Sicily – Messina architecture walk #3 – south from the centre

Walk #3 (east, west and south of the centre) isn’t a single walk, more a series of little walks to some of the architectural outliers not covered by walk #1 (the centre) or walk #2 (north of the centre). I’ve put the posts in order of interest, but the buildings in the posts are in geographical order. You’ll find everywhere on my map.

One morning I headed east from my hotel to explore the Zona Facalta on the San Ranieri peninsula, the curve of land that encloses the harbour of Messina. I wanted to visit the Forte del Santissimo Salvatore, the old fort (dating from 1546) at the tip of the peninsula that guards the harbour entrance on which the golden statue of the Madonna della Lettera stands.

I also wanted to see the remains of the Real Cittadella (built by the Spanish in 1680) and the Lanterna del Montorsoli, a lighthouse (built in 1555, making it Italy’s oldest) that was designed by Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli who you may remember was also the architect for the city’s two monumental fountains (the Fontana del Orione and the Fontana del Nettuno).

What I didn’t realise though is that the Zona Faculta is a military zone that can’t be accessed by the public, so you can only walk so far before the road is barred and you can’t continue. Some ruined bastions of the Citadella remain on (see pic above), but they aren’t particularly interesting. Frustratingly you can see the top of the lighthouse over a wall, but you can’t get anywhere near it. Apparently there is the wreck of an old freighter grounded on the beach by the citadella but I wasn’t in the mood for wandering around some desolate wasteland trying to find it. So there’s no reason to come here unless maybe you like taking photographs of old ruins.

Another big main road to the south of the centre is Via T. Cannizzaro where you’ll find important public buildings such as the university. The law courts in the Palazzo Piacentini aka Palazzo di Giustizia (Palace of Justice) are at 159 Via T. Cannizzaro.

The main court building is a reinterpretation of German neoclassical architecture with inspiration from the Brandenburg Gate and Sicilian Doric temples. The goddess Minerva (by Ercole Drei) is riding a bronze and aluminum Quadriga (a chariot pulled by four horses side by side) on the roof of the building.

Stone masks stud the walls.

Not sure where this chap is from but he was around here somewhere.

There are some more impressive buildings just off the end of Via T. Cannizzaro such as the Parrocchia Santa Maria del Carmine (Church of Saint Mary of the Carmine) at 14 Via Porta Imperiale.

Although built between 1926 and 1931, this important church is remenicsent of the Baroque style typical of Messina prior to the destruction of the earthquake. The architect Cesare Bazzani also included eclectic and neoclassical elements.

One place I’m very sad I didn’t get time to see is Palazzo Tremi at 215 Via Centonze (streetview here). Considered one of the greatest works by my architecutal hero Gino Coppedè, this fine Stile Liberty is also known as Palazzo del Gallo, due to its wrought-iron weathervane depicting a rooster.

Another sight I left for next time is Gran Camposanto, the Cimitero Monumentale (the monumental cemetery of Messina), which is the largest cemetery of its kind in Europe and the oldest in Italy. I’m told that you can get great views of the city and across the strait from the colonnade at the top of the cemetery hill and there are lots of beautiful Neoclassical and Art Nouveau graves of 19th-century artists and intellectuals in the grounds. Regular readers will know that I do like a good cemetery.

A final place I went on my last evening was Casa Pulparo aka Casa del Cavaliere Cammarata at 20 Via Maregrosso, about twenty minutes’ walk south of the centre. Local artist Giovanni Cammarata built his own eccentric home out of concrete decorated with pebbles. Sadly after Cammarata passed away, most of the house was destroyed by the landowner, with whom he had been in dispute, but a few walls remain.

You could tie this walk in with eating at my favourite restaurant in Messina, Al Padrino, more of which in my next post on food…

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