloro. Before reaching the strait, you’ll surely land from your country to Catania or Palermo airport. There, rent a car and ride the pathway I described above. When you have arrived in Messina port, you can buy the ticket to take the ferryboat and across the strait. To book your flight and your tour to the strait of Messina, and rent a cheap car, you can see this page.
Photocredits in order of appearance:
Daniele Ciraolo – Flickr