Gioiosa Marea owes its origins to Gioiosa Guardia, an ancient farming community founded in 1364 on the Mount Meliuso, 828 metres above sea level.
This high ground is a great panoramic point from which you can admire the Eolian Islands, Capo Milazzo, Nebrodi and the Etna, too. Because of this high, the Mount was a guard strategic point – it explains the name, Gioiosa Guardia. It assumed an important role to defend people from looting of Saracen pirates.
In 1361 Vinciguerra d’Aragona built towers and forts around which, later, farming communities established. Here, in 1364 citizens started to build houses and the Chiesa del Giardino (Church of the Garden) which later was enlarged and named Santa Maria delle Grazie. First, the Patron Saint of Gioiosa Guardia was Saint John the Baptist but then Saint Nicholas became the new Patron; different legends were told about this change but one of them is the most popular: one day, during a period of great famine, citizens noticed a sail boat on the sea that slowly was getting closer to the beach and, once there, the captain brought them a huge amount of grain. Citizens went to the beach overwhelmed with joy offering him their riches in exchange for the grain, but the captain rejected their offer and gave them the grain, without telling who he was or where he was going to. After years some citizens of Gioiosa went to Bari for business; they entered in a Church and they recognised Saint Nicholas in a picture, that is, the merchant who saved them from the famine. Once they returned to Gioiosa, they told citizens about what they saw and they claimed Saint Nicholas as the new Patron of the city. After this event a period of demographic growth followed because of the development of the agricolture and because people moved from the coast to the inner part of the city to escape from Saracen looting. This demographic growht continued over the years.
Monument “Annarita Sidoti” – World champion of racewalking
Artist “Marco Mammana”- Terra Sicula