We’ve reached the shores of Italy and the island of Sicily. The islands facing Messina are known as The Aeolian Islands – :Lipari, Panarea, Salina, Stromboli, Vulcano, Filicudi and Alicudi. These islands are a World Heritage site. Just like in the past, Messina is the main portal to Sicily and its third largest city. It has much in the way of natural beauty and wonderful architectural works. Every August on the 13th and 14th the Ride of the Giants takes place. This is when two huge statues one white and one black, called Mata and Grifone are paraded through the city to celebrate the mythical founder of Messina. The next day there is a feast which involves filling a large wagon with paper mache figures that gets driven by over a thousand people.
Of great beauty is the wonderful Duomo of Messina overlooking a square by the same name. This is the very heart of Messina and here you can see the impressive tower with its astronomical clock. It is said to be the world’ largest and was built in Strasbourg, France in 1733. At noon when it strikes the hour it sets off a procession of that includes a comical roaring lion and a crowing cockerel. You can climb to the top of the tower for a spectacular view and a close up of the clock.
Inside of the magnificent Duomo Cathedral are two important works the statue of St. John the Baptist created by Antonello Gagini and the Sacrament Chapel which was created by Jacopo del Duca who was a student of Michelangelo.
Inside the Regional Museum you can see art works on display such as “Polyptych of St. Gregory” by Antonello da Messina and the “Adoration of the Three Holy Kings” and the “Resurrection of Lazarus” both by Caravaggio. Another highlighted work of art is Madonna con bambino e santi or “Virgin with Child and Saints” by Antonello da Messina.
A most interesting and one of Messina’s great fountains is the Fontana del Nettuno or Neptune’s Fountain from the 16th century. It is located in a city park and is the art work of Montorsoli just like the Orion Fountain. It depicts the god of the sea caught between Scylla and Charybdis, the two monsters of the Strait of Messina.
Most interesting is The Ancient Theater which is one of the greatest of the Greek-Roman period. Here you can see and smell the wonderful scents of orange, olive and almond groves. Behind the stage one can see spectacular views especially at night when the moon and stars reflect upon the dark waters of the sea.
The Church of the Santissima Annuziata or Holy Annunciation was built between 1150 and 1200 on the remains of a pagan temple that honored the god Neptune. The outer part of the church shows a strong Arab influence. On the door is the coat of arms of Catalonia from the time that Catalan merchants made this their headquarters.
One of Italy’s most beautiful cemeteries is the Camposanto. Here atop of a hill is an Ionic colonnade, the Pantheon of the town’s leading citizens. From here you can have lovely views of the city and the strait.
Visitors enjoy taking a scenic trip that runs for 15 km along the coastal road just northeast of Messina. The road passes between villas and garden, two salt-water lagoons and the Pantani. It finally reaches the village of Torre di Faro which is Sicily’s north-eastern tip. You can delight in the lighthouse here and get wonderful views of the sea. From here you come to the most northerly cape in Sicily and returning to Messina you go over the Colle San Rizzo reaching up to a height of 465 m.
Take the panoramic road known as Viale Italia which begins to the west of the university and heads westward under various different names so bring a map. It runs right above the city and follows the course of the old fortifications and winds up in the north on the coast road. It goes round the Botanic Garden, the rebuilt Santuario di Montalto and the votive chapel of Cristo Re.
You must see the promontory citadel which juts out from the west of Messina into the harbor bay. You can reach it by foot crossing the railroad tracks or using boat service. On the promontory are the remains of the citadel that was built in 1681 and called the Fort of San Salvatore. It’s named after the famous Greek monastery, supported by the Normans in the 12th century but destroyed in the 16th. At the top is the “Madonnina” of 1934 and has the inscription, “Vos et ipsam civitatem benedicimus” (We bless you and your city).
So many more lovely things to see and while in Sicily the islands are wonderful for bird watching. In the hot months you can see pelicans, red herons, grey parrots, wild geese, cormorants, flamingos and quails. You can also spot such diverse species of falcon like the Mediterranean falcon and the cuckoo.
Take a trip to the Regional Park of Nebrodi which is known as the “lungs” of Sicily due to its vegetation and very high trees. In the springtime you can see many different and colorful flowers that grow on then many peaks, cliffs and valleys. There are small, blue lakes and lots of woods. You can also spot not only birds but also other kinds of animals.