Messina is a city in Sicily that sits on its northeast coast, just across from Calabria on the mainland. Those who travel here often pass through on their way to somewhere else.
However, those who decide to stay a night or two will be in for a treat. Here, Greek, Roman, Arabic, Norman, and Italian influences have made Messina into a cultural destination in its own right. So, without further delay, let’s jump right into this travel guide.
Messina Travel Guide
Start your visit to Messina by checking out the Duomo di Messina. Local Norman authorities built this marvelous church in the 12th century. Sadly, its current form is quite different, as it has fallen victim to fires, earthquakes, and aerial bombardments throughout its 800+ year history.
However, the church itself isn’t the real attraction – its astronomical clock is. Installed in 1908, it is currently the largest of its kind in the world.
Tempio Votivo di Cristo Re is also worth your time. This Messina church is built to resemble the basilica of Superga in Turin, though on a smaller scale. Despite this, its distinctive dome and elevated location in Messina make it impossible to miss.
This shrine boasts Baroque design characteristics throughout, despite the fact that its makers built it in 1937. Within, its cupola, a spectacular marble sarcophagus, and Doric columns will all captivate you.
Now, if you love religious processions, be there on August 15. On this day, Vara di Messina takes place. A parade featuring a votive chariot dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption is the centrepiece. Its fabulous nature (and the celebrations surrounding it) should not be missed.
Next, make your way over to Museo Regionale Interdisciplinare. Here, you’ll find paintings and sculptures that date from the Renaissance era, as well as ancient artifacts. While there is much to see here, highlights include works by Caravaggio and sculptures by Antonello Gagini.
Often in cities that aren’t tourist hotspots, English captions can be hard to come by. This isn’t the case here, as you’ll find plenty of commentary in the English language. At 8 EUR per adult for admission, it’s a good deal on days when the sun is far too strong.
If you’re a fan of modern art, take a day trip to see Fiumara d’Arte. This park is a sculpture garden that has works from numerous artists, like Pietro Consagra and Hidetoshi Nagasawa.
But it isn’t all in one place – it’s scattered throughout the countryside outside Messina. But embark on this strange journey, and you’ll be glad you did. From a pyramid marking the 38th parallel to a full-sized labyrinth, there’s a lot to take in.
Back in town, drop by the Monument to Russian Sailors. Now, your first reaction may be to scratch your head. After all, isn’t Russia thousands of kilometres to the east? Well, it is – but on one fateful day in 1908, their navy was engaged in exercises off the coast of Sicily.
And then, a massive earthquake struck. Shortly after, a tremendous tsunami smashed into Messina, causing considerable destruction and loss of life. But it would have been much worse was it not for the aid rendered by the Russian navy. Due to their assistance, thousands of lives were saved.
In 2012, Messina officials unveiled a monument commemorating the contribution of Russia to relief efforts. Given the beauty of this statue and the story behind it, it is worth a look.
Next, check out Fontana di Orione. While it isn’t quite Messina’s version of the Trevi fountain, it is a great place to relax. Besides, as a work of Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli, it is beautiful enough in its own right.
Lastly, check out Piazza del Duomo. This square is home to Messina’s cathedral and the Loggia dei Nobili, which makes it easy to knock off multiple sights in one go. Then, once you’re done, find a spot to sit and watch as locals go about their lives.
What To Eat/Drink
As you make your way around Messina, you’ll likely get hungry. Satisfy your hunger with some U’ Pituni. This Messina street specialty is a well-loved comfort food that resembles a thin calzone. Within, its cooks stuff it with cheese, anchovies, tomatoes, and other ingredients.
At dinner, be sure to have some Braciole Messinesi. These Messina beef skewers also incorporate Caciocavallo cheese, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and parsley, giving them a distinctive flavour that needs to be experienced to be appreciated.
End your day on a sweet note with some Granita di Caffè. In Messina, locals prefer to have Sicily’s favourite iced treat with a strong dose of coffee. So while it is sweet, you might end up staying up later than you had originally planned!