Violet Coast and Scilla: where the sea and legends intersect
The Violet Coast is a jagged shoreline that, in some places, juts up vertically from the Tyrrhenian Sea, and in others, is gentler, offering beaches, caves and ravines where you can dive into the sea appropriately named for the color.
The roads and towns that skirt the coast offer a view of the Aeolian Islands or of Sicily, which, on clear days, seem to gleam just beyond your reach.
The Violet Coast extends for 35 kilometers (22 miles) from the Strait of Messina to Palmi.
Of all the villages dotting this fascinating shore, Scilla is the one with the most history and splendor, existing in a balance between reality and myth.
The name itself has ancient origins. In Greek mythology, Scylla was the sea monster whose top half was that of a woman while the bottom half had one or more tails and six ferocious dogs that were hidden at her waist. Scylla stayed on the peninsula side of the Strait, while on the Sicilian side, there lived another monster, Charybdis. Both terrorized sailors and threatened their lives when they crossed the narrow tract of water.
Historical sources tell us that the first settlement of Scilla was located exactly where the current town is located, as the rocks provided a convenient place for fishing.
In addition to the sea and the beautiful Marina Grande beach, extending in a half-moon to the south and offering a beautiful panorama over the Strait, there are two other elements that make Scilla an unforgettable place.
The first is the more obvious, as it dominates the city’s skyline with its formidable outline, the Ruffo Castle. The first fortification was built here at the beginning of the 5th century A.D., and was erected to protect the town from invading pirates.
Over the centuries it passed down through various rulers, and the fort changed its style and appearance several times until, in 1533, it was acquired by Paolo Ruffo, who decided to turn it into his family’s residence. After several other changes in ownership, the current version of the castle was converted into a cultural center.
Upon entering, you become aware that the castle, despite its history, is a rather uniform structure with blockades, towers and crenels for ordinance. The residential part is distinguished by large rooms that feted the power and wealth of the Ruffo dynasty. The bluff from which the castle rises divides the town into two parts. To the north is Chianalea, the older part of Scilla. Here the houses reveal the town’s historic ties with fishing and the sea. The small homes are constructed directly on rocks, one on top of the other, divided only by tiny alleys and stairs that lead directly down to the sea. This arrangement earned it the nickname “Little Venice”. Chianalea is crossed by one dead-end street. During the day it is enlivened by activities related to fishing, with boats moored below the windows, nets and equipment left out to dry on walls in a continuum of sea and land, life and work.
In the evenings the village shifts gears and, particularly in summer, bars and restaurants offer the chance to dine al fresco, right beside the water, becoming a magical place. The evocation of myths, the views that reach out to the coast of Sicily, the looming castle, the flavors and aromas of the sea combine in a context of charm and history, passion and authenticity.
The traditional fish of the region is swordfish, and is therefore the star of Scilla’s local dishes. The most famous are involtini (roulades) and the sauce that accompanies macaroni pasta.
Try giving a listen to Almamegretta’s disc “Sanacore”.