Colapesce: the man who lived by the sea


Nicola (or Cola) from Messina: son of a fisherman who lived near Capo Peloro (in the province of Messina) was a skilled swimmer, loved the sea more than anything else and spent his days more in water than on land.

The young boy’s passion was not well seen by his mother, also because Cola was in the habit of throwing the catch back into the sea. For this reason one day his mother cursed him and wished him to become like a fish. The curse came true: over time his skin became scaly, his hands and feet like fins!

His fame as a skilled swimmer reached the court of Frederick II of Swabia (or perhaps, according to other sources, of King Roger) who wanted to test him. He went to Messina and ordered him to bring back a cup he had previously thrown into the sea: Colapesce threw himself into the sea and returned with the cup. Then he threw his crown into the sea and Colapesce brought it back to the mainland. Finally the king asked him to fish for a ring, but on this third occasion Colapesce never came back to the surface. The most widespread legend tells that when he went deep Colapesce saw that one of the three columns that supported the island of Sicily was worn and to prevent it from sinking replaced the column. Another version says that the king asked him to bring proof that under the island was the fire that fed the volcano Etna. He then gave him a piece of wood that he should have brought back with the signs of a burn, a sign that at the bottom of the sea there was the fire of the volcano. The wood came up to the surface, burned, while Colapesce never returned. It remained in the bottom to support the island and if every now and then the land between Messina and Catania trembles is because Colapesce changes the side of his shoulder!

If you also love the sea you can not miss the opportunity to participate in a sailing tour: starting from the port of Catania you can spend a day at sea full of fun and good food.

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