Villafranca Tirrena is located in the province of Messina at 22m a.s.l. along the Thyrrenian coast. It totals as many as 6,800 inhabitants. It began life as the feudal dominion of the Cottone family in the 16th century. In 1590, one of its members, Stefano, ordered the construction of the Castello Baronale. The Chiesa Madre, dedicated to Saint Nicholas, is the main church. It houses a 1500’s painted Cross and a marble statue representing the Madonna and Child.
In the city environs, is Calvaruso, a small settlement at 110m height, especially noted for its 1600’s Santuario di Gesù Ecce Homo. The religious building houses various works of art like a 1600’s statue representing the Ecce Homo and a painting of the same period representing the Immaculate with St. Francis, Saint Clare and St. Anne. A cloister provides access to the Museo della Devozione, collecting endless offerings, 1800’s paintings and sacred furnishings. The most striking piece of the collection is a work named Strage degli Innocenti comprised of some fifty statuettes from the 1800’s.