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Traveling Italian

Posted On April 24, 2023 By Louis

The Messina Travel Guide 2023

About Messina

Messina is the 3rd largest city in Sicily and is located on the northeast corner of the island at the Strait of Messina. The city was first founded by the Greeks in the 8th century, and then by 264 bc became under Roman rule. The Goth period was then followed by the Byzantine Empire, Arabs, and then the Normans.

Messina is a well-known city that serves as a gateway to the Calabria region of mainland Italy. The city's population is approximately 277,000, but during the summer months and public holidays, this number can increase significantly. This is mainly due to Messina's proximity to major airports in Sicily, such as Palermo Airport, Catania Airport, and Reggio Calabria Airport.

What is Messina known for?

Food - Messina is famous for its local cuisine, including traditional street food such as Pidone, a savoury pastry similar to a calzone, as well as hearty dishes like Sciusceddu soup and Caponata. Michelin also notes many of the top restaurants in Messina.

Beaches - The city boasts numerous stunning beaches, including Capo Peloro Beach, Lido Beach, and Venetico Marina Beach, which are perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and spending quality time with family.

Historical Sites & Architecture - The city has many churches & palaces to visit as the area is deep in history. There is the 17th-century Palazzo Calapaj - d'Alcontres is one of few palaces that survived the 1908 earthquake. Another popular site is the Basilica Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta a cathedral built by the Normans that was impacted by WW2 bombings and the earthquake.

Festivals - In August the city comes to life with the festival of the Passeggiata di Giganti "the walk of the giants" and then the procession of the Vara.

Languages spoken in Messina

While Italian is the predominant language spoken by locals in Messina, being a popular city in Sicily among tourists from Europe, many locals are proficient in English as well. Nonetheless, it can be helpful to learn some common Italian phrases in case you venture outside the city centre.

Bell Tower by Church in Messina Sicily

How to get around Messina

Depending on your starting location, there are various transportation options available to reach and explore Messina.

Aeroplane - The quickest way to reach Messina from another country is by aeroplane. The Reggio Calabria Airport (REG) or Catania Airport (CTA) which is also an international airport are the closest options. For as little as £13, you can fly directly from the UK to Catania, which takes approximately 3 hours. Alternatively, Emirates Airways offers a direct flight from Australia to Catania, which takes around 25 hours. Rome airport is also a popular choice for many travelers due to its numerous routes. After spending a few days in Rome, you can then fly to Reggio Calabria or Catania. By car or taxi, it takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach Messina from Catania Airport and just under 1 hour from Reggio Calabria.

Trains - Trains are a convenient and speedy mode of transportation to explore Sicily and reach Messina. The nearest train station, Messina Centrale, is operated by TRENITALIA. From the Reggio Calabria Airport stop, you can catch a train to Messina Centrale for just €2.10 one way, taking approximately 1.5 hours. Alternatively, it takes just under 2 hours to reach Messina Centrale from Catania Airport train station. Additionally, you can take a direct train from Rome to Messina, which takes approximately 5 hours and 42 minutes. Trenitalia offers several other destinations across Italy as well.

Car - To get to and move around Messina, driving a car is the most budget-friendly option, taking about 1 hour and 15 minutes from Catania Airport. Note that if you're driving from mainland Italy, you'll need to take a 20-minute ferry ride from Villa San Giovanni Port, which runs 24/7. Keep in mind that in Italy, you drive on the right-hand side of the road with the driver on the left-hand side of the car. For economical car rentals, manual cars are the preferred choice, costing about half as much as automatic cars. However, finding parking spots can be challenging, especially during peak seasons. It's recommended to use a reputable rental car agency if you're not using your own car. Save now and book a rental car.

Taxi - A taxi can be a great way to get around to and around Messina however can be the most expensive option. They offer the advantage of avoiding wait times for trains and the hassle of renting a car and searching for parking. This is particularly beneficial for those who have just arrived from an overseas flight and are feeling fatigued. A reliable taxi service in Messina is Radio Taxi Jolly, which also has a mobile app available. If traveling from the airports, it is advisable to use a local airport taxi.

Ferry - Messina's port provides several ferry services that link Messina to numerous destinations, including Lipari, Panarea, Salina, Stromboli, and Vulcano. Traveling by ferry is an excellent way to enjoy the scenic journey, especially on the popular route between Messina and Lipari, which takes approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes. It's essential to note that ferry schedules are limited, with only a few crossings each day or week. To ensure a smooth trip, be sure to check the departure times/ days and book early.

Parking in Messina

Finding parking in Messina can be a challenging experience, particularly in a foreign country. Nevertheless, with some basic knowledge, navigating parking in Messina can be made simple. It is essential to remember that parking is typically not free, so it's always a good idea to have cash on hand in case payment for parking is required.

Finding a parking spot in Messina, particularly near the city centre, can be a tricky task. Although street parking is available, it may be limited, and visitors must be mindful of the restricted residential areas. Generally, white lines indicate free parking spots, while blue lines indicate paid parking areas. When parking on the street, drivers should always look for parking meters or visit a local newsagent to obtain a ticket. It's crucial to display the ticket clearly on the dashboard and adhere to the time limit since parking wardens are active in the region. Furthermore, parking prices fluctuate depending on the season, with rates being higher during the summer months.

EasyPark is the most convenient way to pay for parking in Italy. It's a smartphone app that works in most places around the country. You can pay for parking directly from your phone, so you don't have to find a parking meter or newsagent, which can be far away or closed.

Another benefit of EasyPark is that you only pay for the time you park. If you come back early, you can stop the timer and pay less. This can save you money, especially if you're only parking for a short time. One small tip is to enter a random Italian phone number when you download the app. If you enter your local number, the app may not register you in Italy. EasyPark does charge a small fee, but it's worth it for the convenience.

Parcheggios (Parking Garages) are the most widely available and convenient parking locations, easily accessible through Google Maps by typing in "Parcheggio" near your intended destination. Typically, the most secure and hassle-free parking choice when staying in Messina is to utilize the hotel's private parking area. Depending on the hotel, guests may be able to take advantage of complimentary parking, whereas others may impose a modest fee.

Messina port in the sunset

The Best things to do in Messina

  • Visit The Museo Interdisciplinare Regionale. The art museum of Messina shows pieces that represent the 12-18th century development of art and culture. Before its transformation into a museum, this building served as a spinning mill until the 1908 earthquake prompted its renovation.
  • Go to the Basilica Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta. This building was impacted by the earthquake, rebuilt and then by the WW2 bombings so has a lot of history associated with it.
  • Right next to the Messina Cathedral is the Bell Tower and Astronomical Clock which was built in 1933 and commissioned by the archbishop of Messina due to the events that happened.
  • Visit the Sanctuary of Montalto, a church with stained glassed windows on a hill with incredible views of the city
  • Elevate your dining experience in Messina by savouring exquisite cuisine at the city's top-rated restaurants.
  • Head over to the Piazza Duomo to witness the Orion Fountain, a 16th-century masterpiece adorned with mythological statues.

Top 5 Hotels in Messina

  • Vmaison Hotel Messina is a 4* luxury hotel from the early 1900s. It features a rooftop terrace where you can enjoy the views and complimentary breakfast in the morning. All rooms come with private parking, air conditioning and free wifi. Guests can also take advantage of the shuttle from Catania Airport.
  • Hotel CineApollo designed by the famous architect Filippo Rovigoa is a 4* hotel just 300 metres from the University of Messina and Piazza Duomo. All the rooms are themed and inspired by cinema such as Fifty Shades of Grey and The Godfather.
  • Hotel Messenion is half a mile from the city centre another 4* accommodation in Messina. Some rooms have a balcony and are soundproofed which is hard to find. The hotel also has a bar and access to bike rentals to tour the city.
  • Royal Palace Hotel is a convenient 4-star hotel in Messina close to transport and the town centre. Parking is available for the car or is only a few minutes from the train station. Many rooms have terraces and panoramic views and all have aircon, free wifi and a private bathroom.
  • Residence Acqua del Conte is a boutique 4* hotel in the city centre with paintings and sculptures by famous artists. Each room is dedicated to different movies with original film posters. The rooms have wooden floors, free wifi, satellite tv and come with complimentary breakfast.

How much should you budget for a trip in Messina?

This can be broken up into many categories, the type of activities, but at the current time I would advise budgeting at least €260 a day per person. If I broke it down it would be:

ActivityCost
Breakfast (sometimes included in accommodation)€20
Lunch €30
Dinner€50
Tourist Activities€30
Going out€30
Accommodation€100
Total cost per day€260

Best travel card to use on holiday

When it comes to transferring money for a holiday, one of the best international cards I have seen is the Wise card. Gone are the days of going to the post office to transfer money into cash. With Wise you don't even have to wait for the physical card, you can use it on apple pay or google. Wise don't charge huge mark ups like the bank do when you transfer money, they just charge a micro amount per transaction and use the current rate of the day without inflated rates.

It is always handy to carry some cash on holiday and Wise fees only charge charge a small amount so it's worth comparing to your current local debit card however I have been using them for over 5 years and have saved so much money compared to my local bank.

I also use Wise to transfer money to places abroad like hotels and again I save money on the exchange fee than using my bank to do the transfer and they tell you on the app how much all the other banks will charge you. Wise is not just a one-off card to use, you can use it over and over again every international holiday you go on or if you need to transfer for business purposes.

How long should you stay in Messina?

The length of your stay in Messina is dependent on your interests and travel itinerary. For those interested in exploring the city's historic landmarks like the Palazzo Calapaj or Basilica Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, it is recommended to spend a minimum of two to three days in the city. This duration allows sufficient time to explore the major things to do in Messina, appreciate the local culture, and savour the culinary offerings.

However, if you're inclined towards a more leisurely experience, such as sunbathing on the beaches or discovering the scenic countryside, it may be worthwhile to plan for a week or longer. Given that Messina houses some of Sicily's best restaurants, taking your time to savour the gastronomic delights without rushing is highly recommended.

Due to its high demand, particularly during the summer season, it is recommended to book your flights and accommodations in Messina well in advance, as availability at the limited number of four-star hotels fills up quickly each year. Prices may increase annually, so it is advisable to book your luxury Italian holiday at least the previous year or look for travel promotions, as rates may begin to rise soon after the Christmas holiday season.

Make sure to read our blog on Travel Essentials for Europe for more tips when planning a trip.

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