Things didn’t quite go according to plan after arriving in Messina; we lost 2 days due to strong winds bouncing us around against the berth we were put on and didn’t dare leave the boat!

Madona della Lettera, entrance to the port of Messina

The marina in Messina is just outside the harbour entrance and is built entirely from floating pontoons. The outer ones are big heavy concrete affairs known as ‘wave breakers’, and although they offer some protection from wind waves they offer none from the swell caused by passing ships and in stong winds with the pontoons and ourselves moving against each other, well, it is uncomfortable, noisy and destructive; one of our shock absorber springs broke.   It was so bad we didn’t want to leave the boat unattended and were considering leaving the marina completely if the weather didn’t improve.

Celebrity Reflection

Anyway, our plight was noted and we were moved into a more sheltered berth and managed to spend Monday afternoon wandering around Messina.   This is our second time here, the last time was a few years ago as guests of Julian in Celebrity Reflection, which coincidentally arrived just after us

Messina was founded by the Greeks in the 8th century BC and has been occupied by virtually everyone since.  Following the Greeks came the Mamertines, then Romans, the Goths, the Byzantine Empire, the Arabs and then the Normans.  Richard the Lionheart seized the city briefly in 1189 over a dowery dispute on his way to the crusades.

Church of the Catalans. Apparently the original site predates the Normans.

The city grew in importance, reaching its zenith under the Spanish in the 17th century boasting the first Jesuit School, a University and a Senate. The city rebelled against the Spanish, aided by the French but following the Peace of Nijmegan in 1678 the Spanish recovered the city, sacked it and stripped it of its institutions.  Some Peace treaty!

Thereafter Messina went into a decline and suffered three devastating earthquakes in 1783, 1894 and 1908, and what was then left was bombed heavily during World War II.  It is little wonder that there isn’t much of ‘old’ Messina left!  Following the war the city was awarded a Gold Medal for Military and Civil valour.

The 12th century Cathedral was built by the Normans, then rebuilt after the 1908 quake and the war and now boasts a spectacular bell tower with an astronomical clock and a mechanically animated display of figures representing various aspects of the city’s history. This is run at noon every day and starts with the lion at the top roaring, then the cockeral beneath it crowing.  Then the figures below the cockeral begin moving around the tower accompanied by an orchestral version of Ave Maria played over loud speakers.  It is really cool and, so far, unique in my experience!

The Lion
The Cockeral and mechanical figures

The inside of the cathedral is also pretty spectacular with a fabulous carved and painted wooden ceiling.

Fountain of Orion

Outside the church is another survivor, the Fountain of Orion.  This was commissioned in 1547.     Dotted around the city are other monuments all with explanatory sign boards and in all Messina is an interesting place and pleasant enough to stroll around.  Although it is busy it doesn’t seem crowded, or particularly ‘vibrant’.

Apart from the magnificent cathedral and clock tower there isn’t a lot in town to grab you.  It had everything we needed as a base to explore Sicily and made a pleasant stop over, once we’d got a decent berth!  We’re now planning some visits further afield.

Sanctuary of Mount Camel. Built in 1930.


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