Messina constitutes for many the first visual impact with Sicily , a fascinating city from the first views from the ferry, extending along the coast to the north of its characteristic sickle-shaped natural harbor, from which the city took its Greek name, Zancle ( "Sickle").
Lying at the foot of the Peloritani Mountains and overlooking the strait in front of the wooded hills of Calabria, Messina has its strong point in the natural beauty of its location.
Shakespeare chose it to set his Much Ado About Nothing .
The few surviving buildings, together with everything that had been painstakingly rebuilt after the earthquake, were subsequently the target of Allied bombing, so much so that Messina earned the unwelcome title the most bombed city in Italy during the Second World War. Today, the redesigned wide streets and new low-rise, reinforced buildings are adequate to cope with any future natural disasters.
The main transport hub is Piazza della Repubblica , at the southern end of the waterfront. To reach the city center from Piazza della Repubblica, take via I Settembre to Piazza del Duomo .
Piazza del Duomo
The cathedral of Messina , built in the Norman age, is one of the most beautiful churches in Sicily and if it hadn't had such an unfortunate history, it would perhaps be comparable to the cathedral of Cefalù and the Duomo of Monreale . Built in the 12th century, it was hit by the first disaster in 1254, during the funeral of Conrad IV, when a fire destroyed a large part of the ceiling. The devastating earthquakes of 1783 and 1908 and the bombings of 1943 did the rest.
But the people of Messina did not lose heart and rebuilt it in the style of the original basilica with three apses decorated with mosaics. Other precious works, such as the magnificent manta in gold chiseled by Innocenzo Mangani , to cover the image of the Madonna della Letter , now placed on the altar, are kept in the treasury. According to legend, the Virgin wrote the letter to bless the city of Messina afflicted by a long famine following the conversion to Christianity in 42 AD.
Outside, the 60 m high bell tower contains an astronomical clock, the largest in the world , built in Strasbourg and inaugurated in 1933. At the stroke of noon, a slow procession of bronze automatons begins with various historical and allegorical meanings.
Fountain of Orion
Located in front of the bell tower, in light marble, which depicts Orion , the mythical founder of Messina. The fountain was built by Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli (Michelangelo's pupil) to commemorate the construction of the Messina aqueduct, the figures that adorn the fountain represent the rivers Tiber, Nile, Ebro and Camaro.