Messina is the 3rd biggest city in Sicily and is a popular cruise port.
A lot of tourists tend to hurry through this city however this is a real shame as there is a real array of things to do in the area, including the Vara Festival which sees a 15-meter statue of Madonna carried in a procession through the streets.
It’s also a good idea to have a car here as you can get out and explore the many scenic routes on offer.
For the lowdown on where to go and what to do, here are the 15 best things to do in Messina:
1.) Messina Cathedral
Constructed in 1551 this church was actually built by a renowned architect from Florence who was a protégé of Michelangelo.
The church is a popular attraction in Messina and one of the best things to do in Messina if you are interested in religious history as its the main catholic church of the city.
2.) Take a walk along the panoramic route
Starting off at the west side of the university, continue westwards where they are various walkways that take you above the city and end in the north on the coastal road.
Along the route, you will find the Botanic Garden, the rebuilt Santuario di Montalto, and the votive chapel of Sacrario di Cristo Re.
3.) Bell Tower and clock
This high bell tower measure at 60 meters and has one of the best astronomical clocks placed at the top.
The clock was put here by the Strasbourg firm of Ungerer and every day at noon there is a type of ‘show’ where the clock begins to move, showing scenes from the history of Messina.
The whole spectacle lasts for approximately 15 minutes and is one of the best things to do in Messina if you are interested in horology.
4.) Fontana di Nettuno
A real sight to behold and one of the best things to do in Messina, the Neptune Fountain was built in 1557 and is located in a park.
The fountain features the god of the sea caught between Scylla and Charybdis and is a great example of Italian architecture.
5.) Santissima Annunziata del Catalini
This church may be small; however, it is one of the finest examples of Norman architecture that can be found here and one of the few remaining buildings that remains from that period of time.
The exterior is intricately decorated with stone pillars and arches while the inside is simpler with patterned brickwork and wooden features.
Standing high above the sea, this 60-meter octagonal is topped by a statue of the Madonna della Lettera which is decorated in gold.
You can get here on foot by crossing the railroad tracks (take care) however to really get some views and pictures, you can take a boat service and admire from afar.
7.) Messina Regional Museum
One of the best things to do in Messina if you want to learn about the cities history is to take a visit to the regional museum.
Here you will find a variety of sculptures, artefacts and paintings covering three expansive areas.
Make sure you take a look in the gallery to see The Worship of the Shepherds and The Raising of Lazarus from the Dead by Caravaggio – two great pieces which are of particular importance.
8.) Galleria Vittorio Emanuele III
This gallery is similar to the one in Milan in that it has a glass roof and central promenade to walk through.
The neoclassical design and glass-domed roof make this gallery quite striking and there are an array of cafes and restaurants here where you can go and mix with the stylish locals.
Although this may not be the first place to think of to visit here, this is actually one of the most beautiful cemeteries’ in Italy.
Here you will see Neoclassical and Art Nouveau sculptures and monuments which are surrounded by gardens making this place seem more like an open-air art gallery.
10.) Piazza del Duomo
One of the best things to do in Messina if you want to enjoy the local atmosphere, this busy square is a popular meeting point in the city and is usually the first place that visitors come to from their docked cruise ships.
Here you can see an ornate fountain, sculptures and a few of the city’s attractions making a great place to start off your sightseeing.
11.) Scenic drive to Torre Faro
If you wanted to get out of the city for the day, take the car and follow the scenic route to Torre Faro.
There are plenty of beautiful gardens and villas to see along the way, however, the real beauty is in the two salt-water lagoons and the lake of Ganzirri. It’s such a great way to see some of the most scenic areas in the region.
12.) Torre Faro
One of the best things to do in Messina when you take go on a trip of the scenic route, Torre Faro is a beautiful coastal village which has a fine white sandy beach and charming shop, cafes and restaurants for you to enjoy.
Here there is also a variety of water-based activities should you want to be more adventurous.
13.) Lago di Ganzirri
To the west of Torre Faro lies this beautiful natural sight and is the perfect place if you enjoy walking.
This saltwater lake has a variety of fish in the water – some of them you may even see jumping, and as you can imagine is a popular place for fishing.
You can also stop and enjoy a drink in one of the many cafes here while taking in the scenery and enjoying the views over the lake.
14.) Chiesa del Carmine
The church that stands here today is a replacement of an earlier version that was destroyed in an earthquake in 1908.
The style of architecture is truly unique with its mix of grey/blue colours and baroque design.
Take a look inside to see an intricately painted fresco above the dome and several lavishly decorated chapels.
15.) Vara Festival
A highlight of the year for the locals here, and definitely one of the best things to do in Messina if you are here in mid-august.
The Vara festival takes place on August 15th and sees the statue of Madonna carried through the streets in a procession and has crowds of people gathered chanting and holding their hands in the air. A real must-see and a chance to take part in a local festivity.