Madonna of the Letter statute in Messina harbour, Sicily

Messina Cruise Port: Guide to Your DIY Sicilian Adventure

Messina’s cruise port opens up a world of Sicilian delights, and you don’t need a costly tour to savor them. This vibrant port city offers a wealth of attractions within a stone’s throw of your ship. Step ashore and create your own perfect itinerary โ€“ explore historic streets, bask on sun-drenched beaches, and savor authentic Sicilian cuisine. Let’s dive into how to make the most of your Messina shore excursion on your own terms!

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Messina (Sicily) Cruise Port: Is a DIY Excursion Easy? ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž (Easy Peasy)

Messina is a charming, compact city, making it a breeze to explore on your own! While it doesn’t boast the same volume of attractions as some larger ports, its walkable city centre, nearby beach, and delicious Sicilian cuisine offer plenty to create a delightful day. I rated it ๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ˜Ž:

  • Right at Your Doorstep: The vibrant Piazza del Duomo is a mere 5-minute stroll from the cruise port, placing you directly in the heart of Messina’s town centre.
  • Beach Day Friendly: The Cathedral, museum, and the piazza will keep you engaged for an hour or two but there’s a nice beach a quick tram ride away!
  • True Sicilian Experience: Messina shines in its authentic Sicilian atmosphere. Sample fresh seafood, indulge in sweet cannoli, try different arancini flavours during my DIY Food Tour suggestions!

And if you don’t think there’s enough in Messina to keep you occupied for your port day, head to Taormina, Sicily’s most glamorous resort town for a day trip.

Messina (Sicily) Cruise Port Essentials: All You Need to Know

  • Messina (Sicily) Cruise Port Address: 98122 Messina, Metropolitan City of Messina, Italy
  • Currency: Euros
  • Language: Italian
  • Official websites: ATM Messina has bus & tram route information (Italian only), so stick to Google Maps.
  • Recommended Transport App: Use Google Maps to navigate around Messina.
  • eSIM for roaming in Italy: For a great data connection without the huge roaming fees, use an eSim data pack from Airalo. I always recommend having a smartphone with a valid plan when youโ€™re at port touring independently. Get US$3 off your first eSIM data pack from Airalo when you use ROXANN1666 when you sign up or apply it at checkout
  • My Messina Cruise Port Map: ๐Ÿ‘‡ Click on the upper right hand corner to see a bigger version. If the map is not loading, click here to see it directly at Google Maps

Messina’s Must-See Attractions

Messina’s compact city centre makes it ideal for exploring on foot. Here are the top spots easily reached from your cruise ship:

1. Duomo di Messina (Cathedral)

Astronomical clock tower of Messina Cathedral in Messina, Sicily
Photo by Davide Nunziata

Originally built in the Norman era (12th century), the Duomo has faced earthquakes, fires and wartime bombings over the centuries. Its current grand Romanesque-Gothic facade reflects centuries of re-building and restoration.

Step inside to admire dazzling Byzantine-style mosaics and ornate side chapels. Adjacent to the cathedral rises the magnificent Bell Tower. Though heavily damaged in the devastating 1908 earthquake and later reconstructed, it sill houses one of the world’s largest and most complex astronomical clocks.

Don’t miss! Created by a Strasbourg firm in 1933, this intricate astronomical clock puts on a show every day at noon and lasts 12 minutes. Bronze figures animate, depicting scenes from Messina’s civil and religious history, while a golden lion representing the city roars and a rooster crows! ๐Ÿ˜

  • How to Get There: A mere 5 minutes walk from the cruise port!
  • Opening Hours: 7:30am to 12:30pm, then 4pm – 7:30pm daily. Free entry to cathedral. Audio guide available for โ‚ฌ4.
  • Bell (Clock) Tower & Treasury: It’s possible to see the Clock Tower from the inside. The engineers amongst us will love the ingenious system of levers and gears that generate the movement of the clock. Open daily from 10am to 1pm, then 3:30pm to 5:30pm during summer. โ‚ฌ5 adults, โ‚ฌ2.50 for kids. Combined Tower & Treasury tickets are โ‚ฌ7.50 for adults and โ‚ฌ4 for kids.

2. Piazza del Duomo

Orion Fountain at Piazza del Duomo, Messina Sicily
Image by user32212 from Pixabay

At first glance, the Piazza outside the Cathedral may not seem much. But look out for the majestic Orion Fountain, sculpted in 1553 by a student of Michelangelo. This intricate marble masterpiece depicts the mythological founder of Messina.

Both the 1908 earthquake and heavy bombing raids during WWII sadly destroyed many of the historic buildings surrounding the piazza. The piazza was initially much closer to the seafront but land reclamation over centuries have pushed the shoreline further out. Watch the world go by here with an espresso or indulge in a sweet treat – an essential part of the Sicilian experience!

3. Regional Museum of Messina (MuMe)

For a deep dive into Sicilian art and history, step into the Regional Museum of Messina (MuMe). Located in a former 16th-century hospital, this impressive museum houses a vast collection showcasing the island’s artistic richness from the 12th to the 18th centuries.

The star attractions are undoubtedly the masterpieces by Caravaggio, the revolutionary Baroque painter. His “Adoration of the Shepherds” and “Resurrection of Lazarus” captivate with their dramatic lighting and emotional realism. Another highlight is the museum’s collection of works by Antonello da Messina, a 15th-century pioneer of Sicilian Renaissance painting.

Beyond these famous names, the MuMe offers a journey through Sicilian artistic styles. Explore Byzantine-influenced icons, intricate sculptures, and decorative arts that tell the story of the island’s diverse cultural influences.

  • How to Get There:
    • Tram to Museo (last stop): Catch Tram #28 (only tram route) at Municipio stop opposite the cruise terminal. Get off at either the second last stop “Ringo” or the last stop “Museo”. MuMe is in between these two stops. Trams typically run every 15 minutes.
    • Bus/Tram tickets: There are two tobacco stands opposite the road from the cruise terminal to get bus/tram tickets before you board. I’ve marked these on my map above.
  • Opening Hours: Closed Mondays. 9:30am – 7pm Tuesday – Saturday, 9:30am – 1:30pm Sunday.
  • Tickets: โ‚ฌ9 for adults, free for kids under 18 and โ‚ฌ4.50 for EU students <25.

4. Ringo Beach (Spaiggia del Ringo)

Fancy a beach break instead? Then, head to Ringo Beach! It’s a small city beach but all the usual facilities are there, including showers. Don’t forget your towel from the ship!

How to Get There: Follow instructions above for MuMe and get off at “Ringo” stop on Tram #28. Otherwise, it’s a 30 minute walk from the cruise port.

Savour Authentic Sicilian Flavours

Sicilian arancini balls with salad
Photo by Peter Benedetti

Messina may not be far from the mainland but the food is definitely Sicilian! Here’s a taste of what to try – all locations are marked on my Messina cruise port map above ๐Ÿ‘†:

  • Arancini: These iconic golden rice balls come with a variety of fillings โ€“ ragu, mozzarella, spinach… the choices are endless! Try them at Rosticceria Famulari. There’s all the usual flavours plus a few unusual ones! There’s even one filled with Nutella!
  • Pasta alla Norma: A classic Sicilian dish featuring eggplant, tomatoes, ricotta cheese, and fresh basil. A wonderful vegetarian delight. (Try an Arancini all Norma at Rosticceria Famulari. Best of both worlds!)
  • Pesce Spada alla Ghiotta: Swordfish prepared with a rich sauce of tomatoes, olives, capers, and pine nuts. Messina is famed for its swordfish!
  • Cannoli: No trip to Sicily is complete without indulging in these crispy pastries filled with sweet ricotta cream. Try it at Pasticceria Irrera 1910 (sit down) or Pasticceria Del Duomo (takeaway).
  • Granita: This semi-frozen dessert, typically made with fruit or coffee, is the perfect refreshment on a warm day. Pair it with a brioche for a true local experience. Available in all the Pasitccerias on my list.

Beyond Messina: A Day Trip to Enchanting Taormina

Greek Theatre Taormina, Sicily
Image by user32212 from Pixabay

For a taste of Sicily’s most glamorous resort town, embark on an easy day trip to Taormina. Perched high on a cliff overlooking the Ionian Sea, Taormina offers stunning views, ancient ruins, and a charming atmosphere. Getting there is simple โ€“ a direct train from Messina takes about an hour, offering scenic coastal views along the way.

  • How to Get There: Messina Centrale station is a 15-minute walk from Messina cruise port.
  • Train Timetables: Trains between Messina <> Taormina typically runs hourly. Check timetables at Trenitalia’s English website.
  • Journey Time: Most regional train takes around 45 minutes. Then add another 15 minutes for bus to town centre (see below).
  • Tickets: Buy at ticket machines. One way tickets are โ‚ฌ5.50. Combined bus/rail ticket is โ‚ฌ6.60.

Insider Tip: Search for “Taormina – Centro” station instead of “Taormina-Giardini” station. Taormina-Giardini station is the main rail station but it’s a 10-minute drive from Taormina’s centre. Purchasing a ticket to “Taormina-Centro” includes a 10-minute bus ride for โ‚ฌ1.10 extra, making the trip to Taormina town centre a breeze. (“Taormina – Centro” is, in fact, a bus stop.) Just board the bus outside the station.

Top Sights in Taormina

Taormina Main Street, Sicily
Image by user32212 from Pixabay

Here’s my Taormina DIY Excursion Map ๐Ÿ‘‡. Click on upper hand corner to see a bigger version. If map is not loading, then click here to see it directly on Google Maps.

  • Ancient Greek Theater: This breathtaking theater, carved into the hillside, boasts panoramic vistas of the sea and Mount Etna. Imagine the gladiatorial contests and dramas that once took place here!
  • Corso Umberto I: Taormina’s main street is a delight to stroll. It’s lined with chic shops, cafes, and beautiful palazzi.
  • Piazza IX Aprile: This picturesque square offers sweeping views of the coastline and Etna โ€“ a perfect spot for a photo!
  • Isola Bella โ›ฑ๏ธ : This tiny, picturesque island just off the coast is connected to the mainland by a sandbar. Spend some time relaxing on the beach or exploring its nature reserve. There’s lovely beaches all around the cove. At low tide, you can walk across to the island.
  • Taormina Cable Car: For an alternative beach, head to Mazzarรฒ. Catch the cable car from Taormina town centre directly to the beach – no need to hike down! Return cable car tickets are โ‚ฌ10. Operates every 15 minutes.

Featured Image by user32212 from Pixabay

Thank you for reading! My hope is that this guide has inspired you to embrace the freedom of exploring Messina independently. Wishing you a fantastic port day at Messina, And, if you enjoyed this resource, please share it with your travel companions. Buon viaggio! (Have a good trip!)

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