The Legend of Fata Morgana

Forte San Salvatore, Messina, SicilyYou’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.

Villa San Giovanni, Calabria from the ferry on FlickrRoger 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.

Sunset from the ferry, Strait of Messina on Flickr

23 Beans of Wisdom to “The Legend of Fata Morgana”
  1. Gil

    Thanks for another great story and more beautiful pictures. I remember being in Reggio Calabria on Easter weekend having a caffe or two and some food in a small bar next to a store that was completely filled with the Easter version of Panettone. We were actually early for the ferry to Messina.

    My pleasure Gil, and thanks for sharing some Strait memories πŸ™‚

  2. 04.08.2008

    Great post Michelle. I have never heard of the Fata Morgana, very interesting. I visited your post on malocchio too, I snickered all the way… not that I am not superstitious, your writing made me do it!

    Beatriz’s last blog post..The Photograph

    Malocchio is rather amusing Beatriz…until it happen to you of course πŸ˜‰

  3. 04.08.2008

    Beautiful story. Takes me back to the time we crossed the Strait in ’02. What a great holiday!
    What about the mirage a few years back about a bridge crossing the Strait? I think it was
    called the legend of Fata Silvio ; )

    Linda’s last blog post..Disco 2000 – CanCon

    Hah! Legend in his own mind…that just might be reappearing again soon πŸ™

  4. 04.08.2008

    What a lovely post to awake to on a Tuesday morning! Would that I were there right now…

    Buon giorno to you as well Courtney πŸ™‚

  5. 04.08.2008

    Your writing is so good, I almost felt like I was sipping a good red in Italy instead of mediocre coffee in Canada.

    running42k’s last blog post..Is it really here?

    Why thank you–that *is* quite a difference πŸ˜‰

  6. thanks for sharing this legend Michelle. it’s a great story.

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Small world

    My pleasure πŸ™‚

  7. 04.08.2008

    Lovely story! And lovely photos to go along with it, too. I had no idea that the fairy Morgana starred in Italian folklore & legends. Thanks for posting this.

    anno’s last blog post..The Things I Love (a partial list)

    I didn’t either Anno…learn something new every day πŸ˜‰

  8. 04.08.2008

    Fata Morgana I knew, in Sicilia? That’s new! Thanks.

    Judith in Umbria’s last blog post..Cooking in the greening days of spring


  9. hi michelle,
    lovely images came to mind.
    my sister in law is italian and she was born in calabria.
    she has not been back since she moved here when she was 8.
    we should go together.
    i am sorry i missed your interactive friday!
    that was so fun i read everything, planning to jump in at the end…racking my brains for a clever question…and then bam–it was not open after all–hahahaha.
    (i never did come up with a clever question anyway, so all is well)
    yes i do remember playing along on kailani’s site once.
    Grace’s story is about to wrap up i see. I never did end up contributing anything, unlike you and wanderlust scarlett…but it was great to see the story unfold through different writers’ minds.
    cheers and see you again.

    chesca (exskindiver)’s last blog post..My First Ride

    Oops, sorry you missed blogging my blog! I’ll let you know the next time we play, so do keep thinking πŸ˜‰

    And yes, you should definitely come to Calabria with your SIL…probably hasn’t changed much since she was here actually!

    Now I have to get over there and read about Grace….

  10. 04.08.2008

    What a great story. I love coming here and catching your bits of history. I’d like a bit of that wine right now too…though it’s a tad bit early in the day for it here.

    kacey’s last blog post..The Really Cool Wooden Bench

    Early schmerly, Kacey…salute!

  11. 04.08.2008

    Awww, I hope to see it someday. πŸ™‚

    Me too! I’ve never seen it in person….

  12. 04.08.2008

    I’m kind of craving a Sicilian orange now…

    Tina’s last blog post..Another day of translation

    Mmmm…can you smell the blossoms too?!

  13. 04.08.2008

    Morgan, or Morgan la Faye, is portrayed in dozens of ways in Arthurian legend. In some she is good, in some evil. I had never heard of this particular legend, however, although I had heard the phrase Fata Morgana. Really fascinating.

    Billy’s last blog post..Cycles

    Always happy to share a legend Billy πŸ™‚

  14. 04.08.2008

    What a lovely story! I’ve never heard it before, but I really like it. And the pictures are fabulous! One day I hope to see it with my own eyes.

    Quirky’s last blog post..4/8/08 The Addicting Properties of Kitties and Chamomile

    Glad you enjoyed it Quirky πŸ™‚

  15. 04.08.2008

    Yeah for Roger who stuck to his pistoles!
    Have you seen this mirage Michelle? Knowing me I’d sit on the banks of Calabria..waiting..waiting…waiting.. πŸ™‚

    I love lore like this!
    Always much thanks to you for enlightening us with rich history of a rich civilization..
    Ciao Michelle!

    Laurie’s last blog post..La Cocina Bar & Grill

    I haven’t Laurie, but I hope to someday πŸ™‚ And I love lore like this too, and I also love sharing πŸ™‚

  16. 04.08.2008

    Wonder what she was doing in Italy, so far from Cornwall and Avalon? Maybe she got tired of crappy English weather? πŸ˜‰

    J’s last blog post..Happiness

    Hah! Excellent point J πŸ˜‰

  17. 04.08.2008

    Wistful words and beautiful photos. I’d like to try that wine some day.

    amanda’s last blog post..Dyed hair and false smiles

    And I’d love to share a bottle with you Amanda πŸ™‚

  18. 04.09.2008

    What a beautiful story! Thanks πŸ™‚

    Dory’s last blog post..Puppy Mills

    You’re very welcome Dory πŸ™‚

  19. 04.09.2008

    What a great post, I loved this story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Karina’s last blog post..It’s All About Choices

    My pleasure Karina πŸ™‚

  20. 04.09.2008

    Hi Michelle

    I love your blog!

    Do you still live in Badolato? I have so many questions about it. I tried sending them to your e-mail address but I haven’t had a reply as yet…maybe it went into your spam folder?

    My husband was born in Calabria in Goiosa Ionica. The Ionian Sea is so beautiful. I collected so much sea glass when we visited.



    Pat’s last blog post..Breakfast Challenge

    Hi Pat, I have responded (actually quite a while ago–March 27!), and I will forward the response again–I might be in YOUR spam folder πŸ˜‰ I’ll come visit you on your blog as well to make sure you know I’m trying to get to you πŸ™‚

  21. 04.09.2008

    I just adore reading you

    flutter’s last blog post..Does it edify?

    And I you, Flutter. Nice to see you πŸ™‚

  22. 04.09.2008

    Wow. I never heard that one. Thanks for sharing it. I do love me some of those Italian legends!

    themommykelly’s last blog post..Wordless Wednesdays: OH, MY!

    Glad you enjoyed it!

  23. 04.12.2008

    Ah, this is awesome, and I love how you tell it. And yes, I long to come over and drink now and eat something fantastically spicy that I will regret late at night while I’m also putting aloe on my sunburn. πŸ˜‰

    Oh we’ll get along so well! I often regret spicy and let’s not even talk about my milky complexion and how it “fairs” (hah!) in southern Italy….

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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