The port city of Messina stretches along the northeast Ionian coast, the closest point on Sicily to mainland Italy. Though two 20th-century catastrophes—a 1908 earthquake and World War II bombings—devastated many of the city’s historic monuments, it is home to striking churches and elegant boulevards. Here’s how to take in the city in one day.
Morning: City Highlights
Messina may not have the Greek and Roman ruins that many other Sicilian cities do, but its historic center is home to a number of later architectural jewels, including the 12th-century Church of the Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani, as well as the reconstructed Norman cathedral, its spectacular bell tower and astronomical clock, and the nearby Fountain of Orion (Fontana di Orione). Learn about the city’s history and architecture with a guided morning walking or Segway tour that touches on these treasures, along with the later Church of San Camillo and Temple of Christ the King (Tempio Votivo di Cristo Re).
Afternoon: Artistic Masterpieces
Messina, like most Sicilian cities, can be oppressively hot in the afternoon, so take cover by visiting the city’s fine Regional Museum (Museo Regionale), which includes masterpieces from the Messina school and other Renaissance and baroque artists. Be sure to admire the San Gregorio (Saint Gregory) polyptych by local 15th-century painter Antonello da Messina, as well as his Madonna con bambino e santi (Virgin with Child and Saints). Other highlights include two dazzling works by Caravaggio: L'Adorazione dei pastori (Adoration of the Shepherds) and Risurrezione di Lazzaro (Resurrection of Lazarus).
Night: Food on the Streets and in the Kitchen
This evening, turn to Messina’s cuisine. Join a food tour to explore the city’s street-food tradition, stopping to taste Sicilian delicacies while you stroll through the old town with a guide. Alternatively, delve deep into the local cuisine with an informal cooking class led by a home cook to learn the secrets behind the city’s traditional dishes and enjoy the fruits of your labors paired with Sicilian wines at a family-style dinner. End your day with a turn down the city’s seafront promenade, stopping to admire the towering golden statue of the Madonna and the Neptune fountain.