A harbour city in northeast Sicily, Messina is the first city on the map to be kicked by mainland Italy’s boot. Only a short few km from mainland Italy, Messina warmly welcomes cruise ships and ferries into its port. Once on dry land, make sure to look beyond the graffiti-clad walls and vacant store fronts and you’ll find a city full of historical monuments, impressive churches, medieval fountains and striking boulevards. Messina is a popular Mediterranean cruise port of call.
In 1908 Messina suffered a dramatic earthquake and the consequences of this disaster left the port flattened. Since that time, Messina has seen a magnificent turnaround and bounced back to become a fascinating cruise destination. During your day in Messian make sure to visit the Duomo, a Norman church built in the 12th century by Count Roger II. The iconic feature of the church, now also features astronomical clock in the bell tower, that was made in Strasbourg in 1993 and shows the planetary system representing days of the week along with the age of man. Elsewhere in the city you’ll find plenty of other Norman churches dotted around, all you need to do is meander the immersive streets and the town centre and discover all that Messina has to offer.
Discover Sicily’s most famous and dramatic landmark, Mount Etna, that is the largest and highest volcano in Europe. This world renowned volcano is still considered as a very active volcano having erupted over 130 times. Many excursions to Mount Etna will include a stop being made at the stunning Silvestri Craters where you can see the ancient lava flow. The foreboding scenery provides an excellent opportunity to capture a tremendous photograph of your visit. After experiencing the tremendous Mount Etna scenery, you could even combine a visit here with the nearby Giarre for a chance to visit the famous Gival Jewellery Workshop. Although a small workshop, Gival is renowned for producing unique fine gold Italian masterpieces. You’ll even learn how features such as amber and shells of lava can be used in the process of creating these pieces.
Another hugely popular place to visit when sailing into Messina is the charming resort town of Taormina. This beautiful location can be found perched high on a cliff overlooking the Bay of Naxos. During your time in Taormina you can choose to spend your time independently or via a cruise line excursion. One thing that is worth noting if you do plan to spend your time in port independently is that many attractions here are popular and the town can become extremely busy during peak periods, so make sure to allow yourself plenty of time.
The Piazza Vittoria Emanuele here is truly special and makes for the perfect beginning to this glorious town tour. From here you can take a walk down Corso Umberto, the central street in Taormina that leads from Porta Messina to Porta Catania. The busy street of Corso Umberto is lined with plenty of souvenir shops, restaurants, boutiques and home to many former mansions. While these locations are great to explore, the main appeal in Taormina is to visit the tremendous Greek-Roman Theatre. The location of the theatre alone is spectacular as it sits in the foreground of Mount Etna, with the theatre dating all the way back to third century BC and still hosts fantastic performances to this day.
Movie lovers will relish a visit to Messina, especially fans of ‘The Godfather’ films. The films based on the Sicilian mafia were a huge success and many of the sights synonymous with the movies can be seen when visiting Messina. Classic film locations include Bar Vitelli situated at the village of Savoca, where Francis Ford Coppola shot scenes for ‘The Godfather II’ and Forza d’Agro, an intimate village that hosted Al Pacino and Sophia Coppola during filming for ‘The Godfather III’.
You may prefer to sample the refined tastes of the famous Murgo Wine of the Etna region and if so you can do this with a visit to the San Michele winery. Lava soil plays a big part in enhancing the tastes of Etna wine as it is rich in both potassium and mineral salts. Here you can enjoy traditional Sicilian delicacies whilst you enjoy wine tasting sessions.
Of course you may prefer to simply relax and enjoy the glorious climates of the port and if so then there is nothing quite like a visit to Giardini Naxos Beach. With its beautifully tranquil atmosphere, it provides the ideal serene escape to watch the world go by. It may take an hour to get here, but once you arrive at the beach you’ll realise the hours drive here was worth it all.