Messina, the best 10 things to do and see | Sicily

byVerónica Crocitti
What to see Messina

From the Ganzirri lakes to the bell tower of the Duomo, passing through the Pylon and the Falcata area: the best 10 things to do and see in Messina.

Lying on the northeastern tip of the Trinacria, jealous guardian of the Strait and its mysteries,Messinait is a city with very ancient roots and cultural heritage of great value.

Founded under the name of Zancle,hagfish(in dialect) experienced great prosperity in the late Middle Ages when, for a long time, it came to contend with Palermo for the role of Sicilian capital. Revolts, wars, floods and disastrous earthquakes (such as the devastating one in 1908 which almost razed the entire territory to the ground) repeatedly brought the city to its knees which, like a Phoenician, has always been able to recover and shine more than before.


Messina today presents itself as a much-loved spring and summer destination, with one of the busiest marinas in Italy, a historic center full of Art Nouveau buildings, a panorama defined as one of the most beautiful views in the country, a sandy coast of 24 kilometers (only in the municipality), a highly appreciated culinary tradition, a historic university site and a purely warm, mild and sunny climate.


Messina rises in the extreme northeastern tip of theSicily, three kilometers of sea from Villa San Giovanni (minimum distance between Sicily and Calabria) and can be reached from the Italian peninsula in various ways:

  • Ship/Hydrofoil.The port of Messina is directly connected by sea with the ports ofVilla San Giovanni,Reggio Calabria and Salerno. The fastest route is the Villa San Giovanni-Messina one (20 minutes of navigation by both the ferryboat and the hydrofoil or fast boat). On the ferries it is also possible to embark the car.
  • Coach.There are direct connections from all the main cities of the Italian peninsula. The routes are carried out by various companies among which the main ones areFlixbus, Salemi, Sais and BusCenter.
  • Train.Long-distance trains connect the island of Sicily to the various cities of the Italian peninsula. The vehicles arrive at Villa San Giovanni, "break up" into the different carriages and are embarked on the ship of the State Railways to then land near the Messina station. It is an operation that takes quite a long time, which is why many travelers prefer to stop at the Villa San Giovanni station and reach Messina by sea (or by ferry or by hydrofoil).
  • Airplane. The closest airports areCatania Fontanarossa(50 km) and Reggio Calabria (from here it is then necessary to take the shuttle to the port of Reggio Calabria and, therefore, the Reggio Calabria-Messina hydrofoil – 30 minutes by boat).

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To get around the city center well and visit its main attractions you will need at least two days. It goes without saying that these 48 hours do not include the relaxation of a beach holiday or excursions toTaormina, Beautiful islandand neighboring areas (you would need another two or three days) nor the wonderful onesAeolian Islands(you would need at least another week).

I leave you the list of 10 things to do and see in Messina… at least in my opinion, who live there!

Messina Cathedral and Bell Tower

The Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta stands in the heart of the square of the same name and is one of the most visited attractions in the city. The current building was built in the 1920s on the ruins of the old Cathedral which was almost completely destroyed during the 1908 earthquake.


The salient facade is surmounted by a lacework and has three Gothic entrance portals, of which the main one is the central one. Next to it stands the majestic Bell Tower with, inside, the largest and most complex mechanical and astronomical clock in the world.

The interior of the Cathedral consists of three naves divided by two rows of thirteen columns, three apses, a high altar and a pipe organ which is the second largest in Italy. Inside the Mother Church is kept the Cathedral Treasure, a very rich collection of cult objects, especially in silver, among which the most precious is the "Golden Manta", the representation of theOur Lady of the Letter, patroness of the city, covered with finely chiseled gold robes with floral motifs.

Curiosity! Every day, at 12:00 sharp, the internal mechanism of the Campanile del Duomo is activated through a complex system of checks and balances. All the statues located on the facade of the bell tower begin to move in a harmonic dance that lasts 12 minutes. Attending this "show" is one of the things absolutely (a must!) to see in Messina.

Shrine of Christ the King Church

The church of Cristo Re stands in a panoramic point of the city and is characterized by a large dome with a lantern surmounted by a cross on top, eight ribs and eight bronze statues depicting the three theological virtues (faith, hope and charity), the four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance) and the allegorical virtue of Religion.

The Church was built in 1937 as a monumental sepulcher of the fallen where, once upon a time, there was the ancient castle of Rocca Guelfonia or Matagriffone. It is here that, in 1191, Richard the Lionheart's men were hosted on their way to the Holy Land during the III Crusade.

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Next to the structure there is an octagonal tower, which once served as a prison, on which a 2.80 meter bell weighing 130 quintals is placed. It is the third largest in Italy obtained from the bronze fusion of enemy cannons stolen during the First World War.

What to see Messina

Curiosity!From the belvedere in front of the Church (named after Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli) you can enjoy one of the most beautiful views of the Strait and the Falce di Messina (in the top list of things to see). Sunset time is highly recommended.

Church of the Catalans

The Church of the Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani stands between via Cesare Battisti and via Garibaldi, a few steps from the Duomo. Built in the Norman era where an ancient temple of Neptune once stood, the Chiesa dei Catalani is today one of the very few structures that remained unscathed after the devastating earthquake of 1908.

The building, which has a Romanesque style with Apulian, Lombard and Pisan influences, is located on a level of flooring which is that of the old city (ie the Messina of the first earthquake), about 8 meters lower than the whole rest.

Regional Museum of Messina

The Regional Museum of Messina stands at the northern end of Viale della Libertà and houses collections from the Civic Museum, sculptural works, paintings and decorative artefacts ordered according to a chronological criterion. Among the works stand out prestigious authors such asAntonello da MessinaMattia PretiCaravaggio, Annibale Carracci and Vincenzo Catena.

The entrance times are: 9:00 – 18:00 (Tuesday to Saturday) and 9:00 – 13:00 (Sundays and holidays). The standard cost of the ticket is 8 euros.

Torre Faro, Ganzirri Lakes and Pilone

The picturesque hamlet of Torre Faro rises on the extreme north-eastern tip of Sicily and is one of the most popular summer resorts of Messina. The name derives from the black and white lighthouse which once helped sailors to cross the Strait. In this point, in fact, there is the minimum distance between the shores of Sicily and Calabria (about 3.6 kilometers of sea).

The two neighbors observe each other through theirsPylonswhite and red. The Messina area (in the top list of things to see in Messina) rises exactly on the coast, in one of the busiest areas in the summer, and is considered a true symbol of the city.

Next to Torre Faro, in the even smaller fraction ofGanzirri, there are two lakes of brackish origin connected to the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas through five canals (Margi, Canale degli Inglesi, Faro, Due Torri and Catuso). The area, of great landscape value, is an Oriented Nature Reserve.

YouTube video

Curiosity! During the summer period, in the waters in front of the Ganzirri area, thetraditional swordfish fishing. The feluccas (typical boats) sail the seas in search of what, in the city, is considered the "king of the Strait".

Vittorio Emanuele Gallery

Looking up and being dazzled by the beauty of the ceiling of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is one of the things to do and see in Messina, absolutely. The main entrance to the gallery overlooks Piazza Antonello and is represented by a central portico consisting of a huge arch.


Declared an artistic asset in 2000, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele was designed by Camillo Puglisi Allegra and built, in Art Nouveau style, in the 1920s. The interior is characterized by three arms that join in the center and show a mosaic floor. The barrel ceiling stands out for its skylights and colored glass. It is counterbalanced by a glazed dome vault.

Curiosity! The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is one of the most famous meeting points of the Messina nightlife. A post-dinner cocktail in one of the bars inside is recommended.

Forte San Salvatore and Montorsoli lantern

Located at the extreme tip of the peninsula of San Raineri or zona falcata (the area which, like a sickle-shaped arm, extends towards the opposite Calabria creating a basin of water closed on three sides), Forte San Salvatore, with the its stele of the Madonna della Lettera, is one of the symbols of the city of Messina.

Built in 1540 by order of Charles V of Habsburg where the monastery of the Archimandriate of the Holy Savior once stood, the fortress represented a Spanish defensive construction for a long time. Conquered by the Messina people in 1674, Forte San Salvatore fell again into the hands of the foreign enemy until Garibaldi's troops liberated it and handed it back into the hands of the population.

What to see Messina

Forte San Salvatore is characterized by a huge cylindrical bastion, calledStrong Bell, on the top of which there is a 35-metre-high stele dedicated to the Madonna della Lettera. The structure is built in reinforced concrete and covered in Trapani stone. At the top is a 7-metre-high bronze statue portraying the Madonna in the act of blessing the city and Messina.

Not far from Forte San Salvatore, still on the peninsula of San Raineri, is theMontorsoli lantern. Built between 1555 and 1557 by the Florentine sculptor Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli, from whom it takes its name, the lantern had an original height of 29 metres. When a defensive bastion was added at the end of the 1700s, it reached 42 metres. The Montorsoli lantern and Forte San Salvatore can be visited by appointment (more details here).

Taormina and Isola Bella

Among the best things to see in Messina certainly cannot miss the excursion to the famous Pearl of the Ionian Sea.Taorminait is located about 25 kilometers from the city center (30 minutes by car) and represents one of the most visited tourist destinations in Italy. Do not miss the walk along Corso Emanuele, the ancient Greek Theater, Palazzo Corvaja, the Cathedral and the marvelousBeautiful island.

Messina, what to seeMessina, what to seeSicily in Camper: itineraryMessina, what to see
  1. Capo Milazzo and Pools of Venus

The area ofMilazzo, with the Castle, the Cape and the splendidPools of Venus, is one of the most suggestive areas of the Tyrrhenian side of the province of Messina and is really worth considering for a day trip. Capo Milazzo extends over a promontory which is about 40 kilometers from the city center and can be reached by car via the A20 motorway.Messina, what to see

Among its beauties, the Piscine di Venere stand out, which can be accessed via a small trekking route that winds through breathtaking views. Also recommended is a visit to the Castle of Milazzo and a walk in the small village that opens up at its feet.

Culinary tradition

You really can't say you've been on the banks of the Strait if you haven't tasted all, or almost all, of the city's food and wine delicacies. Among the things to eat (but also to see!) in Messina stand out the Messina focaccia, the arancino, the pidone, the granita with brioche, the cannolo, the pignolata and the cassata.

READ ALSO:The 15 unmissable dishes of Sicily

Verónica Crocitti

In collaboration with Comparabus

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