Discover Messina like a local. Here are 7 Sicilian-inspired suggestions to better dive into the city's spirit.
Messina has the smarmy air of the city by the sea historically open to hospitality and a romantic and melancholic Belle Èpoque air bequeathed by the post-seismic reconstruction (the devastating earthquake of 1908 razed millennia of history to the ground).
While tourists usually aspire to other, more storied Sicilian destinations, it's indeed a prized, special spot with a lively atmosphere and a cuisine that makes it an icon to celebrate on the altar of taste. Find out what to do in Messina like a local with these 7 tips.
What to do in Messina like a local
In Messina, there is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the whole of Sicily, an astronomical clock that is a masterpiece of art and complexity, an eclectic and eccentric urban architecture, a little-known but unmissable regional museum (here you can book your entry now), and 'u piscistoccu, the stockfish, is preferred to the more common baccalà (salt cod). And then what? Then, there is much more to discover in a city to revalue for its artistic and cultural cachet.
We want to suggest some activities for approaching Messina like a local. From what (and how) to order at the bar to the city's best-loved folk festival: here are some tips to give your next trip an extra sprinkling of Sicilianity.
7. In Messina like a local: ordering a 'mezza con panna'
In Messina like a local, your breakfast at the bar is with a granita. Pay attention: you must order a 'mezza ca' panna'. Around the Strait area, the iconic Sicilian drink is traditionally made with coffee and served in a classic water glass.
The perfect match is with a cloud of cream on top to skilfully mix with another Sicilian pastry staple, the canonical brioche “col tuppo”. Even better if served warm.
Generally sweeter and denser than the Catania variant, the Messina granita has a consistency that makes one cry out for a miracle: never icy, yet never liquid—a creamy pleasure.
6. Discovering popular devotion
Visit Messina like a local by discovering the many forms of its sacred art. In such an ancient city, the link with religiosity is a red thread that runs through the centuries as a witness to local culture.
The votive aedicules scattered along Messina are fine and pop examples of the phenomenon. They creep between the old working-class neighbourhoods and the stately palaces of the historic centre, creating an ideal urban route.
Despite the natural disasters that have certainly not spared the city, there are still 456 in town: 64 are dedicated to the 'Sacro Cuore', 52 to 'Sant'Antonio da Padova', 46 to the 'Madonna del Tindari', 36 to the 'Madonna di Lourdes' and 16 to the 'Madonna della Lettera'. They accompany Messina citizens and tourists in their wanderings like silent sentinels.
5. Photographing Messina's murals
Messina and the sea: an indivisible binomial expressed in the streets through the language of art. Indeed, the relationship between the city and its element par excellence is the central theme in the "regeneration" interventions that have given lustre to urban details that would otherwise be of no interest.
'Distrart', the ambitious project that has led to the creation of an authentic urban art district, has given a new face to several neglected areas, especially the one overlooking the port.
Start with a ride on the tram to get an idea of how street art is creeping into Messina: the 53 shelters arranged along the line display works related to local culture and topical issues. They all bear the signatures of important names on the international art scene. They all bring beauty to places that had long forgotten it.
4. Taking a trip to Taormina
Obsessed with The White Lotus? After visiting Messina like a local, you can set off for Taormina. The trip takes less than an hour, and with the same-day return shuttle service, the transfer to the destination par excellence of Sicilian tourism is comfortable and convenient.
A visit, however brief, can only begin at the Greek Theatre, the symbol of Taormina, and continue to the Odeon, the only example on the island of a covered Roman theatre.
Take advantage of a stroll along Corso Umberto I (the king of Taormina shopping links Porta Messina to Porta Catania) to buy the famous local ceramics. And delve into the narrow streets of the old town centre in search of tiny flashes of beauty: it will be easy to find them. For example, by simply looking up—the palaces' balconies, adorned with plants and Moorish heads, are enchanting.Get now your ticket for the roundtrip shuttle transfer from Messina to Taormina❯
3. Swimming under the Eiffel Tower
The beach of Capo Peloro is among the most frequented by the Messinesi. The experience to put on the checklist of things to do in Messina like a local? A dip in the water of the Strait in the shadow of a curious construction.
Il Pilone di Torre Faro, an old and disused transmission tower dating back to the 1950s, is now an integral part of the Messina skyline, an absolute tourist attraction beloved even by residents. Over the years, the pylon has acquired a somewhat romantic allure.
In short, a sort of Sicilian Eiffel Tower that leads a touch of charm to the sandy beach lining the shoreline. No Grand Palais, Louvre or Notre Dame at its feet, but the seas of Messina, the Tyrrhenian and Ionian, the lakes of Ganzirri and the seaside village of Torre Faro.
2. Visiting Ganzirri
Ganzirri is a delightful seaside village, a small hamlet about 13 kilometres from the centre of Messina located on the northeastern tip of Sicily. A timeless place marked by narrow streets and small dwellings, the ancient traditions linked to the old sea trades still survive here.
Cycling along the northern shore is an excellent way to reach Ganzirri and the Nature Reserve surrounding the town. You'll be able to admire Lake Grande, connected to the Ionian Sea, and Lake Piccolo, joined to the Tyrrhenian Sea; wander around the Capo Peloro nature reserve; discover the lagoon and the village of Torre Faro and glimpse the monumental Pilone in the distance.
1. Attending the Procession of the Assumption
Are you planning to travel to Sicily next summer? Spend part of your journey in Messina like a local and attend the famous procession of La Vera.
The entire city is in turmoil for the festivities dedicated to the Madonna Assunta, an unmissable appointment for the Messinesi and a symbol of the city's religious and festive spirit. The event dates back to at least the 16th century and retains an exceptional appeal for its inhabitants, who persist in flocking to participate in the festivities. And to make 15 August a memorable occasion for anyone in town.
Every year on this date, hundreds of people drag a votive cart about 15 metres high in procession. The various characters that populate the massive float symbolising the Assumption of the Virgin are now papier-mâché statues, but that was not always the case. Until 1866, the imposing and scenic composition consisted of flesh and blood people secured to the structure with a rope.