Visit Tindari ancient city
Tindari town is in north-east Sicily, east of Milazzo, and the ancient city is a few hundred metres walk from the modern village (the village is reached by a tourist bus from the car park at the bottom of the hill, because there is no visitor parking in the village).
Explore the ancient city and theatre of Tindari
Italy This Way comment: less well known than some of the archaeological sites in Sicily, the ancient city of Tindari is a fascinating insight into the ancient civilisation, has many remnants of the city to see, and can be explored without the crowds that you will find at Syracuse and the other ancient sites: this was one of our favourite excursions in Sicily
The ancient city at Tindari was founded in 396 BC by Dionysius the Elder so that his group of 600 mercenaries could control north-east Sicily and the surrounding coast from a strategic position. The population quickly grew to more than 5000 and the town ws an important Carthaginian base at the time of the First Punic War, until it fell under Roman control in 254 BC.
Tindari remained an important Roman settlement for several hundred years until an enormous earthquake struck Sicily and North Africa in 365 AD. The city survived, still with a defensive role but with much reduced importance, until the 8th century.
In the ancient city we visit today you can see many traces of this long history including substantial parts of the fortified walls, the Roman theatre, the basilica, various living quarters and several impressive mosaics as well as impressive views across the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The theatre is one of the highlights and was built in Tindari in the 3rd century. The seating - for 3000 people - is arranged to allow good visibility and acoustics while also profiting from exceptional views across the sea. Although a substantial part of the seating has been removed over the centuries to be used in other building projects there is no problem in imagining the theater as it would have been.
Originally the arena was surrounded by a high podium, which may have reached 2.5 meters in order to protect the public from the dangers of the gladiatorial games.
At the edge of the theatre there is a stage of Hellenistic origin, with a diameter of about 18 meters. The façade, 12 meters high, was decorated with three rows of statues and Doric columns, as shown by the model presented in the Museum.
The basilica is also impressive, and was built in the Roman period, probably at the end of the first century BC and using a style from Greek traditions. Originally it was the "gymnasium" (the place where gymnastic exercises took place) after which it is thought that it might have been a market or a place of worship.
The basilica is built with squared blocks of sandstone, attached through slots and grooves and originally with three levels, of which the first and the second have survived. The façade of the basilica has three levels: the lower floor has six pairs of semi-columns with Doric capitals, and the upper floor has semi-columns with Ionic capitals, topped by a frieze and a third frame.
In Roman times, as described by Cicero, it was surrounded by porticos and adorned with statues. These are unfortunately lost, although several modern statues are now presented in the basilica.
Just below the basilica you can explore some of the houses of the ancient city, and see various mosaics and remnants of painted plaster. The entire town also had an efficient sewage system and a heating system, of which parts can be seen: apparently the sewage disposal system is still completely intact!
As well as these individual sites, you can explore the grounds of the ancient city seeing other remnants and enjoying the views across the countryside and the sea.
There is also a small museum on the site of the ancient city of Tindari where you can see various artifacts recovered during excavations:
- The first section has some important information for visitors about the history and monuments of Tyndaris, archaeological excavations and restorations. There is a large model that reconstructs the scene of the Hellenistic theatre, and some Greek and Latin inscriptions.
- In the second section are the marble head of Augustus, found in the area of the Basilica, and two marble statues of winged "Nikai", a tragic theatrical mask in marble, representing Priam, king of Troy.
- In the third section there are some household objects such as mugs, cups and bowls, pots for storing food, Greek and Roman pottery, red and black painted figures.
- in the fourth section you can see the tombs of the Hellenistic and Roman necropolis, urns in lead and glass jars in terracotta, lamps, terracotta votive medallions with figures in relief, and some "lekythos" (vases for oils and ointments) with black figures.
Of course, you will also explore the modern village of Tindari and its impressive sanctuary-church while you are here, and on the walk to reach the ancient city you pass some parts of wall that also date back thousands of years.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.