You’re relaxing in the Strait of Messina between Calabria and Sicily, enjoying the perfectly still water and air.
All is right with the world, you think, as you sip the local red.
You gaze into the glistening water and suddenly you feel like you’re closer to the island of Sicily than you thought you were. Indeed, it looks like you could reach out and touch it!
Is this what a sun stroke feels like?
Have you enjoyed a bit too much vino?
The history of southern Italy goes back as far as civilization itself, and so do many of her superstitions (malocchio anyone?) and myths–including the famous legend of the Fata Morgana, the Fairy Morgan, half-sister of King Arthur.
The story goes that as Roger de Hauteville sat on the coast of our bella Calabria dreaming of a Norman conquering of Sicily, he caught a whiff of orange blossoms and heard celebratory music coming from the Tyrrhenian Sea.
A hermit (clearly breaking Hermit Code) informed Roger that the melodies arose from Sicily, where Saracens were dancing and partying as Christians suffered in slavery.
Roger wanted to go over immediately, but he didn’t have ships to cross the Strait (and dang it, there was no ferry at the time). So he sat some more on the beach, as many of us do, wondering what to do next.
Improvvisamente a fairy with a magical coach and seven white horses appeared before him and offered to transport him to the island.
Roger refused her help, which angered the Fairy Morgan. In retaliation, she threw three stones into the sea making Sicily appear achingly within the reach of Roger.
He stood his ground, though, and proclaimed that he didn’t need the help of some fairy to conquer Sicily–all he needed was the help of Jesus Christ!
The fairy and her illusions disappeared, and later on, Roger did get to Sicily with his own ships and conquered the island in the name of Jesus Christ.
Indeed, he is now known as Roger I of Sicily.
It is said that the image seen by Roger still appears off the coast of Reggio Calabria often on mornings following cold nights when there is calm, still air and water. The shore of Sicily appears reflected in and above the sea, with buildings lengthened and deformed, depicting a colorful, moving, magical city of Messina.
This meteorological (and some say mythical) mirage is knows as the Fata Morgana, and she patiently awaits your arrival. You have to buy the wine though.