TINDARI ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK
Imagine ancient ruins that stand out against the deep blue of the Tyrrhenian Sea, surrounded by mountainous reliefs that reach the sea. Human settlements have always been numerous in these patches of land, and the Archaeological Park of Tindari will guide us to their discovery.
The Park includes 11 sites along the north-eastern part of Sicily. To discover them in order, we will start from the first in the west to the last in the east.
The first stop is the archaeological area of Halaesa Arconidea and Antiquarium in Contrada Santa Maria delle Palate in Tusa. The city of Halaesa Arconidea was founded in 403 BC.
It was the first of the Sicilian city to take side with Rome during the First Punic war; for this reason, it was exempt from taxes and enjoyed a special autonomy. It was abandoned after the Arab occupation of the island. Fortified walls dating back to the IV BC, surround the city. The most significant compound, including the Agora, sets along the axis of the cardo Maximus. Proceeding northwards, we also meet the so-called “contrafforti” and a sacred area with the basements of two temples. If you want to take a dizzying journey through time, you can visit the monumental works of contemporary art of the Fiumara d’Arte, not far from this area.
Proceeding east, we get to the archaeological area of ancient Caronia Kalè Aktè, in Contrada Pantano in Caronia. Consistent remains of a portion of the inhabited area of the Greco-Roman age have come to light near the current beach. These are almost certainly environments linked to artisanal and commercial activities, and the large quantity of pottery found is proof of the importance and extension of the inhabited area.
Let’s move further east for 23 km to get to the San Teodoro cave, in Contrada Favara in Acquedolci. The site of Pizzo Castellaro, where the cave opens, is one of the cornerstones of the knowledge of the Upper Paleolithic in the Mediterranean. The excavations have brought to light five inhumation burials of exceptional importance for the knowledge of the physical and ethnic typology of the oldest inhabitants of the island. Among the numerous Sicilian caves of the Upper Paleolithic, the cave of S. Teodoro is the only one to have returned the skeletal remains of those populations. Since the first explorations, several osteological remains of Quaternary fauna (elephant, deer, hyena, horse, hippopotamus) have been found at the site. All these finds predate the human appearance. A selection of the remains is on display in the Antiquarium Comunale in Via F. Crispi. A selection of the finds is on display in the Municipal Antiquarium in Via F. Crispi.
Continue for another 16 km to the east, and you will arrive at the archaeological area of Capo d’Orlando, in Contrada Bagnoli. Here there is a thermal plant dating back to the 3rd century AD. Its floor has geometrically decorated mosaics and plastered walls in the tepidarium. Let’s move on for a short distance (21 km) in this strip of land crushed by the mountains; then we head towards the mountains to get to Gioiosa Guardia. The archaeological area refers to a Hellenized indigenous centre, located in a strategic position. The Greek period is better preserved. The finds go back as far as the violent destruction of the settlement at the end of the 5th century. The area demolition was probably caused either by an earthquake or by the expansionist policy of Carthage. In the 11th century, after centuries of neglect, the territory became a manor of the Benedictine Convent of Patti. In the 18th century, the Church of San Francesco was built. Its ruins are still visible today. Now let’s go back towards the coast, always pointing east, and let’s stop at the Roman Villa of Patti Marina, which came to light during the excavations for the construction of the Palermo-Messina. The nucleus of the villa is on a massive quadrangular peristyle. Rooms with different functions develop around it. A large three-apsidal hall denotes its importance due to the floor mosaics and is located south of the peristyle.
Here we are. At 11 km eastbound, we reach the eponymous site of the Park: the Archaeological Park of Tindari. Tindari was founded in 396 BC. It is famous for its Sanctuary and for having been immortalized in the verses of the hermetic poet Salvatore Quasimodo. The site maintains the main public buildings on the upper decumanus: the Basilica (IV AD, intended for official functions) and the Theater (IV-III BC; it could accommodate 3000 spectators). In Contrada Cercadenari we can visit a Domus and a large public building from the Roman period.
The next stop is the archaeological area of Contrada Cardusa (Tripi). It is a Necropolis of tombs joined together in vaults and made of local sandstone. Now we visit Terme Vigliatore, with its Roman Villa of San Biagio (one of the most fascinating examples of suburban luxury villas in Sicily) and the archaeological area of ancient Apollonia, with portions of houses from the Hellenistic-Roman period.
Then we reach the eastern border of the Park: the archaeological area of Viale dei Cipressi in Milazzo. Here, structures from the Sicilian Ancient Bronze Age (XVIII-XVI century BC) have emerged: five huts built with stones, and an oval shape, and inside them, household equipment was found. Finally, take a trip to the city’s modern Antiquarium to discover its collections.