Stretched out along the spine of a hill, enjoying a strategic position, Piraino is a small town in the hinterland of the Messina province. It retains much of its medieval form. According to legend, it was founded by the cyclops Piracom – Arges in Homer – one ot the three ministers of Vulcan. Its origins are more likely rooted in the discovery of large bones in several caves nearby, erroneously believed to have belonged to the cyclops. The town churches are all strung along the main street. The Chiesa del Rosario, the easternmost, rebuilt in 1635, retains a 1500’s belfry. Inside, it has a fine coffered building with Byzantine-Norman rose windows and an unusual wooden main altar painted with floral motifs (first half of the 17th century) decorated with wooden medallions representing the Mysteries of the Rosary; the wooden figures in the centre of the altar represent the Madonna with Saints. Further along stands the Chiesa della Catena, erected in the late 17th century, where the first National elections were held, after the Unification of Italy. The church contains fine frescoes in the Byzantine-style, that were recovered from the Chiesa della Badia.
Beyond is Piazza del Baglio, named after the complex of low-level workers houses and workshops arranged around the Palazzo Ducale, built by the Lancia family (15-16th century). Proceeding westwards, the way leads up the highest part of the town, where is the beautifully preserved Torre Saracena or Torrazza, dating back to the 10th century, that offers a splendid sight over Capo d’Orlando and on the rooftops nestling below. The tower was part of a defensive system which would have transmitted signals from the 1500’s Torre delle Ciavole on the coast, via the Guardiola situated north of the town, to the Torrazza.
On the western edge of town, stands the Chiesa di Santa Caterina d’Alessandria, built in the 1500’s but extensively refurbished in the following century. Inside is a wooden altar decorated with floral motifs. Right of the altar is a fine pilaster ornamented with a shallow-relief depicting Saint Catherine overcoming the Infidel.
Turn back towards the coast. On the left rises the Torre delle Ciavole. Continue on to the small seaside resort of Gioiosa Marea and follow signs for S. Filippo Armo and S. Leonardo (about 9km) to Gioiosa Guardia.