Milazzo is a substantial town on the coast of north-east Sicily, west of Messina, and best known (and most visited) for its beach and historic village.
The town itself is interesting - the centuries have left their mark very clearly on the layout of Milazzo, with the walled city at the top of Milazzo, the "Old Town" of medieval origin at the foot of the hill, and the more modern city at the bottom and along the harbour area. We explore these areas separately below...
Milazzo Old town
The Old Town includes the fortified citadel and medieval quarters of Milazzo, and contains numerous religious buildings.
On entering the old town you first find the Shrine of St. Francesco di Paola, dating from the 18th century and built on the site of a pre-existing church of the 15th century. The façade is characterized by a curvilinear staircase with windows and a gallery above the doorway. Inside, in the chapel of Jesus and Mary, there is an altar decorated with carved and gilded wood, at the centre of which is the "Madonna and Child" by Domenico Gagini (1420-1492).
A little further into Milazzo old town you can see the 16th century Palace of the Viceroy, further enriched in the 18th century with baroque balconies.
Below the palace, the façade of the Church of SS. Salvatore was designed by Giovan Battista Vaccarini in the 18th century.
Continue along Via S. Domenico to see the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary. Built in the 16th century, the church was rebuilt in the 18th century at which time the interior was decorated with stucco and frescoes by Domenico Giordano (c.1760 - 1820).
The road leads on to Milazzo Castle, with its imposing Spanish walls - these are the outermost and largest of the three sets of walls. The building was begun in the first half of the 16th century under Emperor Charles V of Spain (1500-1558), by the viceroy of Sicily, Duke Ettore Pignatelli (died in 1579), and it was completed towards the end of the century.
The castle consists of two solid parallel walls, joined by a barrel vault. Originally inside the walls there were reservoirs, warehouses, stables, rooms used as prisons with passages and underground walkways. The fort was originally begun by the Arabs in the 10th century, in place of the ancient Greek acropolis.
Beyond the Spanish walls, the so-called "Old Cathedral" can be seen (this dates from the first decade of the 17th century), which is an important example of Sicilian architecture. The church, with a Greek cross plan and a single large central dome (10 meters high), has columns with Corinthian capitals and friezes, probably carved by artists from Syracuse.
Particularly worth a mention is the shrine above the portal of the cathedral with angels echoing the Florentine mannerist art.
The Aragonese city walls, dating back to the 15th century, are characterized by five towers and a pointed arched gateway surmounted by the crest of the monarchs of Spain - Isabella [1451-1504] and Ferdinand [1452-1516] - which is a shield divided into four parts and supported by the eagle of Saint John.
Inside these walls there is a castle originally built by Frederick II of Swabia, but with later additions. The arched portal is surmounted by the coat of arms of Aragon.
The lower town is the most recent part of Milazzo, and was built in the 18th century. The center of lower Milazzo revolves around the Piazza Caio Duilio, which is flanked to the west by the Palazzo Marchese Proto and to the east by the façade of the “Chiesa del Carmine” - take a look at the portal, with a lintel carved with garlands and a niche with a statue of Our Lady of Consolation".
In "Cumbo Borgia" Street is the "New Cathedral", a building dating back to the 1930s in which there are some valuable paintings by Antonello de Saliba, and other religious paintings attributed to Antonio Giuffrè (14th century), a painter of the Antonello da Messina (1429-1479) school.
Waterfront in Milazzo
In lower Milazzo there is a scenic promenade along the seafront. if you continue along the waterfront and through the district of Vaccarella you can follow the panoramic road that leads to Cape Milazzo and towards the Shrine of St. Anthony of Padua. This shrine dates from the 18th century and is enriched with polychrome marble altars and walls and nine bas-reliefs in stucco that depict scenes from the life of the saint.
To the west of Milazzo there is a coastal road that runs parallel to the sea and leads to the so-called “Cave of Polyphemus”, where, according to Homeric tradition, the fight of Ulysses with the Cyclops took place. In front there is the wide beach of the Bay of Tono.
To finish your tour of Milazzo there is nothing better than trying the local cuisine, full of special recipes and delicious dishes, especially seafood. A typical dish of Milazzo is the “Fish ‘Stocco alla messinese” , based on cod, green olives, capers, parsley and garlic.
Local sweets include the Sicilian “Cannoli”, made with ricotta and candied fruit, and the "Piparelli", cookies with almonds and honey. Among the wines to be tasted with the dishes, sample the "Mamertino" white, served with seafood appetizers, but also with white meat and the "Mamertino red", which is more likely to accompany more elaborate dishes made with meat sauce and red meat.
See also history of Milazzo.
Places to Visit Nearby
The ferry port for travelling to the Aeolian islands is found at Milazzo and these islands are a wonderful mix of sea, beach and volcano. Lipari is the busiest of the seven islands. Filicudi and Panarea are also popular outings.
Art lovers will want to visit Castroreale and the Pinacoteca art gallery housed in an an ancient church.
Where is Milazzo?
Milazzo is in the north-east of Sicily close to Messina and is one of the closest towns to mainland Italy.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.