The “nobilissima civitas” of Tindari
Messina-en What to see in Sicily

The “nobilissima civitas” of Tindari


In a small promontory on the Tyrrhenian Sea, near Patti (a small town in Messina), is Tindari.

The nature that frames the inhabited village is particular and unique. In the lower part of the the hill we find the Marinello beach which widens and narrows, influenced by the tides. Not far from the crystalline waters, on a ridge, there is a cave which, according to a legend, was inhabited by a sorceress who vented her anger by sinking her fingers into the rocks and the numerous holes present are connected to this.

The birth of Tindari is ancient: it became a Greek colony in 396 BC, is built according to the will of Dionisio I and takes its name from Tindaro, king of Sparta.

In 256 BC, during the battle of Tindarys, the Romans conquered the territory sanctioning the end of Carthaginian hegemony. It become a Roman colony in 36 BC and Cicerone describes it as a “nobilissima civitas“.

Its appearance changes in 535 becoming a majestic Byzantine seat, completely destroyed in the 836 by the Arabs.

Walking through the narrow streets, at the highest point of the promontory, the old seat of the acropolis, stands the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Tindari. Inside, carved in cedar wood, is a very peculiar black Virgin seated on a throne with the Child in her lap. At the foot of the statue there is an inscription, based on “Il Cantico dei cantici”, that say “Nigra sum sed formosa” and justifies the particular artistic and stylistic choice that makes it amazing. According to maritime and Catholic traditions, the Virgin or “Matri ‘u tinnaru” is celebrated between 7 and 8 September.

The ancient city is enclosed in an archaeological area that is still well preserved. The city walls, dating back to the 3rd century BC, extend for almost 3 km in a double sandstone curtain.

The majestic Greek Theater of Tindari, however, dates back to the 4th century BC. It exploits the large basin in the hill, its audience can accommodate more than 3000 spectators. In Roman times it was modified in order to host the Amphitheater games.

Tindari was the muse of some writers: Andrea Camilleri sets an adventure of Montalbano in this land. “The trip to Tindari” is also one of the most famous episodes of the homonymous television series. It is a happy childhood place for Salvatore Quasimodo who in “Wind in Tindari” remembers it with homesickness and sadness.

Myth, culture, art and scenic beauty make this small village unique and picturesque, a must for those traveling near the Tyrrhenian coast.

Martina Spampinato

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