Savoca (Messina), one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, whose name is derived from the plant of the elder (savucu in Sicilian dialect), a shrub that still grows wild in the cracks between houses and which is represented in the medieval coat of arms of the village.
This small town set in the rock of a hill of dual tip, experienced the interest of kings, popes and Archimandrite prelates, in a succession of periods of serious crisis and prosperity. The basalt blocks lying on roads leading between separate small houses, freshly restored with Sicilian tiles on the roofs and windows framed in stone, then following streets in the rock here you’ll find extremely fragmented ruins and old cisterns.
Up high, overseeing, are the ruins of the castle Pentefur, a building of questionable origin, perhaps Phoenician, Arab or maybe Norman. It is a bastion which, over time, claimed the title of the Royal Castle, by the will of Philip IV of Sicily. In medieval times, the village of Savoca was surrounded by a wall with double entrance built by the Normans. It is an imposing structure that still remains the City Gate today, a pointed arch made of local stone.
Going through the old entrance you pass the old town, where now stands the old Town Hall and the Archimandrite Palace, of which little remains. In fact, the testimony of the activity of the Archimandrite of Messina is present in all the city’s amenities and in general throughout the country. This is because in 1139, the king of Sicily, Roger II of Hauteville, placed the area of Savoca at the centre of a giant feud under the direct administration of the Archimandrite. As evidence of these events, it remains immobile challenging eternity, the Mother Church of the XII century to which all other churches, both urban and rural ones in the territory, obeyed.
The church is a building with three naves with Romanesque capitals in which the wooden Archimandrite pulpit is still preserved complete with an engraving of its coat of arms. In the basement of this church corpses were mummified and even today, for those intrigued by this practice, the bodies of monks and nobles are displayed in the niches of the crypt of the Capuchin Monastery, founded in 1574.
Another interesting religious place to visit is the Church of San Michele, from the year 1250, on whose façade there are two portals in Gothic-Sicilian style with sandstone arches. The single internal nave of the church is contaminated with features of baroque style. The building also houses several works of art and frescoes. It is said that non-believers willing to convert to Catholicism, were to climb “on their knees”, for penance, its seven steps, before receiving the baptism.
Finally, there is the Church of San Nicolò, which seems almost stretch out into space, built as it is on a massive outcrop of rock. It has three wide aisles and an austere atmosphere of the steep fortress over the valley. The curious thing is that the church was one of the famous sets of the film “the Godfather” along with the Bar Vitelli, housed inside eighteenth century Palazzo Trimarchi. A Byzantine mural has recently been uncovered which depicts St. John Chrysostom, the father of the Christian Church of the East.
If you arrive very hungry in Savoca, you can enjoy typical fresh tagliatelle pasta made by hand, dressed with a wild fennel and pork meat ragù sauce or alternatively, the maccarruna, fresh macaroni pasta with pork rind in winter and with aubergine in the summer.
The gastronomy of Savoca, refers to the rural traditions and those of Sicilian cuisine: we can try piscistoccu, dried cod cooked with plenty of extra virgin olive oil, tomato paste, green and black olives, capers, chili, potatoes, celery, u cunzatu breads local homemade bread that is baked in a wood oven and seasoned with extra – virgin olive oil, salt , pepper, to Cuzzola, a fresh pasta sourdough , fried in olive oil and roasted on charcoa. Don’t miss granita ca ‘ zzuccarata is a lemon granita served with zzuccarata,a very crisp local biscuit topped with sesame seeds.