Fata Morgana is the protagonist of an ancient legend narrated in the Strait of Messina and related to a particular optical effect which only a few lucky people have been fortunate enough to see. It is an optical effect due to the presence of rarefied water molecules suspended in the air, which exploiting some particular weather conditions and the reverberation of the sea can cause a “reflection” in the sky along the coast of Messina. From Reggio Calabria it is therefore possible, when the Fata Morgana phenomenon occurs, to see buildings, cars and even unaware passers-by on the streets of Messina, clearly reflected in the sky, near the sea.
Fata Morgana is the name that is given to a very special optical effect that can be observed very rarely over the Strait of Messina. The effect is so special that it leaves its audience open-mouthed and, at a time when its origins were not well known, a series of popular legends were invented about its appearance. It is not really anything “magical” or metaphysical, but the legends are so beautiful and rich in tradition that it is impossible to ignore them. It can be observed especially at certain times of the day, such as dawn or twilight, or on days when it is not too sunny, perhaps with a slightly cloudy sky, but never stormy.
Fata Morgana effect: the origins of the legend
But why the name of a fairy? According to the ancient legend about Fata Morgana, it seems that one day, at the time of the conquest of Calabria, one of the kings saw a large island with a mountain spitting lava and smoke in the middle, in the distance, from the coast of Reggio Calabria, (he did not recognize it, but it was in fact Etna). He wished with all his heart to be able to own it, and thus, the vision of a splendid woman, appeared before him, Fata Morgana, precisely, who promised to give it to him. The king, naively, accepted the proposal and could admire (thanks to the optical effect) Siciliy up close, as if it was one step away from him. He threw himself into the water and, without realizing the actual distance, he soon found himself drowning in the sea, under the amused gaze of the fairy.
When does the Fata Morgana occur?
The Fata Morgana effect occurs when, following particular favorable weather conditions, tiny droplets of rarefied water present in the air act as a “magnifying glass”, mirroring the Sicilian landscape in the sky or in the Calabrian sea. Thanks to this spectacular optical effect, observing the horizon you can distinguish buildings and houses, or even cars and passers-by, roaming unaware on the streets of nearby Messina. The figures are enlarged to such an extent as to be surreal and, with a bit of luck, the event lasts long enough to be immortalized with the help of a good camera.
What to see on the Strait of Messina
The Strait of Messina is the only place in the world where you can assist, with a huge dose of luck, the enchanting optical effect Fata Morgana. Of course, the rarefaction of the air that is at the base of the optical effect is common to other parts of the world, but the proximity between Sicily and Calabria and the presence of the sea between the two lands means that the event, in this area, is really unique.
If you are looking for places to visit with the hope of seeing the Fata Morgana phenomenon, you can book a seaside holiday in Reggio Calabria. The city, very beautiful from an architectural / landscape point of view, with its seafront that D’Annunzio defined as “the most beautiful kilometer of Italy” has a beautiful sea but is not an elite seaside resort. It is possible to use it, however, as a starting point to reach the beautiful beaches of the Costa Viola, such as those of Scilla and Bagnara.