charming little seaside resort, Capo d’Orlando sits on a promontory
of the same name surrounded by sea. Its history is intertwined with
the legend of its foundation at the time of the Trojan War by Agathyrsus,
the son of Aeolus. The legend also relates how the ancient settlement
of Agathyrnis came to be renamed Capo d’Orlando by Charlemagne,
who passing through these lands on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land,
decided to call it after his heroic paladin.
THE IMMEDIATE VICINITY
coastal road continues beyond the cape, following the contours of
the land and providing beautiful views of the beach and the deep
blue sea, its surface broken here and there by rocks.
di bagnoli – On the outskirts of Capo d’Orlando at San
Gregorio, in the district of Bagnoli, the remains of a bathing complex
attached to a Roman villa dating from the Imperial period have been
found. They include the frigidaium (rooms 1-2-3), the tepidarium
(room 4) and the calidaium (rooms 5-6). Clearly visible are the
suspensurae which would have served to heat the various rooms. Rooms
4-5-6 contain fragments of mosaics with geometric decorations.
Piccolo di Calanovella – 4,5km west, marked by the 109km distance
marker on the SS 113 between Messina and Palermo. In keeping with
the wishes of the last members of the Piccolo family, a museum-foundation
was set up in the late 19th century villa where they had lived since
the 1930s. The Piccolo was a family of artists; in particular there
was Lucio (who died in 1969), an acclaimed poet, and Casimiro, an
enthusiastic painter and photographer, and a scholar of the occult.
They were often visited by their cousin Giuseppe di Lampedusa who
was particularly attracted by the peace and quiet of the villa where
he wrote a large part of his masterpiece (The Leopard); in the room
he once used is one of his letters to the Piccolo family as is the
bed in which he slept, ornamented with a beautiful ivory and mother-of-pearl
bedhead depicting the Baptism of John (made by Trapani craftsmen
in the 17th century). Elsewhere in the villa are displayed porcelain
from China, ceramics from Faenza and Capodimonte (notably a 10th
century Hispano-Moresque vase), dinner services, antique weapons,
some Caltagirone 1600’s-1700’s ceramic water-bottles,
and a fascinating series of fantastical watercolours by Casimiro
Pirccolo, who enjoyed painting imaginary scenes from a fairy-tale
world suffused with light and populated with amiable gnomes, elves,
fairies and butterflies. Before leaving, it is well worth taking
a stroll under the pergolas in the villa gardens and seeking out
the canine graveyard for the family pets.
INLAND 74km round trip
itinerary snakes its way inland from Capo d’Orlando on the
eastern slopes of the Nebrodi Mountains. Leave Capo d’Orlando
by the coastal road south towards Sant’Agata Militello. At
Capri Leone turn left towards Frazzanò.
– 22km south. According to tradition, the town was founded
in the 9th century AD by people fleeing the Arab invasions. The
Chiesa Madre della Santissima Annunziata, dating from the 18th century,
has a fine Baroque façade ornamented with giant pilasters
and an elegant portal with spiralling columns flanked by niches
containing statues. The Chiesa di San Lorenzo has a plainer façade
relieved by a fine portal with spiralling columns and a flurry of
scriptural motifs including plant fronds, cherube and volutes. Inside,
there is a fine wooden staute of the church’s Patron, St.
to the next right turning, signposted for the Convento di San Filippo
di San Filippo di Fragarà - 3km from Frazzanò towards
Longi. The Basilian church, which has recently been restored, was
built by Roger I of Altavilla in the 11th century, probably among
the ruins of an earlier monastery dating from the 5th century. It
is worth pausing to view the exterior of the abbey complex from
below: note the three apses in the Arab-Norman style, articulated
by brick pilasters, and the octagonal drum over the intersection
of the transepts. The church is T-shaped in plan and inside, particularly
in the central apse, there are traces of Byzantine style frescoes.
The adjoining monastic buildings are also open.
road continues to Portella Calcatirizzo. Beyond the town, turn left
at the fork towards San Salvatore di Fitalia.
Salvatore di Fitalia – Perched high among the Nebrodi Mountains,
this small town has a fine church (1515) dedicated to San Salvatore.
The exterior is somewhat severe, but the interior comes as a surprise;
recent restoration has uncovered the 1500’s structure of the
building with its nave separated from the aisles by sand-stone columns
supporting pointed arches. The fine capitals are sculpted with the
plant and anthropomorphic motifs so typical of medieval decorative
schemes. The capital of the first column on the right, bearing the
name of the stone-mason who carved it, features a highly unusual
mermaid with a forked tail. In the right aisle hangs Antonello Gagini’s
gentle Madonna of the Snow (1521) and, on the high altar, a highly
prized wooden statue of Salvator Mundi (1603) at the moment of the
Siciliano delle Tradizioni Religiose – The fascinating Museum
of religious practices documents the spirit of local popular cults
with displays of simple objects, such as amulets against the evel
eye, votive objects including a series of anatomical replicas made
of wax originally from the Santuario of San Calogero (18th-19th
century); be swallowed by the faithful while they recited prayers
requesting divine intervention in the cure of disease or other malady;
sheet music used by ballad-singers and terracotta whistles bearing
figurative images sold on saint’s days. An unusual 1600’s
“priest toy” comprises a doil dressed as a priest complete
with all the necessary holy vestments (sadly the liturgical objects
have been stolen), reminiscent of the one described in Manzoni’s
1800’s Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed) belonging to the nun
from Monza since childhood. The collection also includes a series
of engravings and lithographs of sacred images (17th-20th century),
special dress worn by the confraternities in sacred processions,
various examples of devotional statuary in wood, plaster and terracotta,
and small figures for cribs (19th century).
the road back to the coast and turn right towards Capo d’Orlando.
D'ORLANDO TO CAPO CALAVA' – Approx. 16 km
coast between the two headlands is dotted with beautiful beaches
and small seaside resorts.
– A flourishing port until the late 17th century and now a
seaside resort, the town has a fine medieval castle (private) built
by the Lancia family in the 15th century. Above the main archway
is the family coat of arms, with the three pears of the Barony of
Brolo, turn right at the next junction for Piràino.
– Stretched out along the spine of a hill enjoying a strategic
position. Piràino retains much of its medieval form, scattered
with religious buildings. Its legendary origins (supposed, as it
is, to have been founded by the cyclops Piracmon – Harges
in Homer – one of the three monsters of Vulcan) are probably
rooted in the discovery of large bones in several caves nearby,
erroneously believed to have belonged to the cyclops. All the churches
are strung along the main street of the town. The Chiesa del Rosario
the easternmost, dedicated to the Madonna of the Rosary, while retaining
its 16th century campanile was re-built in 1635. Inside it has a
fine coffered wooden ceiling set with Byzantine-Norman rosettes,
and an unusual wooden high altar painted with floral motifs (first
half of the 1600s) decorated with wooden medallions representing
the Mysteries of the Rosary. The figures in the centre of the altar
represents the Madonna with saints.
along is the Chiesa della Catena, erected in the latter half of
the 1600’s, where the first elections were held after the
Unification of Italy. It contains some fine Byzantine-style frescoes
from another church, the Chiesa della Badia.
is Piazza del Baglio, named after the complex of low-level workers’
houses and workshops arranged around the Palazzo Ducale, built by
the Lancia family between centuries 15th and 16th. Proceeding westwards,
the way leads up to the highest part of the town which is marked
by the beautifully preserved Torre SAracena or Torrazza (11th century),
from the terrace of which extends a magnificent view across the
rooftops nestling below and beyond to Capo d’Orlando. The
tower was part of a defensive system which would have transmitted
signals from the 16th century Torre delle Ciavole on the coast,
via the Guardiola situated to the north of the town, to the Torrazza.
the western edge of town is Santa Caterina d’Alessandria,
the church dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, built in the
16th century but altered in the 17th century. Inside, the wooden
altar is decorated with floral motifs. A low relief to the right
of the altar depicts the patron St. Catherine of Alexandria overcoming
back towards the coast; on the left stands the Torre delle Ciavole
(see above). Continue to the small seaside resort of Gioiosa Marea
and follow the signs for San FIlipo Armo and San Leonardo (about
9km) to Gioiosa Guardia.
di Gioiosa Guardia – The ruins of this medieval town, abandoned
by its inhabitants in the 18th century for Gioiosa Marea, are situated
at 800m above sea level surrounded by romantic landscape. The idyllic
serenity of the place is enhanced by the splendid view over the
surrounding countryside. Return to the coast. A little further on
is Capo Calavà, a spectacular rocky spur.
history is intertwined with the legend of its foundation at the
time of the Trojan War by Agathyrsus, the son of Aeolus. The legend
also relates how the ancient settlement of Agathyrnis came to be
renamed Capo d’Orlando by Charlemagne, who passing through
these lands on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, decided to call it
after his heroic paladin. In 1299, the town watched the naval battle
between James and Frederick of Aragon over the throne of Sicily.
Since 1955, the town has hosted a summer competition backed by the
Messina painter Giuseppe Migneco, on the theme of life and countryside
of Capo d’Orlando (vita e paesaggio di Capo d’Orlando),
whereby successful artists from Italy and abroad are commissioned
to come and paint; some of the works, once the prize has been awarded,
are acquired by the municipal art gallery (these works, however,
are not currently on display).