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21 June 2020 - Day 71 –Reggio Calabria to Messina

After a good sleep, and getting up at 8, I got ready and finished packing, and brought my bag down to the reception area to hold for me. I then went off to the #ReggioCalabria cathedral to attend 9:30 Mass. The weather was a bit cloudier than yesterday, temperatures still in the low 70’s. The cathedral was about half full, and the music, for me, was the best part of the service. I strolled back around the Castello on my way to the B&B, where I collected my roller and set off to the north.

My objective was the ferry port, located 2½km north. Maps wanted to keep me inland, through commercial districts, while I was more interested in seeing the water, albeit I’d have 4 hours on the ferry across the #TyrrhenianSea. Not much wind, so I hoped for relatively calm seas, I was going to chance a light lunch before boarding. My walk wound up being about half with retail and half with a sea view.

Pizza was on my mind. Bufala Grill had pizza and more, and beer on tap, so I headed in. A small plain cheese and gravy pizza, a St Stefanus to drink, and I was happy. I was approaching the Archeological Museum, but knew I couldn’t head in. A slight shift and I was walking along the Viale that runs along the coast (and over the now underground rail tracks coming into the city.)

Stopping in at Liberty Lines at the base of the port, I checked in about an hour early. They converted my paper printout into a card ticket and assigned me my seat. Rather than standing about or sitting on benches or the floor, I’d booked an “armchair” for the crossing. They had chocolate bars available, which I took advantage of. Prior experience with my brother Bill and his wife Dianne on deep water had proved that it really helped settle my stomach. Best precaution.

About 13:00 they began to load the ferry which had just unloaded passengers and vehicles from Sicily. Passengers got a 5-minute lead, and then vehicles began a single-file approach. The crew were being careful making sure the cars were distributed to balance the load. By 13:20 we were fully loaded, with passengers either in the lounge or up on the upper open deck (smoking). We pushed back on time, and got underway.

The sun was in and out of the clouds, the wind varying between 5 and 10 knots from behind us as we took a northwest heading. Through the light haze, I was able to see both sides of the Strait of Messina. Off to the west was the cloud topped volcano Mt Etna, while to the east were the peaks of the Calabrian coastline. In just under 4 hours we were pulling into #Messina Imbarco.

Not unexpectedly, the cars were racing off first, as the passengers were held up until about half had cleared a safe passage for us pedestrians. It was 17:30, and the port used by the Reggio Calabria ferry was about 3km north of where the other ferries from more northern Calabria and Salerno arrived, including the train ferry. Overcast, with a slight threat of showers, I set off walking south on the eastern side of Viale della Liberta until after passing the “Walk to the sea” park Passeggiata a Mare with its weird modern sculpture that looked like a football trophy.

At the south end of the park was the Monumento alla Batteria Masotto (commemorating the fallen at the 1896 Battle of Adua.)

With a slight bend in the road, there was a name change, and I was on the Via Vittorio Emanuele II for the rest of my walk, with only an active Yachting Club marina and warehouses on that strip of land.

It seemed wiser to cross to the other side of the road, so I was up close to the Fontana di Nettuno in the middle of a block-long park. (Behind the fountain are city offices.) A bit further on, the waterside turned into the docking area for the cruise ships which brought visitors to Messina. I’d crossed the boulevard again, as it was quieter and had fewer cross streets to deal with.

Across the street was a small statue representing the city of Messina. Behind, set on a hill overlooking the port, was a great domed church that piqued my curiosity. Finally, as the road began curving at the bottom of the bay, Maps turned me inland for less than a block and I was faced with the buzzer for my B&B. As there is no front desk, I was following the email instructions, keying in codes. Gaining access and lifting the bag a few inches, I rolled over tile flooring to the lift.

On the top level, a hallway painted gray over white, with seven doorways. I had number one, down at the end. A nice room, it had plenty of floor space and a tall window looking out at a brick wall 3m away. The WC was very spiffy, modern.

The time was a bit after 6. There are two cathedrals, both were within a half kilometer, but would close at 7. So I headed to the principal cathedral basilica first. The Basilica Cattedrale Metropolitana di Santa Maria Assunta has a large piazza in front, with a fountain. A campanile of five levels, houses the largest astronomical clock in the world. The front facade on the church’s lower level is striped with wide red marble bands separated by narrower black strips encasing geometric tiles.

Three doorways at street level, the side doors are fitted into double archways of ribbed columns with a triangular grill in the slightly pointed arch topping the door frame. The center bronze doors are framed in intriquitely carved stone, with a statue of the Virgin in a arch encased in a tympanum. On the second level, small arch windows are above either door, and the side aisle roof line draws the basic stonework into a narrower third level for the nave vault, with three grillwork windows and a rosette at the peak. The roofline for the vault and transepts is crenelated.

Entering, a small set of organ pipes is mounted over the central door. Clerestory lights provide natural illumination, with wide unadorned wall space above the arching red marble supports and columns defining the aisles. The outer walls also have a set of windows set over the cap of the nave-length running wall of baroque carved niches and statues of Apostles in shrines. The vault is an ornamented ladder format, running to the transept.

Up four steps at the crossing, the main and high altars are brilliant. Above in the half dome is a gilt icon of Christ the Pantocrator, while within a hexagonal baldachin is a framed gold icon of the Theotokos. This is the first Roman Catholic cathedral I’ve been to where it felt more Orthodox, here at the central focus. While the carved statuary is more traditional, the mosaic in the dome and venerated Mother and Child truly shook me.

Leaving slightly before the closing (and being chased out), I headed to the co-cathedral, figuring I could at least get outside shots this evening. Set tightly within a neighborhood of 3--story buildings, even finding a full face-on photo is impossible with the narrow one way Via San Giovanni Bosco in front. Double gray marble columns frame the entry, with side doors bracketed in flat half columns. A raised abbreviated second level continues the paired columns around a framed window. The Concattedrale Archimandritato del Santissimo Salvatore had closed for the day.

Sitting on the steps, I pulled up the Chiesa Sant’Antonio Abate on Google. I’d found out that the huge domed church on the hill that I’d seen earlier at the Statue of Messina was this church. While brilliant looking from the distance, detailed photos seemed to indicate that it was in a state of disrepair, and might not proved worth a trip.

I might as well start looking for dinner.

Sunday night dining is pretty much always a challenge whenever I’ve been in Europe. Maps showed that a tree-lined street a few blocks south was lined with bars and a few pubs and restaurants. It seemed like a place to start. Walking two blocks to Via T. Cannizzano, Il Pub was on the corner and had more than just pizza.

Figuring two nights in a row at a beer pub might put me on a roll, I walked in and found a table. I passed a group of younger men, and they were drinking beer and eating an appetizer dish of deep-fried stuff. It looked so bad it had to be good. So, in addition to my beer order, I asked for a half order of whatever it was. Steak fries, mozzarella sticks, another gooey soft cheese in balls and thick slices of hot dogs. Not a healthy calorie in that bowl, but it went great with beer. And I was so full with a second beer that I called it quits, although I did get my journal up to date.

Less than a kilometer back, I walked the promenade path between the car lanes, under trees. Crossing the 6-lane Via G. Garibaldi (scary) and turning north a few blocks, turning on a side street when I came to the big triangular mall, which was thankfully closed. The B&B building was there on my right at the next corner.

Upstairs I got comfortable and began my at-home evening routine. While I was writing up my journal, I was also thinking about my itinerary for tomorrow. Knowing I’d have less time than I might like for the two cathedrals, I’d planned on a late Monday morning train, with the B&B only a half kilometer from the station. Cefalù, my day stop, was 180km away by train along the northern coast of Sicily. A very historic city, was the 4 hours I planned enough? I’ll do more planning/adjusting once I get this blog uploaded.

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