Missina  (Sicilian), Messène  (Greek)
Metropolitan City of Messina
Collage Messina.jpg
Flag of Messina
Coat of arms of Messina
Position of the commune in the Metropolitan City
Position of the commune in the Metropolitan City
Location of Messina
Messina is located in Italy
Location of Messina in Italy
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Messina is located in Sicily
Messina (Sicily)
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Coordinates: 38°11′37″N 15°33′15″E / 38.19361°N 15.55417°E / 38.19361; 15.55417Coordinates: 38°11′37″N 15°33′15″E / 38.19361°N 15.55417°E / 38.19361; 15.55417
Country Italy
Region Sicily
Metropolitan city Messina (ME)
 • Mayor Cateno De Luca
 • Total 213.23 km2 (82.33 sq mi)
3 m (10 ft)
 (31 March 2019)[3]
 • Total 231,708
 • Density 1,100/km2 (2,800/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Messinese
Time zone UTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+2 (CEST)
Postal code
Dialing code 090
ISTAT code 083048
Patron saint Madonna of the Letter
Saint day June 3
Website Official website

Messina (/mɛˈsnə/, also US: /mɪˈ-/,[4][5][6] Italian: [mesˈsiːna] (About this soundlisten); Sicilian: Missina [mɪsˈsiːna]; Latin: Messana; Ancient Greek: Μεσσήνη, romanizedMessḗnē) is the capital of the Italian Metropolitan City of Messina. It is the third largest city on the island of Sicily, and the 13th largest city in Italy, with a population of more than 231,000[7] inhabitants in the city proper and about 650,000 in the Metropolitan City. It is located near the northeast corner of Sicily, at the Strait of Messina and it is an important access terminal to Calabria region, Villa San Giovanni, Reggio Calabria on the mainland. According to Eurostat[8] the FUA of the metropolitan area of Messina has, in 2014, 277,584 inhabitants.

The city's main resources are its seaports (commercial and military shipyards), cruise tourism, commerce, and agriculture (wine production and cultivating lemons, oranges, mandarin oranges, and olives). The city has been a Roman Catholic Archdiocese and Archimandrite seat since 1548 and is home to a locally important international fair. The city has the University of Messina, founded in 1548 by Ignatius of Loyola.


13th century coins minted during the reign of Frederick II.
17th century map of Messina
An image of the 1908 Messina earthquake aftermath. Ruins of the Duomo

Founded by Greek colonists in the 8th century BC, Messina was originally called Zancle (Greek: Ζάγκλη), from the Greek ζάγκλον meaning "scythe" because of the shape of its natural harbour (though a legend attributes the name to King Zanclus). A comune of its Metropolitan City, located at the southern entrance of the Strait of Messina, is to this day called 'Scaletta Zanclea'. Solinus write that the city of Metauros was established by people from the Zancle.[9]

In the early 5th century BC, Anaxilas of Rhegium renamed it Messene (Μεσσήνη) in honour of the Greek city Messene (See also List of traditional Greek place names). Later, Micythus was the ruler of Rhegium and Zancle, and he also founded the city of Pyxus.[10] The city was sacked in 397 BC by the Carthaginians and then reconquered by Dionysius I of Syracuse.

a tract of around 30 kilometres of beaches of Messina
the Feluca, a typical boat used by the fishermen of Messina to hunt swordfish

In 288 BC the Mamertines seized the city by treachery, killing all the men and taking the women as their wives. The city became a base from which they ravaged the countryside, leading to a conflict with the expanding regional empire of Syracuse. Hiero II, tyrant of Syracuse, defeated the Mamertines near Mylae on the Longanus River and besieged Messina. Carthage assisted the Mamertines because of a long-standing conflict with Syracuse over dominance in Sicily. When Hiero attacked a second time in 264 BC, the Mamertines petitioned the Roman Republic for an alliance, hoping for more reliable protection. Although initially reluctant to assist lest it encourage other mercenary groups to mutiny, Rome was unwilling to see Carthaginian power spread further over Sicily and encroach on Italy. Rome therefore entered into an alliance with the Mamertines. In 264 BC, Roman troops were deployed to Sicily, the first time a Roman army acted outside the Italian Peninsula. At the end of the First Punic War it was a free city allied with Rome. In Roman times Messina, then known as Messana, had an important pharos (lighthouse). Messana was the base of Sextus Pompeius, during his war against Octavian.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the city was successively ruled by Goths from 476, then by the Byzantine Empire in 535, by the Arabs in 842, and in 1061 by the Norman brothers Robert Guiscard and Roger Guiscard (later count Roger I of Sicily). In 1189 the English King Richard I ("The Lionheart") stopped at Messina en route to the Holy Land for the Third Crusade and briefly occupied the city after a dispute over the dowry of his sister, who had been married to William the Good, King of Sicily. In 1345 Orlando d'Aragona, illegitimate son of Frederick II of Sicily was the strategos of Messina.

In 1347, Messina was one of the first points of entry for the black death into Western Europe. Genoese galleys traveling from the infected city of Kaffa carried plague into the Messina ports. Kaffa had been infected via Asian trade routes and siege from infected Mongol armies led by Janibeg; it was a departure point for many Italian merchants who fled the city to Sicily. Contemporary accounts from Messina tell of the arrival of "Death Ships" from the East, which floated to shore with all the passengers on board already dead or dying of plague. Plague-infected rats probably also came aboard these ships. The black death ravaged Messina, and rapidly spread northward into mainland Italy from Sicily in the following few months.

In 1548 St. Ignatius founded there the first Jesuit college in the world, which later gave birth to the Studium Generale (the current University of Messina).[citation needed] The Christian ships that won the Battle of Lepanto (1571) left from Messina: the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, who took part in the battle, recovered for some time in the Grand Hospital. The city reached the peak of its splendour in the early 17th century, under Spanish domination: at the time it was one of the ten greatest cities in Europe.

In 1674 the city rebelled against the foreign garrison. It managed to remain independent for some time, thanks to the help of the French king Louis XIV, but in 1678, with the Peace of Nijmegen, it was reconquered by the Spaniards and sacked: the university, the senate and all the privileges of autonomy it had enjoyed since the Roman times were abolished. A massive fortress was built by the occupants and Messina decayed steadily. In 1743, 48,000 died of a second wave of plague in the city.[11]

In 1783, an earthquake devastated much of the city, and it took decades to rebuild and rekindle the cultural life of Messina. In 1847 it was one of the first cities in Italy where Risorgimento riots broke out. In 1848 it rebelled openly against the reigning Bourbons, but was heavily suppressed again. Only in 1860, after the Battle of Milazzo, the Garibaldine troops occupied the city. One of the main figures of the unification of Italy, Giuseppe Mazzini, was elected deputy at Messina in the general elections of 1866. Another earthquake of less intensity damaged the city on 16 November 1894. The city was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake and associated tsunami on the morning of 28 December 1908, killing about 100,000 people and destroying most of the ancient architecture. The city was largely rebuilt in the following year.

It incurred further damage from the massive Allied air bombardments of 1943; before and during the Allied invasion of Sicily. Messina, owing to its strategic importance as a transit point for Axis troops and supplies sent to Sicily from mainland Italy, was a prime target for the British and American air forces, which dropped some 6,500 tons of bombs in the span of a few months.[12] These raids destroyed one third of the city, and caused 854 deaths among the population.[13] The city was awarded a Gold Medal of Military Valor and one for Civil Valor by the Italian government in memory of the event and the subsequent effort of reconstruction.[14]

In June 1955, Messina was the location of the Messina Conference of Western European foreign ministers which led to the creation of the European Economic Community.[15] The conference was held mainly in Messina's City Hall building (it), and partly in nearby Taormina.

The city is home to a small Greek-speaking minority, which arrived from the Peloponnese between 1533-34 when fleeing the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. They were officially recognised in 2012.[16]

Via Garibaldi, one of the main streets of Messina. After the 1908 earthquake it was widened and lengthened to the south to conform to the new urban plan


Messina has a subtropical mediterranean climate with long, hot summers with low diurnal temperature variation with consistent dry weather. In winter, Messina is rather wet and mild. Diurnals remain low and remain averaging above 10 °C (50 °F) lows even during winter. It is rather rainier than Reggio Calabria on the other side of the Messina Strait, a remarkable climatic difference for such a small distance.


Main sights

Panorama of Messina Strait seen from Messina towards the Italian mainland. Reggio Calabria can be seen on the right.
Abandoned houses dating from the 18th century in the ancient quarter of Tirone

Religious architecture

Cathedral of Messina.
13th century Church of Santa Maria degli Alemanni
The extant octagonal tower of the 11th century Matagrifone Castle and the Cristo Re sanctuary
  • The Cathedral (12th century), containing the remains of king Conrad, ruler of Germany and Sicily in the 13th century. The building had to be almost entirely rebuilt in 1919–20, following the devastating 1908 earthquake, and again in 1943, after a fire triggered by Allied bombings. The original Norman structure can be recognised in the apsidal area. The façade has three late Gothic portals, the central of which probably dates back to the early 15th century. The architrave is decorated with a sculpture of Christ Among the Evangelists and various representations of men, animals and plants. The tympanum dates back to 1468. The interior is organised in a nave and two equally long aisles divided by files of 28 columns. Some decorative elements belong the original building, although the mosaics in the apse are reconstructions. Tombs of illustrious men besides Conrad IV include those of Archbishops Palmer (died in 1195), Guidotto de Abbiate (14th century) and Antonio La Legname (16th century). Special interest is held by the Chapel of the Sacrament (late 16th century), with scenic decorations and 14th century mosaics. The bell tower holds the Messina astronomical clock, one of the largest astronomical clocks in the world, built in 1933 by the Ungerer Company of Strasbourg. The belfry's mechanically-animated statues, which illustrate events from the civil and religious history of the city every day at noon, are a popular tourist attraction.
  • The Sanctuary of Santa Maria del Carmelo (near the Courthouse), built in 1931, which contains a 17th-century statue of the Virgin Mary. See also Chiesa del Carmine.
  • The Sanctuary of Montevergine, where the incorrupt body of Saint Eustochia Smeralda Calafato is preserved.
  • The Church of the Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani (late 12th–13th century). Dating from the late Norman period, it was transformed in the 13th century when the nave was shortened and the façade added. It has a cylindrical apse and a high dome emerging from a high tambour. Noteworthy is the external decoration of the transept and the dome area, with a series of blind arches separated by small columns, clearly reflecting Arabic architectural influences.
  • The Church of Santa Maria degli Alemanni (early 13th century), which was formerly a chapel of the Teutonic Knights. It is a rare example of pure Gothic architecture in Sicily, as is witnessed by the arched windows and shapely buttresses.
The giants Mata and Grifone, whose stories are told about the city, are brought around Messina during the second week of August
The Madonna della Lettera that dominates the port of Messina is the Patron Saint of the city, celebrated on the 3rd of June

Civil and military architecture

Fountain of Orion in Piazza Duomo
Porta Grazia
Statue of Don John of Austria, hero of Lepanto
Palazzo della Provincia, Corso Cavour
  • The 'Botanical Garden Pietro Castelli of the University of Messina.
  • The Palazzo Calapaj-d'Alcontresj, an example of 18th-century Messinese architecture which is one of the few noble palazzi to have survived the 1908 earthquake.
  • The Forte del Santissimo Salvatore, a 16th-century fort in the Port of Messina.
  • The Forte Gonzaga, a 16th-century fort overlooking Messina.
  • The Porta Grazia, 17th-century gate of the "Real Cittadella di Messina", by Domenico Biundo and Antonio Amato, a fortress still existing in the harbour.
  • The Pylon, built in 1957 together with a twin located across the Strait of Messina, to carry a 220 kV overhead power line bringing electric power to the island. At the time of their construction, the two electric pylons were the highest in the world. The power line has since been replaced by an underwater cable, but the pylon still stands as a freely accessible tourist attraction.
  • The San Ranieri lighthouse, built in 1555.
  • The Palazzo della Provincia (Palazzo dei Leoni), provincial Seat, built in 1914 by Alessandro Giunta.
  • The Palace of Culture, built in 2009.


  • The Fountain of Orion, a monumental civic sculpture located next to the Cathedral, built in 1547 by Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli, student of Michelangelo, with a Neoplatonic-alchemical program. It was considered by art historian Bernard Berenson "the most beautiful fountain of the sixteenth century in Europe".
  • The Fountain of Neptune, looking towards the harbour, built by Montorsoli in 1557.
  • The monument to John of Austria, by Andrea Camalech (1572)
  • The Senatory Fountain, built in 1619.
  • The Four Fountains, though only two elements of the four-cornered complex survive today.
One of the two surviving Four Fountains dating from the 17-18th centuries. Located on the corner of Via 1 Settembre and Via Cardines


Public transport

The new Messina Centrale station building was projected following the modern criteria of the futurist architect Angiolo Mazzoni, and is extended through the stations square. It is at almost contiguous with Messina Marittima station, located by the port and constituting a rail/ferry interchange point to Villa San Giovanni station across the Strait of Messina.

The station is electrified and served by regional trains, by an experimental suburban railway to Giampilieri[21] and by the modern Messina tramway[22] (at "Repubblica" stop, on station's square), opened in 2003. This line is 7.7 kilometres (4.8 mi) and links the city's central railway station with the city centre and harbour.

For long distance transport it counts some InterCity and ICN night trains to Rome, linking it also with Milan, Turin, Venice, Genoa, Bologna, Florence, and other cities. It is also part of the projected Berlin–Palermo railway axis.


Messina's public bus system is operated by ATM Messina[23] which covers a net area of 34 km (21 mi). About 36 different routes reach every part of the city.

Sports team

Notable people

List of notable people from Messina or connected to Messina, listed by career and then in alphabetical order by last name.


Artists and designers

Politicians, civil service, military

Musicians, composers



Researchers, academics


Literary references

The statue of Messina
Pitoni, a common dish in Messina

Numerous writers set their works in Messina, including:

See also