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Traveling Italian

Posted On July 17, 2023 By Louis

The Best things to do in Messina

Messina is placed in the North East of Sicily and is a pivotal port city connecting Sicily to mainland Italy with the Strait of Messina. Wondering about the best things to do in Messina Sicily? The city originates from the 8th century and was originally called Zancle which means “Scythe” by Greek colonists as the city and harbour look like this.

The city experienced many more colonists such as the Romans, Goths and Normans. With all this history and influence there are many Messina things to do, archaeological sites to visit and Sicilian delicacies to try out.

Fontana di Orione one of the best things to do in Messina

How do I choose the best things to do in Messina Italy?

As a travel blogger uncovering local secrets, I have an insider approach for choosing the best things to do in Messina, Italy. Sure, you'll want to hit the highlights like the Norman Duomo and taste iconic foods, but the real gems often lie off the beaten path. I tap my local connections for the scoop on Messina's best-kept secrets - maybe a tiny trattoria serving incredible homemade pasta or a hidden beach tucked between cliffs.

When deciding on my Messina must-dos from the top things to do in Messina, I balance checking off bucket list items with allowing room for serendipity. Lose yourself wandering medieval backstreets, linger at a cafe watching the world go by - it's these unplanned moments that elevate travels from ordinary to extraordinary. With savvy local knowledge and an open mind, Messina will reveal its most authentic experiences, whether it's the best things to do in Messina Italy according to a guide or the Messina things to do and Messina what to do that only an insider could share.

Here are the top things to do in Messina:

Experience the Basilica Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta

The Messina Cathedral is Roman Catholic Cathedral built by the Normans in the 12th century and consecrated in 1197. In 1947 it was granted special privileges, the Minor Basilica by Pope Pius XII. Unfortunately, in 1908, it was hit hard by an earthquake and by WWII bombardment, leaving only the Gothic portal and an apse. It was then hit by bombs in 1943 destroying most of the inside however managed to avoid one statue and Mosaic. For the best things to do in Messina, Sicily, make sure to explore this historic site. What you see now is 20th-century renovations and copies of the original statues. Inside you can also see painting and Mosaic flooring plus gold & silver items.

In the tower, you will find the largest astronomical clock in the world which was built in 1564 and followed a similar path of being damaged. You are able to climb the 60-metre tower and see many bronze statues that represent different biblical stories. At the top, you will find a balcony with a view of the whole of Messina City to mainland Italy. I would advise being outside at 12 as a 12-minute performance goes on where you can see statues emerging & turning on carousels from the arches. You can take an inexpensive tour that will allow you to learn more about the Cathedral and tower.

Climb up to the Shrine of Christ the King

Also known as Tempio Votivo di Cristo Re this war memorial is well worth the visit. It was built on top of a hill after the world war in 1947 and houses the remains of 1288 who fell during this time plus 161 unknown & 110 who fell during the first world war. The shrine has a baroque style architecture with an octagonal shape.

It has 2 temples, one with a baroque altar, that looks down to the bottom temple that has Doric columns. The hill also has a lot of history as housed the now-destroyed Castle-fortress of Matagrifon. Make sure to check the opening hours on this one, and even if you don’t get in it has amazing views of the strait of Messina due to the height. The entrance fee is also free.

Pass by the Fontana di Orione & Nettuno

The Fountains of Orion were built in 1553 by Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli and commissions from the Messina Senate to commemorate the city’s first aqueduct. The fountain is known to be one of the most beautiful fountains of the 16th century and is regularly kept and restored by the authorities. This Carrara marble work shows Orion the mythical found of Messina lounging, at the centre a block of mermen kneeling, symbols of 4 rivers, and a highly decorated basic.

For the best things to do in Messina Sicily, these fountains are a must-visit. The senate was very impressed with this fountain that in 1557 another fountain was commissioned about 10 minutes away in front of the palace on the docks, the Fontana di Nettuno. Here lies a magnificent sculpture that is a tribute to the God Neptune with a 3 pronged spear in his hand facing the water. At the bottom seahorses and dolphins with statues of Scylla and Charybdis. These are 2 fountains you must visit on your sightseeing around Messina.

Take a walk to the La Madonnina del Porto

Grab some comfy walking shoes and start at Passeggiata a Mare and make your way to the Port of Messina until you get to the 7m statue of Madonna, you can’t miss it. This is a beautiful 4km walk passing the Fontana di Nettunu which actually has the best view of the Statue from across the ocean. Underneath is the Latin inscription “Vos et ipsam civitatem benedicimus".

It all started when St Paul came to Messina and started converting the town to Christianity. When St Paul went back to Palestine some of the people of Messina that converted wanted to join him and ask for Mary’s protection. The Virgin Mary sent a letter back to the people of Messina in the year 42 assuring them of this perpetual protection and at the end included the inscription meaning “We bless you and the city”.

Learn about the historic artefacts at the Messina Regional Museum 

A 30-minute walk away from Messina town is the Museo Regionale Interdisciplinare, one of the best things to do in Messina Sicily, where you can discover many pieces of art throughout the years and artefacts. Rooms include Norman items, paintings from the 15th/16th century, treasures, pottery and so much more.

I would recommend at least 2 hours to truly experience all it has to offer and even book a museum tour to help you understand the real history behind the pieces. It has an 8 Euro entrance fee and parking is a block away if you take your car.

Marvel at the La Vara di Messina

The Vara is a huge procession dedicated to the Madonna Assunta that comes about on the 15th of August every year. You will see men carrying and pulling a massive cart with a paper mache and wood structure to celebrate the assumption into heaven of the Virgin Mary.

The base has a coffin holding the figure of Virgin Mary’s body and above heaven is shown. The streets of Messina are filled with people and the night finishes with an impressive firework display.

Take a private pasta making class

One of the best things to do in Messina, Italy for food lovers is to take a private pasta-making workshop. This immersive experience lets you learn from a local cook right in their home kitchen. You'll master three different traditional Sicilian pasta recipes, putting your skills to the test at your own workstation with all the ingredients and tools provided.

After crafting your homemade pasta, you get to taste your delicious creations paired with local red and white wines. It's a hands-on culinary encounter that gives you an authentic taste of Messina's cuisine and culture. Plus, you'll leave with the skills to recreate these iconic pasta dishes back home - a delicious souvenir! From prepping the dough to sampling the final plates, this intimate pasta workshop is one of the top Messina things to do for diving into the city's rich gastronomic heritage.

Check prices and availibility

Take the Private Godfather tour

For fans of The Godfather movies, one of the top things to do in Messina, Italy is taking a private Godfather tour. This immersive experience allows you to dive into the film's iconic Sicilian settings right in Messina.

Your knowledgeable guide will navigate you through various filming locations like the Church of Santa Lucia and Bar Vitelli, providing behind-the-scenes stories and details often missed by visitors. In addition to entrance fees being covered, you'll enjoy refreshments along the way.

Whether you're a diehard fan or just appreciative of the movie's cultural impact, this Godfather-themed tour offers a unique lens for exploring Messina's history and atmosphere. It's one of the most cinematic Messina things to do for bringing the silver screen to life.

Check prices and availbility

Conclusion

No matter what piques your interest - history, food, culture - The area has an abundance of incredible things to do in Messina Italy.

From wandering ancient churches and piazzas to savouring local specialties like arancini and granita, the top Messina things to do will leave you charmed. Whether you're making a quick stop or lingering for a while, your Messina to-do list should balance can't-miss highlights with time to uncover authentic local experiences.

Ask locals for insider tips. With an open mind and sense of adventure, you'll uncover the true magic of this vibrant Sicilian city and all the unforgettable Messina what to do it has to offer. Crafting your perfect Messina itinerary is an adventure in itself!

Here are some useful tips when visiting Messina

  • Messina is a popular tourist destination, and its Michelin-starred restaurants are some of the most sought-after in Italy. As a result, it is advisable to book your reservations in advance, especially if you are traveling during peak season.
  • The sun in Messina can be very strong in the summer. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to consider bringing a higher SPF sunscreen from home. You can find more useful tips in our travel essentials for Europe blog.
  • Messina is a city that is best explored on foot. There are many historical sites and attractions to see, and the streets are often narrow and winding. So if you plan on doing a lot of walking and sightseeing, be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes.
  • A local tour guide can give you behind-the-scenes access to Messina's history. They can share stories and legends that you wouldn't find in a guidebook. And they can answer your questions about the city's rich past.
  • The heat can be intense in midday and the afternoon For the best experience of the best things to do in Messina Sicily, it's best to visit the outside attractions early in the morning or later in the evening. You'll enjoy the cooler temperatures and have more space to explore without the crowds.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best tours in Messina?

What are the must-visit historical sites in Messina?

Explore iconic landmarks like the Messina Cathedral, Fountains of Orion, and Fontana di Nettuno.

What outdoor activities can I enjoy in Messina?

Take a stroll in the scenic Villa Mazzini Park. You can also visit the stunning beaches along the coast for a relaxing day outdoors.

Are there guided tours available for the attractions in Messina?

Absolutely! Consider joining guided tours for some of the best things to do in Messina Sicily. This includes the Messina Cathedral, Bell Tower, and historical fountains. Gain deeper insights into their rich history.

What is the best time to witness the Bell Tower's noon performance?

Arrive at the Messina Cathedral's Bell Tower by noon to witness a 12-minute performance. This features statues emerging and turning on carousels.

Are there family-friendly activities in Messina?

Yes, families can enjoy a visit to the Regional Museum of Messina. You can also spend a day at the local beaches for a relaxing and fun-filled experience.

Where can I find the best local cuisine in Messina?

Head to the city centre or explore the coastal areas to savour authentic Sicilian dishes in local restaurants and trattorias. You can check out our blog about the best restaurants in Messina as-well.

Can I explore Messina on foot?

Absolutely! Messina is a pedestrian-friendly city, allowing you to wander through its historic streets and visit landmarks. It is also a very small so when I go to Messina, I tend to walk everywhere. It allows me to take everything in slower.

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