How to cook the dinner, Roman style: Tindari Archaeological Site

I saw this rare object in the little museum in the archaeological site at Tindari.


It’s a Roman hob. All you have to do is pop some wood into the cavity under the pot, and light it. You can regulate the flame by raking some wood forward, or adding more fuel. You can also lower the temperature by altering the position of the pot so it is not so well centred over the fire.

It got me very excited, as it is the only one I have ever seen. (Trust me, I actively go looking for such things!)

The black madonna of Tindari, dating from about 800 AD

Tindari is famous for its early medieval black madonna statue, but the archaeological site is fascinating too – if you know what you’re looking at.ย There are few signs explaining anything, and some of them are wrong (I’ve got a masters in Classical Antiquities so if anyone wants to argue with me, I’ll happily take you on).

Tindari was founded by Dionysius, the tyrannical Greek-speaking ruler of nearby Syracuse in 397 BC, mainly as a military fortress. Hannibal and his African troops conquered it in 264 BC but then the Romans took it from them ten years later.

This is a portrait of the first Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus. Spotting this in the museum at Tindari felt like bumping into a beloved old friend just where you least expect to see him.
This is a portrait of the first Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus. Spotting this in the museum at Tindari felt like bumping into a beloved old friend just where you least expect to see him.

I think a lot of people must visit Tindari and go away never realising they have just seen one of the best preserved Roman blocks of flats in Italy. (OK, there is a much more complete one in Rome, but you can’t go in there unless you’re Mary Beard making a TV show).

They may also be unaware that they have walked around one of the region’s best preserved early Byzantine basilicas, dating from about the 4th century AD. Basilicas started out in Ancient Greek times as a kind of shopping centre, with lots of lawyers’ offices, banks and scribes offering their service. They gradually evolved into a place of worship as well, and ended up as the model for all the cathedrals of Europe, which were built in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Some archaeologists claim this structure was actually a propileon, which means a fancy entrance gate to the city. Ancient Tindari was not important or rich enough to build a two-storey structure this swanky and then use it as nothing more than a gate.

The Roman baths at Tindari are well preserved and once had a lovely stone floor in the sauna.

There is a Greek theatre at Tindari, too. It was built by the Greeks in the 3rd century BC for their highly cultured religious operas, but then modified by the Romans to make space for their bloodthirsty bullfighting, inventive animal cruelty and gladiatorial shows.

When I told my little boy it was a theatre, he immediately recruited all the other children in the area and they prepared a play to perform to the parents. They spoke Italian, French and German but the lack of communication didn’t stop them putting on a good show.ย My son doubled up as the usher, and was quite bossy about taking everyone’s tickets before letting us sit down.


But the show was great, and they even gave us a free encore!


21 Comments Add yours

  1. bdinasnap says:

    Thanks for the great read. Its so cute to hear that the kids got to act out the play afterwards. Im currently building my portfolio website BDinaSnap but yoy can check out my food blog at ๐Ÿ˜‰


  2. unwillingexpat says:

    Tindari is one of my favourite places to visit but I’ve shamefully avoided the museum, (currently suffering museum burnout) I love the church and archeological site though. Thank you for taking me there again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve taken me on lots of great virtual tours around Sicily – glad to do the same for you!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. onomatopoeicbliss says:

    Let’s get back to the hob . . . suppose you could whip me up some red sauce with anchovies on quinoa pasta?๐Ÿ˜


    1. It would be a pleasure!!! Though Since it’s Ancient Roman, I think mouse brain sausages should be included o the menu, What do you say? ๐Ÿ˜‰


      1. onomatopoeicbliss says:

        No sausage at 4 AM, tyvm๐Ÿ˜œ

        Oh! and I think the wives were a bit more . . . rotund . . . back then too?

        Have a great day, night, whatever it is over there right now๐Ÿ˜Š

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Malla Duncan says:

    Always interesting blogs. I had no idea so much archeology in Sicily. Silly me. And great pics. You have whetted my appetite to visit no end.


    1. You must definitely come!
      I also had no idea how many amazing archaeological sites there were here. I think it’s because the Sicilians cannto bear to demolish any building, even when it is empty and forgotten.
      “Oh, we’ll refurbish that when we get around to it” they say optimistically.
      2,000 years just slip by and hey presto! you have a world heritage site!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the imaginations of children…and I love history! Thanks for the great post ๐Ÿ˜Š


  6. Pip Marks says:

    Hope bumping into your old mate Caesar wasn’t what caused his head to fall off his body?!


    1. I’m afraid I said something so funny he literally laughed his head off! ๐Ÿ˜‰
      Being serious, should we suggest to the museum that they glue his head back on?


  7. T. Franke says:

    Wikipedia tells me, that Tindari really had a bad fate: Founded by “the” exemplary tyrant Dionysius I of Syracuse (the guy with the Damocles’ sword and who put Plato to slavery!!!). Then parts of the city vanished in the sea! Then destruction by the Arabs. Then destruction by Frederic II. Then desctrucion by Islamic pirates. I wonder why any ruins are left! ๐Ÿ™‚


    1. I suppose being founded by the Dreaded Dionysius got Tindari off to a bad start!

      I knew about the Arab pirate attacks, but I didn’t know some of it fell into the sea – rather like Atlantis!!! ๐Ÿ˜‰ And Frederick II too? I thought he was enlightened and positive for Sicily. Apparently not everywhere!


  8. How large is that hob? From the picture it looks like it would serve more than the Roman nuclear family.


    1. Well, if you factor in the Sicilians’ amazing stomach capacity, I’d say it was definitely for a small nuclear family!
      The base part was something like 15 inches from front to back.


  9. ZUZU says:

    Long time no hear….

    Next time you toddle over to my neck of the woods, I’ll show you how to use the hob & cook you, fresh fish, squid, meat, veg or even a baked potato on it…. & if ever go above the lagoons agains, I’ll introduce you to what you missed at the sacred place of Tindari…..

    Until we meet again…… as always you have my email, for more personal communicado…..ยง.-)X

    La Rosa Bianca
    – on the little toe…….


    1. Hello!!! Lovely to hear from you again!!! xxx


      1. ZUZU says:

        I am an owl & a pigeon, too busy to read all & speak yet, as I’m longer on this jigsaw puzzle of an island…..& work in different ways…
        but you’ll hear from me, or of me very soon 1 way or another…

        By the way, have you ever popped up to the Tuscany museum of Torture or watched the film “Dias don’t clean up the blood” film, (available on you tube,) which includes students, lawyers & journalists tortured from this island in Genoa back in 2001 for nothing other than sleeping in Armando Dias school at the G8 protest in the summer 2001 by the caribinieri, as your hubby is a lawyer, he will tell you torture is not a crime in this country yet….& of course, the guily policemen are still all walking free…..let’s hope the soon to happen school children protests already under organsation have no horrific consequences….they start circa 2 settimane…..

        I just say a prayer for this blessed island’s future…..for the kids and its eroding coast line…..

        As for you my dear southern friend, who absconded to this island after the stock mark dips, & states your titles & qualifications more tan the people you criticise, I suggest you take a breather, look, listen, read, & think……then please, we are very few on this island, let’s try & repair it in a lady like manner…

        La Rosa Bianca

        p.s.I will be in & out of your end for a couple of things soon!…. u know how to contact me. X


  10. You mean my moan about the Guttuso museum? The council has just closed them down. I think my foot stamping and shouting the loudest was the only way to get their attention!
    I hope this is going to be a progressive step in the right direction. As you say, it needs repairing, not abandoning.


  11. Charles Haynes says:

    I think that I’ve read 8 descriptions of the museum at Tindari and not one of them mentions the hours of operation or how to get there exactly.


    1. VH says:

      As with all Italian museums, the opening hours are protected by the State Secrets Act and the Data Protection Act, but I can tell you they are recalculated daily based on a formula including the exact time of sunrise and sunset, which football matches are on and whether the ticket bloke wants to do a barbecue after work.
      The address is easy, though. It’s at the bottom of Via Monsignor Pullano. There are directions once you get to the big church with the black Madonna.


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