Photo of Messina

Visit Messina

Messina is located at the north eastern tip of Sicily (the closest point of Sicily to mainland Italy), and is the third largest city of the island.

Messina, like Syracuse and many other Sicilian cities was once populated by the Greeks.

Explore Messina

Sicily Visitor comment: Modern Messina has rather overtaken the splendors of Messina's past but none the less the town has a rich historical and cultural tradition and offers a number of tourist attractions.

Messina's Cathedral is the key site of Messina and the current cathedral is of Norman origin though much has been rebuilt following damage in earthquakes. Some of the original building remains including a 15th century Gothic doorway and some 14th century mosaics.

Messina cathedral

Next to the cathedral is its seperate 60 meter tall bell tower which is topped by an Astronomical clock and has motorised figures that emerge each day at noon to depict scenes of local history. The Messina astrological clock is one of the largest in the world and the noon animations are very popular.

The cathedral and bell tower are in the main square, the Piazza del Duomo. Also in the square is the fine 16th century Fountain of Orion (Fontaine de Orione) by Montorsoli and the Palazzo Corvaia.

From here head towards the water where you get an excellent view of the golden Madonna della Lettera statue which stands over the port of Messina. A byzantine icon of the Madonna della Lettera is also in the cathedral of Messina. She is said to have appeared to people in the city at the time of the earthquake and spared them the worst of the following tsunami. Also out on the promontary by the harbour is the San Salvatore fort and a lighthouse.

North of here is another impressive fountain by Montorsoli - the fountain of Neptune, with a statue of Neptune holding a trident. This is in the Piazza della Signoria.


Slightly south of the cathedral is the Annunziate dei Catalani church built in the 13th century and which survived the 1908 earthquake. It is built with an attractive Arab-style of architecture.

Head above the city for great views over the sea and city and explore the botanic gardens.

On the edge of town is a rare example of Gothic architecture in Sicily in the 13th century church of Santa Maria degli Alemmani which  was very popular with the Germans who lived in Messina in the 13th century.

Three kilometers north of the centre of town is the Regional Museum of Messina which holds valuable works of art by artists such as Antonella de Messina and Caravaggio. It is a bit of a hike but you can take the tram and get off at the terminus stop of Annunziata.


Since Messina is a coastal city it is close to a number of beaches. The Capo Calava, Brolo, Mortelle and Capo d’Orlando are beaches near the city. Cape Calva is the right beach for those who would like to relax on a more isolated beach.

Messina's Turbulent Past

Messina began as a Sicilian settlement and then when the Greeks took it over in 756 BC it expanded rapidly into a major port. The Romans, the Saracens, the Moors and the Normans all gave it strategic importance.

During the Middle Ages Messina was a major departure point for the European Crusades and was visited by Richard the Lionheart and King Philip II of France.

Messina became the second most important city of Sicily after Palermo until the 17th century when Catania overtook Messina.

Disasters have also been common to Messina and its role as a busy port led to it being the entry point of the Bubonic Plague into Europe.

Earthquakes have plagued Messina with a particularly devastating earthquake in 1908 which destroyed much of the historical architecture of the city. Most of the city was rebuilt after the incident. One of the major landmarks lost to the earthquake was the 12th century Cathedral of the city which was rebuilt in 1919.

The city was also victim to significant damage in bombing raids during the Second World War.

Where to visit nearby?

Not far south along the coast from Messina is the fabulous Taormina which is one of the highlights of a trip to Italy.

Messina is unique from the rest of the Sicilian cities, as it is very close to the Italian mainland. Messina is separated by 5 kilometers of the waters of the Strait of Messina from the Italian mainland province of Calabria. A bridge is often talked of but so far lack of funds has prevented this happening. For now a regular ferry crossing is the way to cross the Strait of Messina. Villa San Giovanni, an important landmark in Calabria, is just across the Messina straits from the town.

Ferries to the volcanic Aeolian Islands leave from nearby Milazzo.

You can find more local travel ideas in the East Sicily guide,

See also: 

Photos of Messina

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Map of Messina and places to visit


Messina places to visit



Milazzo has an impressive fortified citadel.

Milazzo guide
Cape of Milazzo

Cape of Milazzo

The Cape of Milazzo is a beautiful promontory next to Milazzo with a lovely coastal walk

Cape of Milazzo guide


Castroreale is one of the most beautiful villages of Sicily.

Castroreale guide


Savoca is famous for its Godfather connection and its Cappuccine monastery

Savoca guide