Messina: An Easy Day Trip from Central Calabria

The other day I was sitting in the office at our bed and breakfast, going through posts and comments and brainstorming ideas for this week’s posts.

“Messina,” I thought. “I should write about Messina.”

It’s an easy day trip from Calabria and since most non Italian-Americans hear more about Sicily than Calabria, it might be interesting to my readers.

And then, a light went off.

We have one of our most loyal guests-a pharmaceutical sales rep named Maria-who is from Messina and who is staying at our B&B right now. I’ll chat with her over breakfast, run my list of Messina travel attractions by her and ask for recommendations on bars and rusticherie.

And so I did.

Located just three kilometers from the toe of the mainland through the Straits, Messina is the gateway to la Sicilia and is the first stop for travelers who reach the island via Calabria.

Its unsettling past of plague and earthquakes does little to help this port town and most travelers rush through Messina en-route to more enticing (read: popular) tourist destinations.

But they might be missing out.

Messina’s Norman Duomo was built around 1150, but was consecrated under the Swabians at the end of the century. The Catalan-Gothic portal and marble inlay inside the Cathedral were reconstructed after centuries of destruction from earthquakes and fires using original material, while the treasury contains religious artifacts, including a monstrance and host from the 1600s.

The pre-Baroque Orion Fountain, built in 1547 by Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli sits in the piazza outside the church. The highlight of the day, however, is the bell tower’s literal show and dance, where the lion roars, the rooster squawks and the processional of saints reenact a historical event-all inside the largest astronomical clock in the world. You can read details of the event here.

The 12th Century Church of Annunziata dei Catalani isn’t far from the Duomo and features architectural work from the late Norman period alongside powerful Arab designs-reflective of the many cultures that occupied this seaside city.

Messina’s municipio-or city hall-is one of the prettiest buildings in the city and the Fountain of Neptune and church of Santa Maria degli Alemanni are also worth a look.

For the best rustici in town-at least according to Maria-head to Famulari on Via Cesare Battisti or Bar Irrera on Viale Boccetta.

Perhaps one of the most enticing things about Messina, at least for those of us in Calabria, is the ease at which we can get there. It is just an easy hour and a half train ride from Lamezia and most of the city’s highlights are centered in the downtown area, making it easy to visit the sights, fill up on rustici and get back to Calabria before dusk.

Have you been to Messina? What are some of your favorite things to see or do?

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7 Responses
  1. Vanessa

    Just some of my favourites:

    Not far from the Duomo is the Galleria di Vittorio Emmanuele II (like those in Maples and Milan) which has recently been renovated and worth a quick look.

    If you are a gelato fan the best place is called ‘PERIGOLOSO’ (word play on dangerous + greedy). Serving sizes are massive and they have a huge selection. It’s so good there are now about 3 or 4 branches throughout the city, incl one opposite the municipio and one in Piazza Carioli (centre city).

    Also the museum is pretty good(at annuziata – take the tram heading north from ferry ports/ train station and it’s at the end of the line) has all teh treasures rescued from the earthquakes.

    Continue heading north along the coast from the museum and you come to the litoranea – around 7kms of sandy beaches to the tip of Sicily and the Capo Peloro nature reserve where there are 2 salt water lakes.

    Awesome. Thanks so much, V! That’s insider information, people.

  2. Susan Pollis

    I just googled trying to figure out how to get across to Messina from Calabria, and your site turned up. You mentioned it is an easy day trip, but I don’t see how to do it.

    My needs are actually a little more complicated. My husband is being dropped off a sailboat in Vibo Valentia, and needs to make it to Palermo for a flight. I’ve finally figured out the Trenitalia site, and the trip requires several changes from fast train, to ferry, to slower train, etc. What I can’t figure out, is are these transfers easy. In particular, is the train station right at the ferry terminal in Messina? It isn’t clear at all! Help!

    In addition, where is your B&B? My husband will have a night or two before his flight on Saturday, 26 Sept.


    I sent you an email about this … hope you received it.

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