As one of the largest cities on the island of Siciliy, with an urban population of roughly 250,000, Messina's long history has been chequered with success and disaster.

Founded by Greek colonists in the 8th century BC as Zancle (or 'scythe', referencing the harbour), the settlement was only renamed Messene in honour of the Greek city of the same name. Allying with Rome during the 3rd century BC against the Carthaginians, Messina soon expanded as the centre of the region.

However, the fall of the Empire saw repeated defeats at the hands of the Goths, the Byzantines, the Arabs and the Normans. This long and unhappy period culminated in the mid-14th century when Messina provided the conduit through which the Black Death entered Europe. Economic and cultural rejuvenation gradually followed, culminating during the 17th century when, under Spanish domination, Messina was acknowledged as one of the most prominent cities in the world.

The joy of liberation during the Risorgimento in 1860 was relatively short-lived, as an earthquake and tsunami hit in 1908. Although much of the ancient architecture was destroyed, the restored city's beauty is very much intact and has thus provided the backdrop for works by Shakespeare, Nietzsche and Moliere with good reason.


The key cultural monument in the city is the Cathedral and Bell Tower, found in the Piazza del Duomo. Originally built in Norman times, the earthquake and ravages of World War II have ensured nothing remains from the original site. However, reconstruction and preservation mean the façade still contains Gothic portals dating from the 15th century and an impressive visual for the spectator. The marble interior and its crypt contain, among others, the remains of Conrad, the 13th century king of Germany and Sicily.

Also originating in the late 12th and 13th centuries, the Church of the Annunziata dei Catalani is otherwise entirely different. Built on the remains of a pagan temple, its use of exterior stonework and blind loggias recalls Byzantine and Islamic sources, giving the city its truly unique feel.

At the bottom of the San Rizzo, a direct insight into the medieval past can be seen in the ruins of the Santa Maria Della Valle, which belonged to a Benedectine monastery in the 12th century.

Found on the Viale della Liberta, the Messina Regional Museum provides an extensive collection of works saved from the earthquake of 1908. Ranging from the 12th century to the 18th century, the museum contains works by Caravaggio and the city's favourite native, the great Renaissance painter Antonello da Messina. The city also has a significant aquarium.

If you'd prefer to relax, Messina's beach is the place to be, and a number of resorts are located nearby.

To explore the tranquil Peloritani Mountain range, bus trips can be booked within the city and go out daily.

Sport in Messina is largely associated with the local football team, FC Messina Peloro. Recently avoiding relegation, the team play their games at the Stadio San Filippo.


Held between July and August, the Fiera di Messina international trade fair naturally has a wide selection of goods available.

The Piazza Cairoli is the place for clothes shopping, with a huge selection of local fashion and high-street stores.

Other notable areas for local produce are the Via Palermo, Via Garibaldi and Via Cavour.

Nightlife and Eating Out

In close proximity to the sea, Messina inevitably emphasises seafood. Throughout the many restaurants, expect concoctions of various kinds of fish and spices and herbs. Dishes like la ghiotta di piscistocca (fillets of fish baked in a sauce of tomatoes, potatoes, capers and herbs) are a speciality. Il Due Sorelle on the Plaza Municipio provides the best in regional cuisine.

Messina itself is famous for its patisserie and ice cream, particularly the delicious cannoli (fried pasta tube-shaped shells filled with mascarpone or ricotta cheese and vanilla or chocolate flavourings) and pignolata cake.

Nightlife tends to gravitate towards the nearby beach resorts like Mortelle. However, the town is filled with pubs and clubs. The best spot for tourists is around La Dolce Vita in the Piazza del Duomo.

Tourist Information

AAST Tourist OfficePiazza Cairoli,


The preferred airport for Messina is the Catania-Fontanarossa Airport in Catania, being the largest and busiest airport in Sicily. As a result, buses and trains are available for reaching Messina.

International and domestic connecting flights are available. British Airways' and Meridiana are among the airlines that operate to and from Catania.

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