Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Messina, Italy
Messina, third biggest city in Sicily after Palermo and Catania, is the place where rail and car travelers first set foot on Sicilian soil. A great statue of the Virgin Mary by the harbor displays the inscription "Vos et ipsam civitatem benedicimus", meaning "We bless you and your city". This is a quotation from a letter which according to the legend Mary gave to the Christians of the city.
Messina's natural harbor, its position on the Strait of Messina, and its proximity to the mainland, are important factors which have determined its history from the earliest times. Today, Messina, situated between the sea and the Monti Peloritani, is a modern city and a center for trade and communications. It has managed to triumphantly overcoming such catastrophes as the earthquake of 1908 and the Allies' bombing in 1943.
1 Cathedral and the Piazza del Duomo
One of Messina's main attractions is the Cathedral which stands on the Piazza del Duomo. It was built in the 1100s but seriously damaged by an earthquake in 1908. The reconstruction remained true to the original form and retained important 15th and 16th C features. The cathedral square, Piazza del Duomo, is the historical center of Messina and home to the Orion fountain. The Orion fountain (1547-51) was the creation of G.A. Montorsoli from Florence, a pupil of Michelangelo. On the left long side of the cathedral stands the baroque column of the Virgin Mary by Giuseppe Buceti (1758). The square is closed to cars.
2 Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani
The second most important church in Messina is the Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani. It is the only building to have survived the earthquake of 1908. The church was built in the second half of the 12th century under Norman rule. The east side dates from this time. The main apse between the transept arms is distinguished by the delicate architectonic arrangement of its false arcades on small elegant columns, and by its multi colored building materials. The west side with its three portals dates from the 13th century, when alterations to the building were undertaken. In the three-aisled interior, stilted arches are supported on ancient columns with capitals which are not uniform. The central aisle has barrel vaulting, the side aisles have cross vaulting.
3 Regional Museum
The Regional Museum in Messina contains a Picture Gallery, Sculpture Collection, and Archeological Section, all with significant pieces. Significant works include sculptures by Antonello Gagini (St Antonius), Francesco Laurana (Madonna with child) and Goro di Gregorio ("Madonna of the cripples"), as well as the originals of the Fountain of Neptune. In the Picture Gallery is the double-sectioned "Polyptychon of Saint Gregory" by Antonello da Messina, painted in 1473 but damaged in the earthquake of 1908. Also of note are the "The Worship of the Shepherds" and "The Raising of Lazarus from the Dead" by Caravaggio, and finds from the ancient Zancle in the archeology section.
4 Fontana di Nettuno
The Fontana del Nettuno, or the Fountain of Neptune, is located in a city park, set apart from the city center. It was built in 1557 and, like the Orion fountain, is a work of Montorsoli. The fountain shows the god of the sea caught between Scylla and Charybdis, the two monsters of the Strait of Messina. The Via della Liberta begins at this fountain and leads out of the city towards the exhibition ground of the Fiera di Messina.
5 Villa Mazzini
From Piazza Antonello Corso Cavour runs north, passing the Teatro Vittorio Emanuele, to the Villa Mazzini public gardens. Trees provide shades for the walkways and statues grace the paths. On the north side stands the Palazzo del Governo (prefecture). West of the gardens is the church of San Francesco d'Assisi, rebuilt in 1254.
On the west side of the Piazza Dante is the Camposanto, or Cimitero, one of Italy's most beautiful cemeteries. On top of the hill is an Ionic colonnade, the Pantheon of the town's leading citizens, from which there are fine views of the city and the strait.
7 Piazza Antonello
Northwest of the cathedral is the circular Piazza Antonello, with the Palazzo Municipale, the Town Hall and the Head Post Office.
8 Torre di Faro
There is a scenic trip, running 15 km along the coast road, which runs northeast of Messina. The road runs between villas and gardens, passes two salt-water lagoons, the Pantani, also known as the Laghi de Ganzirri. The road eventually comes to the village of Torre di Faro, on the Punta del Faro, Sicily's north-eastern tip. There are fine views from the lighthouse. From Torre di Faro the coast road continues around the most northerly cape in Sicily. The return to Messina is over the Colle San Rizzo, which reaches a height of 465 m.
9 Panoramic Road
A very attractive panoramic road, Viale Italia, begins to the west of the university and continues westwards under varying names (Viale Principe Umberto, Viale Regina Margherita). The road runs above the city, following the course of the old fortifications, and ending in the north on the coast road. It skirts the Botanic Garden, the rebuilt Santuario di Montalto, and the votive chapel of Cristo Re.
10 Promontory Citadel
The promontory juts out from the west of Messina into the harbor bay. It can be reached on foot by crossing over the tracks at the railroad station, although it is better to use the boat service. On the promontory are the remains of the citadel, built in 1681, which is called the Fort of San Salvatore. It is named after the famous Greek monastery, which in the 12th century was supported by the Normans, but was destroyed in the 16th century. At the top is the "Madonnina" of 1934 with the inscription, "Vos et ipsam civitatem benedicimus" (We bless you and your city).
11 Viale San Martino
From the Marine Station on the south side of the harbor it is a short distance west to the north end of Messina's main street, Viale San Martino. This road cuts through the southern part of the city, crosses the tree-shaded Piazza Cairoli, Messina's busiest traffic intersection, and in another 1.5 km joins the spacious Piazza Dante.