Castles in the Messina area, from the Tyrrhenian to the Ionian Sea
Impregnable city walls, ancient loopholes, inaccessible moats… But also stuccoes, bas-reliefs, elegant rooms… Yes, we are talking about castles! There are more than 200 castles in Sicily: they are like time machines bringing back to life the eras of knights and ladies. In this route we will explore the north-east of Sicily to discover some of its most precious castles.
If you have already visited some of the Nebrodi castles (Raccuja and Montalbano Elicona). Longi or if you are arriving from the west or from the centre, the first stop on this route is Ficarra Castle. It is located on top of a hill overlooking the small town. Take a stroll through the medieval streets of the village and up to the castle. The manor was probably built on a previous Arab structure, but its earliest records date back to the 12th century. The structure is a block with four wings. The gate dates back to the 16th century, it has a magnificent round arch with ashlars and it is the only entrance to the castle. All the rooms overlook an inner courtyard with a well in the centre. The well is connected to a large tank for rainwater storage. Inside the castle, it is still possible to see part of the old and dark prison cells and we can visit the Museum of Medieval Games and Toys, where we can see the reproductions of the most popular hobbies of the past.
Let’s get back on track and reach the Tyrrhenian coast. We travel eastwards to Milazzo. The Milazzo Castle (also known as the “Fortified Citadel“) covers an area of over 7 hectares (more than 1200 m2 of this land are occupied by buildings), it stands on the bay, at the top of the ancient village, and is one of the largest fortified compounds in Europe. Walking inside the Citadel is like having a real journey through history. Over the centuries, various cultures have succeeded one another, they are recognisable in the several layers of the Citadel. The different areas follow one another in a chronological sense with a pyramidal and concentric structure: at the top there is the oldest part and then we find the architectural styles of the most recent dominations. From the prehistoric core to the Greek settlement; from the Roman to the Byzantine and to the Arab; from the Norman to the modern age architecture. Milazzo Castle requires time to be fully discovered with its many palaces, fortifications, monasteries and stunning entrance gates.
Are you ready to sail? From Milazzo we head towards the Castle of Lipari in the Aeolian Islands. As soon as we land on the island, you’ll be amazed by the castle’s impressive structure.
The fortified citadel includes the Castle and other structures built on the volcanic cliff, 50 metres above the sea level. As we walk through the entrance door, we will see a series of styles and eras. So many cultures have succeeded one another over the centuries! Beside St Catherine’s Church we will find some archaeological excavations dating back to the Bronze Age and, next to these, there is a section of the Greek-Roman town planning.
Let’s now return to the main island and head east again, to the Castle of Spadafora (ME), It is also known as the Samonà Castle, and it overlooks the centre of the town. Since its origins (which are still uncertain), the manor has been used more as a noble residence than as a defensive structure. Inside we can see very elegant decorated ceilings. As we walk through its rooms, we will feel like a real Sicilian nobleman.
Moving a few kilometres further on, towards Villafranca Tirrena, we can discover the wonders of the Bauso Castle. The whole structure is set at the end of a hillock which overlooks the Bay of Milazzo. The origins of the castle date back to the 13th century, but it was completed in several stages. At the beginning it was founded as a kind of village, that’s why it has a first ring of walls supported by bastions (with no real defensive purpose). The interior of the palace is rich in statues and sculptures, impressive architraves between rooms, a huge Renaissance-style fireplace, tiled floors on the terrace and in the private chapel.
We end our tour moving from the Tyrrhenian to the Ionian coast until we reach Scaletta Zanclea (ME). Its Rufo Ruffo Castle stands at the top of a hill surrounded by inaccessible valleys. The mule track was patiently carved out on the eastern side of the slope. It still connects Scaletta Marina to the castle, just like in the Middle Ages. Frederick II of Swabia commissioned the construction of the castle in the 13th century, outside it has beautiful, elegant mullioned windows. Once inside, the height of the barrel vault and the windows overlooking the horizon will surely capture your attention. The castle is now a museum housing documents about the territory and about the Ruffo family.
If you feel like exploring other castles, you are spoilt for choice: you can discover the nearby castles of Etna or head straight down to the south.