Roccavaldina – The main attraction of this little town of the Messina province is the extraordinary apothecary’s pharmacy which in itself is quite unique. The shopfront consists of a fine 1500’s Tuscan-style doorway flanked by a stone counter. Inside, arranged on the fabulous old wooden shelves, is a rare collection of maiolica drug jars (or albarello) datable from about 1580. What is particularly interesting about this collection, is that all the pieces come from the famous Patanazzi family workshop in Urbino, having been commissioned by the Messina herbalist Cesare Candia (whose coat of arms, a dove and three stars on a turquoise background, can be seen on each and every one of the 238 jars assembled). The collection, acquired from a priest from Rocca, arrived in town in 1628 and comprises long-necked vases, small jugs with handle and spout, and albarelli (typical tall pharmacy jars) bearing scenes from the Bible, Classical mythology or the history of Ancient Rome. There are two magnificent display amphorae (note their wonderful handles) decorated in relief with characteristic grotesque and a narrative panel representing Julius Caesar receiving Senior Captivi (right) and the contest of Apollo versus Marsyas who, on losing, was tied to a tree and flayed alive.

Overlooking the same piazza is the 1500’s castle, a transitional building between fortress and an aristocratic residence; the massive walls along the right side are tempered by the elegant balconies and their voluted brackets.

On the edge of the town, within the gardens of the former Capuchin Convent stands a gracious municipal villa, enjoying a panoramic view over the Milazzo promontory and the fortress of Venetico Superiore with its four round towers.