Messina, nestled in the heart of Sicily, is a city that beckons with its timeless charm and rich history. From its medieval center with cobblestone streets to the stunning churches that date back to the Middle Ages, Messina offers an enchanting journey through time. But beyond its historical allure, Messina boasts a wealth of museums and cultural treasures, including the world-renowned Museo Regionale Interdisciplinary (MURI). Let's delve into the top 10 best things to see in Messina, Sicily:
1. Duomo di Messina: (Cathedral of Messina)
The Duomo di Messina stands as a testament to both Sicilian grandeur and Baroque architecture. It proudly holds the title of the largest church in Sicily and ranks among the most substantial churches in Italy. This architectural marvel was conceived by Ignazio Pellegrini and constructed between 1718 and 1787. The cathedral's dome soars to such dizzying heights that it appears almost otherworldly, casting a shadow that draws the eye from afar. The Duomo di Messina is a true masterpiece, adorned with intricate details and grandeur that will leave you awe-inspired.
2. Porta Grazia
To embark on a journey through Messina's history, begin your exploration by traversing the ancient city wall. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to several captivating sites, and your journey commences at Porta Grazia, also known as Grazia Gate. It's an ideal starting point as it offers a glimpse into Messina's medieval heritage and architecture. Inside this gate, you'll find two captivating museums. One is dedicated to local artworks and artifacts, offering a glimpse into the artistic heritage of the region. The other museum is a treasure trove of archaeology, featuring sections that span from the pre-Roman periods through the Middle Ages to the present day. The museum showcases mosaic treasures unearthed during archaeological excavations between 1968 and 1974. These mesmerizing mosaics, displayed against white walls, allow visitors to appreciate their intricate beauty without distraction. The museum also showcases a collection of locally created artwork, including pieces by Giovanni Battista Tommasi, who graced Sicilian churches with his murals before his untimely passing at the age of 60 due to complications from tuberculosis.
3. Museo Regionale
For an in-depth exploration of Sicilian art and history, the Museo Regionale is a must-visit destination in Messina. Housed within the Castello di San Michele, a fortress built by Frederick II of Sicily after his triumphant victory over the Saracens at the Battle of Tagliacozzo in 1268, this museum is a treasure trove of cultural heritage. Inside, you'll find a diverse array of exhibits, including:
- Paintings: The museum's collection spans across Sicily and includes works by renowned artists such as Rafael Zabala and Giuseppe De Nittis.
- Sculptures: Admire the craftsmanship of sculptures by Francesco De Sanctis, a testament to the talent of Sicilian artists.
- Ceramics: Explore the evolution of ceramics from different historical periods, each reflecting the region's unique artistic heritage.
- Maps: Journey through time with maps showcasing ancient settlements, offering insight into the historical geography of the region.
- Weapons: Discover the various weapons used throughout Sicily's tumultuous history, reflecting the battles and conflicts that shaped the island.
- Coins: Delve into the numismatic history of Sicily with coins dating back centuries, some of which are still in circulation today.
The Museo Regionale also offers guided family tours for those eager to delve deeper into their regional history. If you prefer to explore at your own pace, free self-guided tours are available, ensuring that you can absorb the rich cultural tapestry of Sicily at your leisure. For those who may not be fluent in Italian, an audio guide is also available, ensuring that language is no barrier to enjoying the museum's treasures.
4. Piazza del Duomo
Piazza del Duomo stands as the vibrant heart of Messina, and it's impossible to miss when exploring the city. Dominated by the magnificent Duomo di Messina, a cathedral built in 1878, this square exudes an enchanting aura. The cathedral's intricate details and awe-inspiring facade make it a sight to behold, visible from various vantage points around the city. While here, take a moment to explore other significant buildings within the square:
- Palazzo Comunale: This building, with its Egyptian-style facade inspired by ancient Egyptian architecture, houses several municipal offices dedicated to tourism and culture. Constructed between 1750 and 1800, it has been lovingly restored over the years to preserve its unique beauty.
- Torre dell Orologio (Clock Tower): Erected between 1473 and 1481 by order of King Ferdinand I, this clock tower stands as a testament to medieval Sicilian architecture. Remarkably, it has remained virtually unchanged through time, offering a glimpse into the city's history as other structures underwent extensive renovations due to earthquakes.
5. The Astronomical Clock
The Astronomical Clock is not just a timekeeping device but an enduring symbol of Messina. Crafted in 1588 by the ingenious architect and engineer Giambattista Della Porta, this clock goes beyond telling time. Its purpose is to display the positions of the sun, moon, and stars at various times throughout the day, offering both a practical function and an artistic marvel. The clock is strategically oriented eastward, toward Piazza Matteotti. This positioning allows residents and visitors to easily glimpse the clock's intricate workings as they enjoy outdoor meals on warm summer evenings. The Astronomical Clock serves as a living testament to Messina's dedication to preserving its rich history and culture.
6. University of Messina
The University of Messina, located on the outskirts of the city, plays a vital role in the region's educational landscape. It is a public university offering a diverse range of undergraduate programs, spanning from medicine to law. Additionally, students can pursue graduate studies in various fields or opt for master's degrees offered by other institutions across Italy. The university boasts several campuses, including one in the city center, another at Salinas di Piazza Grande (a favored spot among students), and yet another on Via D'Amico, which provides residential housing for faculty members.
Admission requirements vary depending on the chosen degree program, with most students required to take an entrance exam before being accepted into their desired program. Beyond coursework related to their primary fields, the University of Messina offers a range of general education classes, including English language proficiency tests. Prospective students are encouraged to explore the university's website for comprehensive information on programs and admission requirements.
7. Castello di Calatabiano
Nestled on the northern coast of Sicily, Castello di Calatabiano is a medieval fortress with a storied past. Originally constructed by the Normans in the 11th century, it was later rebuilt by the Aragonese. Today, this imposing structure has earned UNESCO World Heritage status, thanks to its pristine white walls and towering turrets that rise dramatically from the waters along Messina's coast. A visit to this beautiful castle is not only a journey through time but also an opportunity to soak in panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes.
8. Sanctuary of Montalto
Located south of Messina, the Sanctuary of Montalto holds a special place in the hearts of the faithful. Commissioned by Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, in 1237, this religious building became an official imperial church in 1528. The sanctuary has remained continuously inhabited, adorned with exquisite frescoes that depict scenes from the life of Saint Theodore Stratelates. Inside, visitors will find two altars dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul, showcasing the artistry of Francesco di Giorgio Martini, who also designed another nearby church known as Santissima Annunziata Delle Arbite or “Sant'Anastasia.” These sacred spaces offer a glimpse into the deep-rooted religious heritage of the region.
9. Faro Punta Pezzo
Gracing the northern coast of Sicily, Faro Punta Pezzo stands as a vital lighthouse, guiding ships safely along the rugged shores since its construction in 1837. This enduring structure remains one of the most essential lighthouses in Sicily, a testament to the maritime history that has shaped the island's identity.
10. Museo Regionale Interdisciplinare
Opened in 2005, the Museo Regionale Interdisciplinare is a relatively modern addition to Messina's cultural landscape. Housed within the Palazzo Della Cultura, this museum boasts an extensive collection of Sicilian art. It welcomes visitors eager to explore the diverse artistic expressions that have flourished on the island. While planning your visit, please note that the museum is closed on Mondays and public holidays.
Messina is a delightful Sicilian city, inviting travelers to immerse themselves in its history, culture, and natural beauty. With an array of captivating sights and experiences, this city can easily enchant visitors, compelling them to spend their entire vacation here. As you explore Messina's treasures, remember that there's always more to discover, from pristine beaches to hidden gems waiting to be uncovered. Whether you're seeking history, art, or simply a charming getaway, Messina offers it all. Don't let this Sicilian gem slip off your travel radar – embark on an unforgettable journey through Messina's enchanting streets and storied past!
1. What is the Duomo di Messina known for? The Duomo di Messina is renowned for being the largest church in Sicily and a masterpiece of Sicilian Baroque architecture. Its soaring dome and intricate details make it a must-visit attraction.
2. Why is Porta Grazia significant in Messina? Porta Grazia, or Grazia Gate, marks the entrance to the old city of Messina and provides insight into the city's medieval history and architectural heritage. Inside, it houses museums showcasing local artworks, artifacts, and archaeological treasures.
3. What can visitors expect to see at Museo Regionale in Messina? Visitors to Museo Regionale can expect to see a diverse collection of Sicilian art, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, maps, weapons, and coins spanning centuries. The museum also offers guided tours and self-guided options.
4. What is the main attraction of Piazza del Duomo in Messina? Piazza del Duomo is anchored by the impressive Duomo di Messina, a beautiful cathedral constructed in 1878. The square also features Palazzo Comunale and the Torre dell Orologio, both notable architectural landmarks.
5. What makes the Astronomical Clock in Messina unique? The Astronomical Clock in Messina is unique for its dual role as both a timekeeping device and an astronomical marvel. Crafted in 1588, it displays the positions of the sun, moon, and stars throughout the day, offering a blend of functionality and artistry.