Our walking tour begins in Messina, called The Gate of Sicily and separated from mainland Italy by only five kilometres. In ancient times the Greeks named the city Zancle for its sickle-shaped harbour. Although it is hard to imagine, a devastating earthquake leveled Messina in 1908, and several Allied raids bombed it intensely during World War II. After passing interesting sites like the Church of San Francesco and the Fountain of Neptune, we will visit the National Museum to see some paintings by Caravaggio. Afterwards our tour will continue past the City Hall, the Church of the Annunziata dei Catalani, and Piazza Duomo. Here the most interesting part of the bell-tower (60 metres high) is the astronomical clock to the left of the Cathedral.
Our excursion will continue by coach to Tindarys (Tyndaris or Tindari) on the northeastern coast of Sicily. This hill town, with its magnificent location overlooking the Tyrrenhian Sea in front of the Aeolian Islands, was founded by the Greeks in 396 B.C. and became a Roman colony by 254 B.C. In its small museum, we will see the many artifacts excavated in the area. Then we will walk around to view the Greco-Roman Theatre, dwellings, baths, and other ruins associated with the daily life of the settlers. After a short walk uphill from the ruins, we will tour the Sanctuary of the Black Madonna of Tindari, an important pilgrimage site for many Sicilians. Upon entering this 20th Century church, built on the site of an earlier church and an even earlier temple, we will look closely at the beautiful stained glass windows about virtues. Then we will continue inside to view the Black Madonna, high above the altar, and learn about her Byzantine origins and the legends associated with her.