Tindari: a Sicilian gem between myth and legend
by Barbara Palladino
Tindari was founded by Dionysius I of Syracuse in 396 BC, and its name comes from Ancient Greek: Τύνδαρις, in honor of Tyndareus, king of Sparta. In 257 BC, it was the theater of a historic battle where Cartagena’s fleet was chased away by the Romans, led by consul Aulus Atilius Calatinus.
Today, the town is a gem of art, set in the unique landscape around the promontory of the Nebrodi Mountains where it rises, and shines bright with the light of its legendary history. Its famous ancient theater was built in the 4th century BC and today is the perfect venue for music festivals, thanks to its great acoustics and breathtaking surroundings.
From here, visitors can enjoy a wonderful view over the Aeolian Islands and Marinello lakes, a strip of sand surrounding the body of water that, according to legend, formed to save a little girl who had fallen down into the sea from the sanctuary above. Not far from here, the Donna Villa Grotto echoes with stories about a sailor-eating sorceress, who left angry marks on the stone when her macabre appetite was not satisfied.
Another legend envelops the most famous attraction of Tindari: a Black Madonna in cedar wood, currently kept at the sanctuary built in the location of an ancient acropolis, which attracts visitors from the world over. Cicero mentioned it in his “In Verrem” orations. The statue seems to have traveled here all the way from the Orient, between the 8th and the 9th centuries, and was abandoned by some sailors after a storm, in hopes of contrasting the gods that were stopping their ship from sailing.
After being destroyed by a landslide and two earthquakes, Tindari has reemerged thanks to excavations that started in 1838, and resumed in 1960 and 1998. Archaeologists have discovered treasures such as Roman mosaics and precious ceramics, now part of the local museum’s collection. Ancient Greek-Roman walls used to extend for three kilometers around the town, guarding it from square towers: their ruins are still visible today, in this place rich of history and legends, which has always charmed – and continues to charm – travelers from the whole world.
Hamlet of Patti, Messina, Sicily