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The origins of Santa Teresa are not very clear, but they are commonly believed to be dating back to the Phoenicians: some of them must have built a town called Phoenix in the area around the mouth of the Agrò torrent. Its existence was already documented in the year 36 b.C., when some legions of Pompeus are told to have found asylum in Phoenix.

The excavations made in order to build the railway road around the year 1870 have brought to light many wells, ruins and ancient objects like pieces of marble statues and busts, cinerary urns and elaborated clay vases probably dating back to those times. There are documents where the discovery of a cemetery is reported, which had disappeared because of the debris brought there by the torrents and where tombs, corpses and many precious objects, all in oriental and Greek style, had been found; similar discoveries have been made in the area between Santa Teresa and Furci Siculo.

The town of Phoenix was progressively deserted because of the debris of the torrents and of the continuous pirates’ attacks: as a consequence, the people started building new towns on the hills, like Savoca, which must have been founded around the years 1200-1300. The town of Savoca became then more and more florid until, when pirates were banished around the year 1500, many people moved back to the coast and built a new town called Marina di Savoca.

Savoca was almost completely deserted and defeated by Marina di Savoca, which was proclaimed an autonomous municipality by Ferdinand II Bourbon in 1853: the people were so grateful to him that they named their own town Santa Teresa as a tribute to his second wife, Maria Teresa from Austria. The two towns got fully detached the next year, and all the offices and services were moved to Santa Teresa. In 1923 Furci Siculo, which had so far been part of the Santa Teresa territory, got separated and became a municipality of its own.

The denomination “di Riva” (of the coast) was added later in order to distinguish the town from its homonyms.

Santa Teresa di Riva is characterized by very old and strong religious traditions, as witnessed by the great deal of churches which can be found here.

The most important are: the Madonna del Carmelo Sanctuary (1929), the Portosalvo Church (1952), the Church of the Sacred Family (1903) and the church dedicated to San Vito (XVII Century) in Misserio. There are also smaller ones like the Madonna delle Grazie Church in Fautarì (1706), the Sacred Heart Church (1922), and others dedicated respectively to San Gaetano, San Sebastiano and to the Madonna del Rosario.