The bustling city of Messina lies on the north-eastern point of Sicily, offering a great setting for your next getaway. The city is often called ‘the gateway to Sicily’, as it sits on the Strait of Messina between the island and mainland Italy. Messina has recently undergone huge developments after it was devastated by an earthquake in the early 20th century, and now stands as a picturesque, modernised city with a fantastic atmosphere. A mild Mediterranean climate makes Messina a great destination for tourists year-round.
The best way to experience Messina is to explore. The city is steeped in history, with buildings and structures that have survived for thousands of years and can be traced back to the city’s Greek, Roman, Norman and Arab occupants throughout the centuries. This is most apparent in the city centre where you can admire the grandiose Messina Cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century. The Cathedral was restored in the 20th century, but is still a magnificent display of Sicilian architecture. A trip to the top of the bell tower, which contains one of the largest astronomical clocks in the world, offers breath-taking views of the city. Messina is also conveniently located near several other tourist hotspots on the island, making it an excellent location for more adventurous holidaymakers.
The Aeolian Islands
Just off the northern coast of Sicily, seven small islands are clustered together, called the Aeolian islands. These islands have some of the best natural landscapes in Sicily; two of the islands were formed by volcanoes that are still active, while the rest have beautiful green scenery with incredible nature walks. The largest island, Lipari, has a reasonably-sized town with plenty of cafés and bars. Be sure to check out the museum in the Lipari citadel, showcasing ancient relics dating back to the Bronze age. Stromboli is the most active of the volcanic islands, and you can take trips up the volcano and witness the eruptions firsthand- or take a boat trip at night and admire the eruptions from a distance. For something a bit quieter, the islands of Salina or Alicudi are more secluded. The Aeolian islands also have plenty of beaches, perfect for a relaxing break after exploring the archipelago.
Taormina is one of Sicily’s most fashionable tourist destinations. Nested on a hillside overlooking the eastern shores of Sicily, Taormina has excellent views throughout the resort and is filled with lush greenery. The resort is at its busiest in the Summer months, but travellers looking for a cheaper holiday may prefer to visit over the Spring. A must-see in Taormina is the Teatro Greco, a Greco-Roman outdoor theatre with stunning views over the Mediterranean. The Taormina Arte festival takes place here over the summer, popular with the rich and famous. The Trevelyan Gardens are another notable sight in Taormina, a sophisticated English-style garden brimming with beautiful trees and flowers. Taormina’s restaurants and bars are classy and upscale but are well worth a visit for the world-class food and drink.
Further down the east coast from Taormina, the city of Catania sits in the shadow of Mount Etna. The town has traditionally been a base for hikers looking to scale the volcano, but in recent years has seen a rise in popularity with tourists. The town has plenty on offer, mainly based around its diverse cultural ancestry. Catania is a fantastic display of Sicilian baroque architecture, with sights such as the Palazzo Biscari. Catania also has a number of ancient theatres, including the Roman Theatre on Via Vittorio Emanuele and the Roman Amphitheatre of Piazza Stesicoro, both of which are almost two millennia old.
Scale Mount Etna
The imposing figure of Mount Etna can be seen from all over Sicily. Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe, about twice as tall as the infamous Mount Vesuvius near Pompeii. Greek mythology states that Zeus trapped the deadliest monster to ever exist, Typhon, under the volcano. For the adventurous tourist, climbing Etna is a must on a Sicilian holiday, with guided tours available on days when the volcano is not too active. Alternatively, lower altitudes up the volcano are easily accessible by public transport. Etna is easily reached from Messina by car and parking is available in the nearby town of Catania.
Admire the curiosities at the Museo Regionale
Messina’s local art collection, the Museo Regionale, houses the works of many famous artists. Antonello da Messina, a 15th century Messinian, has a selection of his most famous works in the Museo Regionale, including his famous San Gregorio Polyptych. The renowned artist Caravaggio also has two paintings in the Museo Regionale, L’Adorazione dei pastori and Risurrezione di Lazzaro, both dating back to the 17th century.
Relax on Lido Blanco beach
The province of Messina hosts a 200-kilometre stretch of coastline, so it’s no surprise that you’ll find some of Sicily’s best beaches around the city. All of the beaches in Messina offer great views of the Italian mainland. The most popular of these beaches is Lido Blanco near Ganzirri, which has sun loungers and parasols for hire throughout the day. There are a number of bars and cafés dotted along the coast near the beach serving light bites and refreshing drinks to help you escape the summer heat. You’ll also find a wakeboarding centre on the beach for more adventurous travellers.
The hallmark of Sicilian cuisine is fresh-caught fish and locally-grown produce, making for great-tasting dishes without the need for sauces and seasoning. Sicilian recipes are built around traditional Italian cuisine, but draw inspiration from the many cultures that have occupied the island in the past, incorporating elements of Greek, Spanish and French cuisine. The sweets of Sicily are among some of its most popular creations- cannoli is a tourist favourite, pastry tubes stuffed with ricotta cheese. Of course, Sicily is also famous for its great wines, and you’ll be spoilt for choice with the selection of delicious Sicilian wines from Marsala to Moscato.
Messina’s location as a port town means that seafood is a strong feature of many Messinian dishes. The swordfish caught near Messina are particularly delicious, and can be found in a number of different local recipes from casseroles to steaks. Some local favourite restaurants include I Ruggeri if you’re looking to dine in style, or Birroteca Mercury for a more affordable, homely Italian dining experience.
With easyJet holidays, you’re guaranteed a hassle-free booking experience with great deals on travel and accommodation for your holiday to Messina this year. Book both together, and you’ll save even more money.
If Messina isn’t sealing the deal, browse more Italian guides for inspiration.