Messina is the gateway to Sicily, the first sight visitors see when they’re travelling from mainland Italy. The ancient city of Messina was colonised by the Greeks and has seen invaders come and go. If you’re arriving from the port at Reggio Calabria, you’ll see the graceful sight of the soaring white column of the 16th-century Forte del Santissimo Salvatore greeting you as you pull into harbour.
A devastating earthquake in 1908 flattened most of Messina’s historic architecture, and bombing in the Second World War severely damaged much of the reconstruction. The Messina you see now is a city of wide boulevards and elegant buildings from the early-20th century, and its marina is a pleasant place for a stroll and to watch the ships come in.
Things to Do in Messina
Messina’s reconstructed cathedral is one of the loveliest in Sicily. The Duomo, built by the Normans in the 12th century, has one of the largest organs in Europe and dominates the wide expanse of the Piazza del Duomo, and its bell tower holds one of the world’s largest astronomical clocks. Just in front of Messina Cathedral is the huge white-marble Orion Fountain, the intricately carved work of one of Michelangelo’s students in the 16th century.
Head to the seafront where another 16th-century fountain, the Neptune, stands guard over the Piazza dell’Unità d’Italia. To complete your tour of Renaissance art, peruse the impressive collection over 14 rooms of art and sculpture, archaeology and Medieval art in the Museo Regionale.
Where to Stay in Messina
There’s a hotel in the Messina region to suit every budget. Choose anything from homely, family-run B&Bs to grand international hotels with pools. You could find yourself in one of the lively coastal resorts on the Ionian Sea, with beaches only a few steps away. Or you might prefer a farm stay, where you are served delicious home-grown produce in a relaxed atmosphere.
Where to Eat in Messina
Swordfish is a major part of restaurant menus in Messina and the surrounding region, as the fish is found in abundance in the Straits of Messina, which separate Sicily from mainland Italy. Look out for traditional Sicilian pasta dishes, such as spaghetti with sardines, or tuck into a thin-crust pizza made in a wood-fired oven.
What to Do in the Messina Region
Head south to the popular town of Taormina, Sicily’s most famous resort and home to a breath-taking ancient Greek Theatre. Take the cable car down to Baia di Mazzarò and spend the day at the beach, or head along the coast to the bustling resort of Giardini Naxos, with the longest beach in the region.
If you go west of Messina, towards the historic port town of Milazzo, you’ll be able to catch a ferry to the Aeolian islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea. While you’re there, you’ll see the smouldering volcano of Stromboli erupt every 20 minutes – a spectacular sight.