Capo d'Orlando is one of the major tourist destinations in the province of Messina. With a promenade of almost 10 km that overlooks the Aeolian Islands, this small village is truly unique. Despite its small size and its recent independence from the territory of Naso, Capo d'Orlando has more than one record in different areas, but not only: let's discover together all the secrets of this unique village!

Capo d'Orlando: a town of incredible strength

Capo d'Orlando is a quite recent commune: its birth, in fact, dates back to September 27th 1925, when several popular drives and socio-economic changes have led to its separation from the territory of Naso. In spite of this, several are the ancient testimonies about this territory: being part of the ancient Agatirno founded, according to the legend by Agathirnos, son of the God Aeolus, in 1218 BC, its history has many points of contact with the one told in our previous article #KnowtheNebrodi: 15 things to see in Naso. However, from the year 1000 until the XiX century, period in which it is annexed to the city of Naso, Capo d'Orlando turns out to be an independent territory.

From Agatirno to Capo d'Orlando

At the time of the ancient Agatirno, the territory extended, as already mentioned, from the current Nasense territory to the center of the current town of Capo d'Orlando. The first testimonies arrive us from the writings of Tito Livio, that in 210 a.C, defines this territory as "society of thieves, exiles and evildoers". Center of the cult of the God Dionysus, soon the Romans, who dominated the area for several decades, targeted the inhabitants because of these pagan rites they disliked. The result of this were several deportations and persecutions against the Orlandini of the time, as witnessed by the consul Marco Valerio Levino. Subsequently, Agatirno suffered the invasions of the Berbers, a population arrived from the areas of the current states of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania. Other testimonies about this period come to us thanks to Goffredo da Viterbo, who reveals the origin of the name "Capo D'Orlando: Charlemagne, around the year 1000, returning from Jerusalem, decides to stop in the present territory of Orland, dedicating it to his best paladin, Orlando. After a gap of almost three centuries, other historical sources indicate the territory of Orlandino as the theater of the naval battle of 1299 between Angevins and Aragonese, during which James II and Frederick III disputed the throne of Sicily.

Dal XIV al XIX secolo/b>

What happened next? We have news dating back to 1359, the year in which Frederick IV of Aragon assigned the Castle of Orlando and some territories to the nobleman Vinciguerra of Aragon, and to 1398, when the Count of Modica Bernardo Cabrera besieged the traitor Bartholomew of Aragon. This last one had been accused to have tried several misdeeds against the king Martino I and, to escape to his destiny by now marked, he took refuge in the Castle of Orlando that went destroyed during this dispute. Subsequently, the territory of Orlandino became prey of the pirates. /p>

Evolution of the territory

The invasions and looting by pirates continued until 1645, the year in which the watchtower was built. In this period,  the cultivation of the Sugar Cane,  developed since the XV century, underwent a remarkable growth and the territory slowly began to populate with different elements. An example was the tonnara, built in the actual territory of S. Gregorio, that gave work to numerous fishermen that, in their turn, created the first stable inhabited center of the territory. Moreover, in these years were born many cultivations and Capo d'Orlando became the main center for the cultivation of mulberry trees, citrus fruits and vineyards, greatly increasing its local economy. All this was unfortunately destroyed by many floods during the nineteenth century which led Counts D'Amico, the owners of the time, to sell the lands to the city of Naso. As we know, only in 1925, Capo d'Orlando managed to regain its independence.

Capo d'Orlando today: a town full of life

Capo d'Orlando has now become one of the major tourist destinations in the province of Messina: its beaches and its kilometer-long promenade attract hundreds of tourists from all over the world every year. The small town is also famous for some sporting merits: the Orlandina Basket, in fact, was the team, belonging to the smallest town in Europe, to arrive in the top division and to remain there for a maximum of three years, as well as being the only one, belonging to a town so small, to have participated in a European championship.


What to see in Capo d'Orlando: here are the 22 places you can't miss!

After having told you a bit of history, now let's see what you can visit in this small town of Nebrodi.

1. The Lighthouse of Capo d'Orlando

The Lighthouse of Capo d'Orlando, located at the foot of Mount Madonna, is one of the most representative symbols of the city It, since its construction, is a landmark for mariners in the stretch of coast between Capo Calavà and Cefalù. Built in the early '900, was designed by the technicians of the Civil Engineers and activated in 1904. It consists of a square tower plastered in red adjacent to a building, also square and placed symmetrically, developed only on the ground floor. The lantern, located at the top of the tower, can be reached through a spiral staircase placed inside the tower itself. The exterior is adorned with architectural decorations in concrete plastered in white that give the building a particular neo-Gothic look.


2. Museum Foundation " Piccolo Family of Calanovella"

In contrada Vina, on top of a beautiful hill overlooking the plain of Capo d'Orlando, stands the historic residence of the Barons Piccolo di Calanovella. The nineteenth-century villa became famous thanks to the charisma of the three brothers Piccolo, Casimiro, Lucio and Agata Giovanna, its illustrious inhabitants until the end of the sixties. To live in the villa means to enter a parallel reality, where to dominate are the figures of the poet Lucio, the photographer and watercolorist Casimiro and the botanist Agata Giovanna, children of the princess Teresa Tasca Filangeri. To reside in the villa, often came also the cousin Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa that, among these rooms, wrote a good part of his literary masterpiece, The Leopard. The complex also includes a botanical park where there is also a small cemetery for dogs and cats belonging to the family. 


3. Sanctuary of Maria Santissima of Capo d'Orlando 

The Sanctuary of Maria Santissima of Capo d'Orlando, also called Sanctuary of the Madonna, rises on top of the promontory, in the middle of the monumental complex of the Castle. Its foundation is tied to the miraculous facts of 1598 when San Cono Navacita, patron of Naso, in one of his apparitions, left to the Raffa brothers, guardians of the Castle, the small simulacrum of the Madonna. Such simulacrum, very similar to that of the Virgin venerated in Trapani, is high little more than the palm of a hand and was brought to Naso from which Capo d'Orlando at that time depended from the administrative point of view. Some natural disasters of the time and frequent earthquakes led to believe that the Madonnina had to return there where it was found.ritenere che la Madonnina dovesse tornare lì dove era stata rinvenuta.

Il trasferimento e la costruzione del santuario

A second apparition of San Cono served to draw at the top of the promontory the perimeter of the Church that had to host the simulacrum. On order of the Bishop Monsignor Francesco Velardi of the Conca, the Girolamo Count Joppolo made to erect the Sanctuary on the top of the mount and 22 October of 1600, with a nourished parade departed from Naso, the statuette was delivered to the Church and the community orlandina. To remember that day, a feast was instituted "with market and fair". The night of 11 December 1925, the simulacrum of Maria SS. was stolen by unknown hands. Investigations to find the authors of the theft were useless: so, in order to continue the devotion, a silver statue was made, which is still exposed in the Sanctuary. Inside of this last one two paintings of Gaspare Camarda of the School of Antonello from Messina are preserved, "The Adoration of the shepherds" of 1626 and "The Crucifix between two praying monks" of 1627.

4. Municipal Antiquarium "Agatirnide"

The city antiquarium, established on December 20, 2002, represents the historical soul of the ancient Hellenic city of Agatirno. The museum area, strongly desired by a group of boys who undertook a course of studies on the presence of this ancient city, houses a multitude of artifacts between the Bronze Age and the first century AD. These treasures come, besides from the thermal baths of Bagnoli and from funerary areas of the IV-III century B.C. found on the slopes of the Monte della Madonna, also from numerous findings in the whole municipal territory. The antiquarium was born from the agreement between the Municipality and the Superintendence to the Cultural Goods of Messina signed in 1997.

5. Church of "Cristo Re"

The church dedicated to "Cristo Re", near Piazza Matteotti, is the main building of worship of the city center of Capo d'Orlando. Its construction dates back to the fifties of the twentieth century by the Redemptorist Fathers. The building, with a Latin cross plan, is composed of three naves. The interior, being of recent construction, does not host ancient works of art, but some beautiful mosaics are to be noticed, such as the one in the apsidal basin representing the Risen Christ and the wonderful polychrome stained-glass windows. Interesting is the tabernacle, held by a wooden effigy of the Virgin of modern Trentino workmanship.

6. "Tono Zancanaro" Municipal Art Gallery

The municipal art gallery, named after the Paduan artist Tono Zancanaro, was born with the first edition of the historic exhibition "Life and Landscape of Capo d' Orlando" in 1955. This initiative allowed the municipality to acquire a collection of modern and contemporary art with names of all respect. Important national and international artists such as Giuseppe Migneco, Emilio Isgrò, Horacio Agola and Josè Hortega have participated in the editions of the exhibition. In addition to the official permanent collection, in the building of the art gallery there is now the space "LOC" (Laboratorio Orlando Contemporaneo) which hosts exhibitions and residencies of artists of the contemporary scene.

7. Suburban Park of Scafa

The Suburban Park of Scafa is a large equipped area located in the homonymous district. It occupies an area of about 4 hectares on a hill overlooking the port of the district Bagnoli up to end on State Road 113. From the park you can enjoy a wonderful panoramic view over the bay of San Gregorio from the harbor up to the Monte della Madonna encroaching on the sea up to the beautiful Aeolian Islands. Inside the park there is a small amphitheater, which hosts summer shows and various initiatives of entertainment. At the moment it is closed to the public for maintenance work.

8. Villa Bagnoli

Villa Bagnoli is a city park built on the beach in the immediate vicinity of the marina. It hosts a playground, green areas and spaces for farmyard animals. Interesting are the plants that embellish the villa, especially during the flowering period: the Tamerici (Tamarix Gallica), the Oleander (Nerium oleander), the Arizona Palm (Phoenix arizonica) and the rows of Lime trees (Tigli x europea). Also of great interest is the presence of Lagerstroemia Indica, an ornamental tree imported from China in the mid-18th century. This complex of greenery creates beautiful shaded avenues excellent for a reflective and relaxing walk.

9. Bagnoli Thermal Baths

Archaeological site of the Roman age dating back to the III-IV century A.D. is located in contrada Bagnoli, near the port area of Capo d'Orlando. The remains of this thermal complex have been brought to light thanks to an excavation campaign carried out in 1987. This area, consisting of 8 rooms, was annexed to a Roman Villa and suffered extensive damage caused by an earthquake that occurred between the fourth and fifth centuries AD. The rooms are divided into three areas: the Frigidarium, which is the cold part of the complex, the Tepidarium (intermediate area) and the Calidarium, which was heated by a cavity under the floor connected to the adjacent room of Praefurnium (furnace). All rooms are decorated with beautiful mosaic floors made with the technique of tassellatum (tiles in stone and marble that reproduce geometric patterns.

10. Bastion Castle

The Bastion Castle, located on a plateau overlooking the district Malvicino of Capo d'Orlando, is a mighty castle of about 16x16 meters, dating from the second half of the sixteenth century. Initially it served the function of control and sighting and then became, until the beginning of the twentieth century, a noble residence. In ancient times it was called "Torre del Trappeto" because of the presence, in its vicinity, of flourishing plantations of cannamela (sugar cane) and trappeti (mills) used for its transformation. After the death of its last owner, the English M.E. Johnson, in the first half of the twentieth century, the castle fell into disrepair. It was subsequently bought and restored by the Municipality of Capo d'Orlando. Since then, the Bastion Castle has become a location for cultural and recreational events.

11. Sugar Cane and Lemon Museum

The Museum of Ethno-history of the Sugar Cane and the Lemon is hosted in the rooms of the Bastion Castle. This cultural space has been prepared by the seat of the Archeoclub of Italy of Capo d'Orlando, sponsored by the Tourism Department of the Municipality. The museum area houses documents, etnoreperti and photographic images that illustrate stories and mores maiorum of the rural tradition of Capo d'Orlando. Ample space is reserved to the Sicilian cultivations of the Sugar Cane and the Lemon tied, moreover, to their "transformation" and "workmanship" through traps and activities that for centuries have marked the industrial activity of the city's past.

12. Tourist Harbour Capo d'Orlando Marina

In the beautiful scenery of the Tyrrhenian coast, overlooking the sea in front of the Aeolian Islands, the tourist port Capo d'Orlando Marina was inaugurated in 2017. It boasts numerous activities of the highest quality including restaurants, bars and stores and various services for boaters. In this place, you can also admire the "Cave del Mercadante"..

13. Mercadante's quarries

The place called "Cave del mercadante" is characterized by the presence of large discs made of sandstone that emerge from the water in an area of coastline that today is incorporated in the modern marina. The diameter of the furrows that generate these large stone discs varies from one to two meters and goes into depth for about ten centimeters. The function of these discs remains unknown to this day and it is excluded, despite the suggestion of the shapes, that these could have been millstones for crushers.

14. Dragon Fountain

The Drago Fountain, situated in the homonymous district along the state road 113, has been realized around the end of the XVIII century. The monumental good is characterized for its elements carved in the local sandstone and for the presence of the famous majolica of Nasita. On its prospectus is positioned a coat of arms of 1989 that replaces the ancient one of the family Ventimiglia-Joppolo stolen in 1985..

15. Testa di Monaco Beach

If you are in Capo d'Orlando you can't miss going to the Scafa district, in the beautiful beach of Testa di Monaco. The crystal clear sea and the rocky seabed give peace and harmony to the five senses.

16. Ant Rock

Immersed in the blue sea of Capo d'Orlando, the ant rock can be reached by swimming from the coast.

17. Little lakes of San Gregorio

Behind the Mount of the Madonna, passed the Lighthouse, in the ample sandy shore that leans out toward the sea, there is a small lake, just in the immediate adicenze of the coastal road that leads to the port of Capo d'Orlando Marina and to the small suburb of San Gregorio. The small lake, that perhaps owes its formation to a depression of the ground, is fed by sweet and salty suburban waters. Immersed in a very particular environment dominated on one side by the mighty mass of the Mount and on the other side, by the splendid Tyrrhenian Sea crowned by the presence of the Aeolian Islands, Patrimony of the Unesco, it is really a very characteristic place.

18. The Mount of the Madonna and the Castle

At the top of the mountain symbol of the town, there are the remains of the ancient castle named after the paladin Orlando. Its construction dates back to the medieval period, but has assumed greater prominence since 1598 when San Cono appeared to the guardians, the Raffa brothers, who resided in its high tower, to leave the precious simulacrum of the Madonna. Since then, the Castle, which before had gone to ruin because of a fifteenth-century siege, has seen new life with the construction of the Sanctuary and the realization in its environments of areas reserved for pilgrims. In the course of the centuries, however, this building, which extended over the entire summit plateau of the Mount, suffered considerable damage due to earthquakes and landslides that gradually eroded it. Since the beginning of the 19th century, the remains of the Castle, as well as the Sanctuary and the whole Mount, have been owned by the Episcopal Curia of Patti.

19. The Wood of Amola

The wood of Amola is a naturalistic area that can be reached from contrada Piscittina, but it falls for the most part in the municipality of Naso. Here it is possible to admire secular trees and small streams of water. Inside there are also a fountain and an area equipped with tables and barbecues for picnics and outings. Many are the varieties of trees that populate the wood. In particular there are: Cork oaks (Quercus suber), Holm oaks (Quercus ilex), Strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo) and at higher altitudes there are chestnut trees (Castanea sativa).

20. Goletta Path

This path was, until the realization of the coastal road, the only connection between the city center and the village of San Gregorio. The path is completely immersed in nature, in the lush Mediterranean scrub. A place where silence reigns, where the only noises that can be heard are the crickets and the sound of the sea. The panorama that you can admire is very picturesque and offers a wonderful view of the Aeolian Islands.

21. San Gregorio

The small fishing village of San Gregorio is situated along the east coast of Capo d'Orlando, among the splendid stacks that overlook the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Aeolian Islands. Originally, the village of San Gregorio was connected to the town only upstream, through the path called "Goletta". Only in the middle of the twentieth century was connected with a coastal road that today leads up to the modern marina. The village includes, in addition to the characteristic fishermen's houses, the small square and the small church dedicated to the saint that gives it its name. Its beach is a renowned seaside resort that in the sixties inspired the Genevan singer-songwriter Gino Paoli who wrote his famous song "Sapore di Sale" right here.

22. Waterfront of Capo d'Orlando

The promenade of Capo d'Orlando overlooks the splendid Tyrrhenian coast in front of the Aeolian Islands in an arc of view that goes from Cefalù to Capo Milazzo and dominated by a spectacular view of the Nebrodi mountains and the Madonie. During the summer it becomes the reference point of many bathers and tourists, because of its beautiful beach and the many clubs and meeting points that surround it. Its conformation is linear in front of the inhabited center, jagged in the east side up to San Gregorio.


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