Tindari, Sicily: places to visit in the ancient Sicilian town of Tindari

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Visit Tindari

Tindari is a town of Greek origin on the northern coast of Sicily, west of Messina and east of Patti and best known for the substantial church known as the Tindari Sanctuary and the archaeological site of the ancient city. Tindari has wonderful views of the Aeolian Islands.

The original city was built from the 4th century BC and survived until the 8th century, although it suffered a great deal when part of the cliff collapsd and some of the town fell into the sea in the 1st century, and again when an earthquake hit the region in the 4th century.

Explore Tindari

Italy This Way comment: Tindari village is not very interesting but the two historical sights - the archaeological park and the sanctuary - and the views from the belvedere are all very impressive so a visit is definitely recommended

The ancient town of Tindari sits on the top of a cliff overlooking the sea. The centre of the town is around a large open square which is on the top of the cliff: below the cliff is a long sandbank which reaches 1.5 kilometres into the sea and looks fabulous from the vantage point of Tindari.

The sandbank is known as the "linguetta di sabia" or " tongue of sand" and in the summer it is a popular spot with sun-bathers and umbrellas all along its length. Various lagoons also sit on the large sand bank and provide unusual conditions for the flora and fauna of the area and the cliff shelters the sea on its landward side.

The unusual conditions have led to this area being made a nature reserve whch is excellent for swimming, walking and sunbathing.

Tindari sanctuary

Throughout its history Tindari has been Greek, Carthaginian, Roman, Byzantine and Arab and various monuments remain from these times but the most visited site here is the Tindari Sanctuary which can be seen balancing on the edge of the cliff as you drive along the Palermo-Messina motorway, and is on the edge of the main square in the town. 

Inside the sanctuary you can see the statue of the "Black Madonna" a wooden sculpture perhaps from Syria or Egypt, where it was carved around the 12th century. It has various legends relating to its arrival in Tindari but it now sits behind the altar along with the inscription "black am I but beautiful" and is the cause of the Sanctuary of the Black Madonna being a major site of pilgrimage.

The sanctuary is situated at the eastern end of the promontory, overlooking the sea at the ancient acropolis, where a small church was built on the ruins of the abandoned town. The church was destroyed in 1544 by Algerian pirates, thern rebuilt between 1552 and 1598.

The sanctuary was more recently rebuilt again in the 1960s. Despite being a new church, the sanctuary is very impressive with painted walls and ceilings, marble columns and brightly coloured stained glass windows as well as the altar containing the Black Madonna.

See Tindari sanctuary for details.

Tindari sanctuary interior

From the main square in Tindaris you can walk a few hundred metres to reach the Tindaris archaeological site, in the position of the original Greek and Roman town. 

Among the most significant monuments of this ancient part of "Tyndaris", as the ancient town is known, is the basilica. The basilica is thought to have been built in the early Roman Empire at the end of the first century BC. 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, but no one is really sure of its main use.

The other major monument in Tindari archaeological park is the theatre, built in Greek times between the end of the 4th and 3rd centuries BC, and which could hold about 3,000 people.

See ancient city of Tindari for visitor details for the archaeological park, that includes the theatre, the basilica, mosaics and other artefacts from Roman times.

Along the walk to the archaeological park, also within the park and elsewhere in the town you can see remnants of the ancient city walls of Tindaris. These walls were originally three kilometers long, a metre wide and just over seven meters high, with two towers and into which three gates opened. The walls were formed by large and multi-faceted blocks of rectangular and square stone.

The first wall, going back to the founding of the town in the 4th century BC, was built with a rather poor technique, with dry stone masonry plaster reinforced with pillars of stone. Later, in the first half of the third century when the new town was built, the walls were made more sturdy and these walls also underwent renovations in the Roman and Byzantine periods.

The walls survived the destruction of Tyndaris. Today the southern section, which is outside the archaeological park, remains in good condition. In the first section there are the remains of the first walls of the 4th century BC. The Greek walls, for the most part collapsed or buried, overlap those built in the late Roman Empire (4th-5th century AD) with blocks taken from the ruined monuments of the ancient town. 

Near the two towers, there are the remains of a Roman necropolis that extended outside the city.

Ancient Tindari basilica

See also Tindari history and etymology.

Places to visit nearby

Nearby Milazzo is a coastal town with a Norman castle and a beach where you can find ferries to the Aeolian Islands including Lipari, Panarea and Stromboli.

The quiet seaside resort of Oliveri is very close to the sandbank below Tindari.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Sicily guide.

See also:

Map of Tindari and places to visit

Places to visit near Tindari

Tindari ancient city

Tindari ancient city

The ancient city of Tindaris was founded 2500 years ago, and the theatre, basilica and parts of the town can still be visited

Tindari ancient city guide

Tindari sanctuary

Tindari sanctuary

The sanctuary of Tindari is an important pilgrimage destination because of the statue of the black Madonna it contains

Tindari sanctuary guide

Oliveri

Oliveri

A sandy bay and a castle on a rocky outcrop are the attractions of this quiet hamlet.

Oliveri guide

Patti

Patti

Visit the medieval centre of Patti as well as its castle and cathedral.

Patti guide

Montalbano Elicona

Montalbano Elicona

The hilltop village of Montalbano Elicona is classified as one of the most beautiful villages of Italy.

Montalbano Elicona guide

Castroreale

Castroreale

With great views and some important art treasures Castroreale is worth a visit.

Castroreale guide