Bookworm in Messina, Sicily

We spent the morning in (or, more accurately, near) Messina,Sicily. Rather than spending the day in the town itself, we took a tour to two tiny medieval hillside villages that gained local fame because Francis Ford Coppola shot scenes from Godfather II and III there.

Since I haven’t seen either movie, I was unaffected by that bit of Hollywood history.  Instead, I appreciated the actual history, which is a story of different powers constantly battling for control of of the straits between Italy and Sicily. At various times in records history, Messina found itself under Greek, Roman, Muslim, Norman, and Spanish control, all of which have helped shaped the culture.  

Messina was also a Nazi headquarter for much the same reason (control of the straits) and therefore sustained heavy Allied bombing. Ironically, because of the earthquakes, with the last big one being in 1908, the buildings were so seismically sound, the Allies didn’t realize that they had rather quickly destroyed the building’s interiors because visual surveys showed the walls still standing. The Allies therefore came back again and again from 1943 through 1945 until they got the job done to their satisfaction.

The two villages, each roughly 1000 feet up, cling rather desperately to the mountainsides, struggling against both time and intense seismic activity. They are not pretty so much as stoic in appearance. They have survived and they will survive, sometimes rather gracelessly, but always with a relentless determination.  I think this apparent stolidity has to do in part with the local sandstone, which is a drab building material lacking the interest, color and sparkle of the red bricks, stones, granite, marble and even wood found in other old towns throughout Europe.

And that’s really all I have to say about my morning in Sicily.

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  • Dan Kurt

    Never visited Messina but spent about 5 hours bobbing like a cork Christmas eve day 1974 in the strait of Messina after our ship’s marine Diesel engine blew the top of a cylinder through the green house windows above the engine room to a height of one or two hundred feet into the air before it came down crashing into the sea. The cylinder head was designed to blow off so as to prevent major damage to the engine if the internal pressure during a power stroke surged too high in the two story high cylinder. The 5 hours were needed to place a spare cylinder head in place. We were dead in the water and to show that the ship raised a BLACK BALL. What a place to be dead in the water as the strait of Messina is one of most travelled points in any ocean or sea. Dan Kurt 

  • 11B40

    Greetings:

    I’m currently reading Rick Atkinson’s “The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944″, so I just went into Messina along with Georgie (Old Blood and Guts) Patton and ahead of Bernard (I’ll Be There Soon) Montgomery. The more I read about general officers, the more I marvel that I survived my military experience.

    As to the “Godfather” films, Corleone is actually at the other end of the island (to the West).

    Finally, as my father, in preparation for Catholic school,  taught me “with the Italians, and especially the Sicilians, what isn’t a vendetta is an opera.”