The Top 10 Things To Do and See in Messina

Photo of Luca Pinelli
9 February 2017

Messina is the third-largest city in Sicily and boasts some wonderful panoramas as well as great cultural sites of never-waning beauty. In a strategic position and featuring one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean Sea, its past and present are inextricably linked and draw in thousands of tourists every year. Check out what not to miss when in town…

Duomo | © Eduardo M./Flickr


Constructed in 1120 and consecrated in 1197, the Duomo of Messina retains many of the characteristics of its original structure, which has been destroyed and reconstructed at various stages in the past. Earthquakes, natural phenomena which are not so rare in Sicily, have been the main culprits and many artworks in the church were lost because of them. The façade retains its extraordinary beauty, with three portals anticipating the three internal naves. The lower part of the façade is decorated with polychromous marbles, whereas the upper section is made out of stone and features five Gothic windows and a rose opening.

Fontana di Orione

Dedicated to Orion, the giant huntsman in Greek mythology who is considered to be the founder of the city, this fountain is located in the wonderful piazza Duomo, in front of the local cathedral. It was designed by Giovann’Agnolo Montorsoli, a friar and renowned sculptor of Rome during the 16th century and it was realized by him with the aid of local artists. It is made out of Carrara marble, one of the most precious Italy has to offer, and boasts a pyramidal structure with different tanks set on top of each other. At the statue’s bottom there are four bearded figures representing the rivers Nile, Tiber, Ebro, and the local brook of Camaro.

Piazza Duomo, Messina, Italy

Chiesa della Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani

This church was constructed around the second half of the 12th century on the remains of a classical-age temple dedicated to Neptune. With a structure similar to that of a basilica, it boasts three naves, three apses as well as a dome. The style cannot be reduced to one particular artistic current; Chiesa della Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani is in fact a hybrid, putting together different influences in order to create something truly unique and rather unusual.

via Giuseppe Garibaldi 111, Messina,Italy, +39 090 53874

Giardini Naxos

Located just south of Messina, Giardini Naxos is a commune situated halfway between the city and Catania. It has a strategic as well as an attractive position, considering its convenience and the beauty of the local natural scenery. It is precisely here that the Greeks founded their first colony in Sicily in the 8th century BC, giving it the name of Naxos, just like the island in the Aegean Sea. This town, nonetheless, was destroyed and restored by other civilizations until it finally acquired the state of independence in 1847.

Giardini Naxos, Messina, Italy

Gran Camposanto

Gran Camposanto is one of the largest monumental cemeteries in Europe and the oldest in Italy, with stunning architectural pieces dotted across the park and tombs of 19th-century artists and intellectuals cropping up all over. All this is immersed in a natural scenery which, as is often the case in Sicily, is truly enchanting and offers great views of the seascape and the nearby area.

via Catania 120, Messina, Italy

San Marco d’Alunzio

San Marco d’Alunzio is a commune located in the province of Messina. It counts 2,093 inhabitants and is regarded as one of the most beautiful burgs in Italy. Situated on top of Mount Castro at 540 metres above sea level, it used to be a thriving Greek colony with its own currency in the 4th century BC until it was won over by the Romans and was declared an autonomous municipality. Today, it hosts a series of events within the walls of its Norman castle, which functions as a window on the everyday folklife of the past.

San Marco d’Alunzio, Messina, Italy

Faro di Capo Peloro

Capo Peloro is the extreme northwestern end of Sicily and boasts a great lighthouse that is known amongst locals simply as “Faro” (Italian for “lighthouse”). The tower itself stands where Charybdis, a mythological sea monster, was thought to reside, while today it is a great place for tourists to enjoy a wonderful panoramic view of the seascape as well as that of the coast of Calabria across the Strait. This is also where the Ionian Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea meet, and where strong currents originate – hence the importance of the lighthouse as a reference point in navigation.

Capo Peloro, Messina,Italy

Sacrario di Cristo Re

This memorial chapel commemorates the deaths that occurred during the First World War: with the third biggest bell in Italy, tolling every evening in memory. The bell itself is made out of the bronze of enemies’ cannons and weighs a whopping 130 quintals! The chapel was erected on the remains of the castle of Matagrifone, of which a single tower has remained intact.

viale Principe Umberto 89, Messina,Italy, +39 090 3718111

Castello di Milazzo

The largest castle in Sicily, Castello di Milazzo boasts a surface of over seven hectares and is located on the northwestern end of the island. It was subjected to the influences of different civilisations which left a distinct mark on some aspects of its architecture. From 1880 to 1959 it was employed as a prisonuntil it was renovated and put to good use at the end of the 20th century, when its touristic quality was finally noted and visitors began to flock in thier droves.

Milazzo, Messina,Italy

Chiesa del Carmine

With its very peculiar architecture, Chiesa del Carmine will leave an indelible mark on any tourist visiting Messina. The style dates back to an 18th-century, pre-earthquake Messina, so a visit to this church reveals a time past in this Sicilian city. Despite this old-looking appearance, the church was actually built and consecrated in the first half of the 20th century.

Isolato 214, via Martino Antonino,Messina, Italy, +39 090 717089

By Luca Pinelli