Melito di Porto Salvo is a municipality of the metropolitan city of Reggio Calabria. It is the Southernmost town of Calabria and mainland Italy, excluding the islands. Its name derives from the Greek potamos tou Melitos , i.e. "river of honey". The nickname instead refers to the nearby shrine of Santa Maria di Porto Salvo, aptly named as it offered shelter to boats. Even if the origins of the village have not yet been clarified, it is documented that until the seventeenth century the history of Melito di Porto Salvo is identified with that of the hamlet of Pentedattilo.
According to local history, the town was without a doubt inhabited during the late Roman era, even if evidence of this occurrence comes only from the findings concerning a 5th-6th-century necropolis in the most ancient part of the town.
It was also assumed that during this period, the area was a stopping site where travellers from Reggio Calabria to Locri could stop and rest.
On Melito’s Rumbolo beach on 19 August 1860, the landing of “The One Thousands” took place. Led by Giuseppe Garibaldi, this was the first stage of the historical expedition.
On Melito’s Rumbolo beach on 19 August 1860, the landing of “The One Thousands” (I Mille) led by Giuseppe Garibaldi took place. The army had already occupied Sicily and aimed to conquer the lands of the Bourbon kingdom. A second and less fortunate landing took place on 25 August 1862, the Garibaldini (followers of Garibald) arrived in Calabria to conquer Rome that was still subject to the Pope. The steamboat Torino, sunk by the Bourbons during landing, still rests on the seabed at 12 metres of depth. A commemorative stele and a mausoleum recall this second landing. Melito Porto Salvo is a seaside resort that has been awarded two quality sails in Legambiente's Blue Guide and is part of the Comunità Montana Versante Ionico Meridionale Capo Sud (Mountain Community of the Ionian coast Cape South). To get to the village, it is necessary to cross the Via Lembo, nicknamed the flap of Italy as it symbolises the top part of the boot. Going along it, we come to a town that is divided into Melito Alta and Melito Bassa. The upper part is filled with houses on particularly steep hillocks, while heading toward the valley artisan workshops and shops can be found. Of great interest is Melito's waterfront, overlooking the Ionian Sea with Sicily and Etna as its backdrop, which on clear evenings offers fantastic views. Worthy of a visit is the Museo Garibaldino (Garibaldi Museum), built on Melito's waterfront in the exact spot where Giuseppe Garibaldi and the Thousand disembarked in 1860 and in 1862. Still at the waterfront of the Thousand, the shrine dedicated to the Madonna di Porto Salvo is not to be missed; it was built in 1680 over the remains of a more ancient building which stood in a town called Portus Veneris. The church's altar features the canvas of the Madonna di Porto Salvo, depicted protecting a ship sailing at the mercy of the waves. The canvas is returned every year following a procession to Pentedattilo which strengthens the ties between the two communities. The procession that takes place on the last Saturday of April, is without a doubt the most heartfelt religious moment of the inhabitants of Melito di Porto Salvo.
Stelae and Garibaldi Museum
The landing in Melito di Porto Salvo is the episode that marked the beginning of operations of Garibaldi’s army on the mainland of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. It happened on the night between 18 and 19 August 1860; its goal was crossing the Strait of Messina and climbing the peninsula. In memory of this historic event, a Commemorative stele is placed at the Museo Garibaldino (Garibaldi Museum). The Museum is composed of three sections: the external area, the underground, with tombs of some of the soldiers, and the actual Museum, which displays Garibaldi’s weapons and garments, in addition to a number of letters, documents and relics. Another symbolic location is the Casina "Ramirez", where Garibaldi stayed immediately following the landing. After having taken Melito, Garibaldi’s army left for the conquest of Reggio Calabria and, once they defeated the last remaining resistance supporters, the unstoppable rise of Southern Italy began until Naples was taken.
Shrine of the Madonna di Porto Salvo
Inside the shrine, the painting of the Virgin holding the child's hand surrounded by two angels is revered. The two main figures show the placing of a gold crown on his head, crafted with the gold of votive offerings donated by faithful devotees. The bottom part of the painting depicts a ship sailing safely. According to tradition, the painting came to Melito from Turkey already in ancient times. In addition, the legend tells of a girl of Melito kidnapped by the Turks to whom the Virgin granted a return trip to her birthplace with a small boat that was also carrying an effigy of the Madonna. A niche was built in the area of the landing and subsequently, the shrine was built. The shrine’s interior has a single nave and some areas relating to the Hospice of the Capuchins. Particularly noteworthy is the main altar, present since the church’s original construction as well as the two side altars. The one on the left is dedicated to S. Maria della Pietà and the one on the right to S. Andrea d’Avellino. Outside, the façade is flanked by a tower from 1954, rebuilt following the earthquake in 1908.
A unique feature that always takes visitors by surprise when arriving in this area is the unmistakable smell of Bergamot. Bergamot is a citrus fruit classified as Citrus Bergamia Risso, belonging to the Rutaceae family, subfamily Mesperidee, Citrus genus. Its more suitable and exclusive habitat is made up by a thin strip of land, a little more than a hundred kilometres long, comprised between the extreme offshoots of the Aspromonte and the Ionian and the Tyrrhenian Seas, in region of the province of Reggio Calabria. The cultivation and marketing of its essence constitute an exemplary moment of agricultural entrepreneurship at an international level for the entire region. The fruit's essential oil is critical in the perfume industry and is also used in the pharmaceutical industry due to its antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Bergamot essence is also used in the food industry and confectionery to produce liqueurs, tea, sweets and candied fruit.
Viale delle Rimembranze, Melito di Porto Salvo
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