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Messina Bucket List: Top 20 Things to See and Do

Messina, a charming port city on the northeastern tip of Sicily, is a treasure trove of history, culture, and natural beauty. Often overlooked in favor of more famous Italian destinations, Messina offers a unique blend of attractions that cater to all kinds of travelers. From the ancient ruins and architectural marvels to the breathtaking landscapes and culinary delights, there's something for everyone in this Sicilian gem. Whether you're a history buff, a nature lover, or a foodie, Messina has you covered. So, without further ado, let's dive into the top things to do in Messina, Italy.

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01 Walk in the footsteps of The Godfather in Savoca and Forza d'Agro

Alleys of Savoca, Sicily IvanSpasic / Getty Images

If you're a fan of "The Godfather" film series, you'll be thrilled to know that you can visit the charming villages of Savoca and Forza d'Agro, which served as the backdrop for the Sicilian scenes. These picturesque villages are located about an hour's drive from Messina and offer more than just a nostalgic movie experience. Explore the cobblestone streets and be transported back in time as you marvel at medieval castles and churches. And even if you're not a movie buff, the panoramic views of the hills and the Tyrrhenian Sea are absolutely worth the trip.

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02 Hike up Mount Etna

Italy, Sicily, Taormina with Mount Etna at sunset Westend61 / Getty Images

Mount Etna, a UNESCO World Heritage site and an active volcano, dominates the landscape of eastern Sicily. Embarking on a hike up Mount Etna is a truly unique experience. You'll encounter a dramatic change in terrain as you ascend, from lush forests to barren landscapes. The ancient Greeks believed that this was the dwelling place of Vulcan, the god of fire. And when you witness the smoldering craters and occasional eruptions, you'll understand why.

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03 Visit the Cathedral of Messina

Cathedral and fountain of Messina, Sicily, Italy. NAPA74 / Getty Images

The Cathedral of Messina, also known as Duomo di Messina, showcases a magnificent combination of Norman and Gothic architecture. Despite enduring fires, earthquakes, and bombings, it stands tall as a testament to the resilience of the city and its people. Inside, you'll be captivated by stunning mosaics, intricate carvings, and an indescribable sense of tranquility. The cathedral is also home to the world's largest astronomical clock, which puts on a mesmerizing show every day at noon. This is a spectacle you definitely don't want to miss!

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04 Explore the Regional Museum

The Regional Museum of Messina houses an impressive collection of artwork, including masterpieces by renowned artists such as Caravaggio and Antonello da Messina. But it's not just about art; the museum offers fascinating insights into the history and culture of Sicily, spanning from ancient times to the modern era.

05 Take a day trip to Taormina

Views of Taormina nata_rass / Getty Images

Just an hour away from Messina, Taormina is a popular resort town known for its stunning beaches and ancient ruins. The highlight of Taormina is the ancient Greek Theater, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the sea and Mount Etna. The town itself is a labyrinth of narrow streets filled with shops, cafes, and restaurants.

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06 Marvel at the Astronomical Clock

Eternal calendar in Messina AlexanderNikiforov / Getty Images

The Astronomical Clock, located in the bell tower of the Cathedral of Messina, is an engineering and artistic marvel. Built in 1933, it is the largest astronomical clock in the world. At noon each day, a crowd gathers to witness the clock's elaborate show featuring moving statues of lions, roosters, and biblical figures. It's both an entertaining and educational spectacle that tells the story of Messina's history and culture.

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07 Visit the Sanctuary of Montalto

View of Messina on Sicily island, Italy. Church or Sanctuary of Madonna di Montalto in Messina. Basilica on Caperrina hill Julia Lavrinenko / Getty Images

Perched on a hill overlooking Messina, the Sanctuary of Montalto offers breathtaking views of the city and the sea. The sanctuary is a beautiful example of Baroque architecture, adorned with intricate frescoes and marble altars. It holds a spiritual significance for the locals, but even if you're not religious, the serene atmosphere and stunning vistas make it well worth a visit.

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08 Stroll through the Ganzirri Lakes

Italy, Sicily,Messina , sunset on Ganzirri village Clara Leonardi / Getty Images

The Ganzirri Lakes provide a natural haven for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. These two brackish lagoons are home to various bird species and marine life. The area is also renowned for its seafood restaurants, where you can savor fresh catches of the day while enjoying the tranquil scenery.

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09 Discover the Theater Vittorio Emanuele II

The Theater Vittorio Emanuele II, named after Italy's first king, is a cultural landmark in Messina. Constructed in the 19th century, the theater hosts a diverse range of performances, from opera and ballet to modern concerts. Its interior is a work of art featuring plush red velvet seats, golden balconies, and a stunning chandelier. Even if you can't attend a performance, the theater offers guided tours to experience its grandeur.

10 Capture moments at the Fontana di Orione

Situated in the heart of Messina, the Fontana di Orione is a magnificent fountain dating back to the 16th century. Designed by Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli, a student of Michelangelo, this Renaissance masterpiece showcases intricate sculptures of mythical creatures, allegorical figures, and Neptune. It provides a perfect backdrop for your travel photos.

11 Savor Sicilian wine

Cheers at dusk lucagavagna / Getty Images

Sicily is renowned for its excellent wines, ranging from robust reds to crisp whites. Messina is home to several vineyards that offer tours and tastings, allowing you to learn about the winemaking process while indulging in some of the finest vintages.

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12 Delight in Sicilian cuisine

Italian lunch VanSky / Getty Images

Messina's culinary scene is a dream come true for food lovers, offering a gastronomic experience deeply rooted in Sicilian traditions. From classic dishes like pasta alla Norma to the world-famous cannoli, the city's coastal location ensures an abundance of fresh seafood. Don't miss out on tasting arancini, a popular street food consisting of deep-fried rice balls filled with meat, cheese, and vegetables. No matter your palate, Messina's culinary offerings are sure to impress.

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13 Visit the Church of the Annunziata dei Catalani

The Church of the Annunziata dei Catalani is a hidden gem in the heart of Messina, offering a peaceful retreat amidst the city's hustle and bustle. As a rare example of Norman architecture in Sicily, it reflects a unique blend of Byzantine and Arab influences. The intricate details of its facade and interior speak volumes about the craftsmanship of the artisans. Besides serving as a place of worship, it also serves as a living museum, providing insights into the rich history and diverse cultural influences that shaped Sicily.

14 Explore the Faro di Messina

Lighthouse mmac72 / Getty Images

The Faro di Messina, or Lighthouse of Messina, serves as a navigational aid and a symbol of the city's maritime heritage. Situated at the northeastern tip of Sicily, the lighthouse has guided sailors through the Strait of Messina for over a century. The surrounding area offers panoramic views of the strait, the city, and the hills, making it a popular spot for photography and sightseeing. There's also a small museum nearby that provides information about the lighthouse's history and its role in the city's development. Whether you're interested in maritime history or simply seeking a scenic spot to relax, the Faro di Messina is a must-visit.

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15 Take a leisurely stroll along the scenic promenade

Balcony with cactus plants and the beautiful beach in the background Wirestock / Getty Images

Messina's promenade is a little slice of paradise for those seeking respite from the city's hustle and bustle. Stretching along the coastline, it offers stunning views of the Tyrrhenian Sea, framed by palm trees and colorful flower beds. It's the perfect place for a leisurely walk, especially during sunrise and sunset when the sky transforms into a canvas of vibrant colors. Along the promenade, you'll find a variety of cafes and gelaterias where you can take a break and savor some local treats. The promenade is also a popular spot for joggers, cyclists, and families, making it a lively and vibrant place throughout the day.

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16 Explore the village of Torre Faro

The charming village of Torre Faro offers a serene getaway from the bustling streets of Messina. Known for its sandy beaches and delightful local eateries, Torre Faro is an ideal destination for a day trip. The village gets its name from the iconic lighthouse that can be climbed for panoramic views that extend far and wide. Additionally, Torre Faro hosts annual festivals celebrating local cuisine and traditional Sicilian music and dance, making it even more enticing to visit.

17 Embark on a boat tour

Red boat,Sicily mmac72 / Getty Images

Thanks to Messina's coastal location, you can embark on boat tours that provide a unique perspective of the city and its surrounding landscapes. Whether you're interested in fishing, snorkeling, or simply enjoying the sea breeze, there's a boat tour to suit your interests. Local operators offer various options, from half-day excursions to nearby islands to enchanting sunset cruises along the Strait of Messina. These tours are accompanied by knowledgeable guides who can share insights about the local marine life, history, and folklore. It's a fantastic way to experience the natural beauty of Messina while learning about its cultural significance.

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18 Visit the Messina Market

The bustling Messina Market is a window into local life. Located in the heart of the city, this vibrant marketplace showcases a diverse array of goods, from fresh produce and seafood to handmade crafts and souvenirs. As you meander through the maze of stalls, the enticing aromas of freshly baked bread, ripe fruits, and sizzling street food will captivate your senses. The market is a great place to engage with locals and get a feel for the daily life of the community. Whether you're looking to purchase unique Sicilian spices or simply want to immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere, the Messina Market is a must-visit.

19 Attend a local festival

Messina is a city that loves to celebrate, and it hosts a variety of festivals throughout the year. From religious events like the Feast of the Assumption to seasonal harvest festivals like the Grape Festival, each celebration offers a unique experience filled with parades, live music, traditional dances, and, of course, an abundance of delicious Sicilian food. These festivals are not just mere festivities; they are deeply rooted in the community's rich history and traditions, making them a meaningful experience for both locals and visitors. Attending a local festival allows you to fully immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Messina and create lifelong memories.

20 Relax on the beaches of Messina

Beach in summer evening, Taormina, Sicily, Italy imantsu / Getty Images

Last but certainly not least, don't forget to spend some time on Messina's beautiful beaches. The city boasts a variety of beaches that cater to all types of travelers. Whether you're into water sports like windsurfing and paddleboarding or simply seeking relaxation under the sun, you'll find a beach that suits your preferences. These beaches are also family-friendly, featuring calm waters and amenities like sunbeds, umbrellas, and beachside cafes. As the sun sets, the beaches come alive with locals and tourists alike, all gathering to enjoy the stunning views and, perhaps, a beachside cocktail or two.

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