Messina sits in the north east of the island of Sicily in the province of Messina on the strait of Messina with Villa san Giovanni on the mainland in Calabria.
The port is the core
economical centre of the city, whose other source of economy is agriculture
with products such as lemons, oranges, tangerines, other fruit, vegetables and wine.
Two different stories of the town´s origins are widespread. According to legends the city was first named after King
Zanclus. However, another version reads that its name was first Zancle given by
the Greek settlers who created the city, a word from the Greek ζάγκλον whose
translation is "scythe," given the shape of its harbour. Poof of
that original name is said to be Scaletta Zanclea, a commune at the
entrance of the Strait of Messina.
The city centuries later was called Messene after the Greek city, from the Greek Μεσσήνη, by Anaxilas
of Rhegium in the 5th century BC. The city came under repeated attacks from different peoples: ravaged by the Carthaginians, conquered by Syracuse, laid siege on and seized by the Mamertines in 288
BC who killed the male population and took their women. From the city they took over the whole
area. The expansion of Syracuse was a danger for the Mamertines’s interests. When Hiero
II of Syracuse attacked the Mamertines, they resorted to the Carthaginians’
The latter took advantage of the situation as there had been a long
lasting conflict with Syracuse over dominance of the island. In 264 BC after the
second attack of HIiero’s army, the Mamertines requested Rome’s help. The Romans fearing that the Carthaginians might
invade the peninsula sent their army for the first time off the mainland.
During the war between Rome and Carthage, Messina
supported Rome and kept its freedom.
The city was part of the Roman Empire, then taken by the Goths, seized by the Byzantine Empire, then conquered by the Arabs and later by the Normans.
Messina is thought to be the gate through where the Black Death
spread to Europe. The Genoese ships sailing from Caffa in Crimea
brought the plague to the continent. Messina’s port was that where the ships departed from for the battle of Lepanto. The Spanish writer
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra recovered at the Grand hospital in Messina.The city was at its height at
the beginning of 17th century when the Spanish were holding power.
The city had gained fame and was among the ten most important cities of Europe.
However, Messina was determined to set itself free from foreign domination.
It succeeded in its independence for a short period of time with the support of Louis
XIV of France.
With the peace of Nijmegen the city was seized again by the Spanish crown. The new power decided to remove its autonomy, its university and
senate, and to assure the occupancy a huge fortress was erected. From then on,
the splendour it had was gradually lost. In the plague of 1743 48,000 died.
When the Risorgimento riots
erupted in different parts of Italy Messina was one of the first Italian cities
to join the rebellion .
The rebellion of 1848 against the Bourbon king was crushed.
The Garibaldine troops set the city free in 1860 after beating the Spanish in
the battle of Milazzo. Giuseppe Mazzini, who played a key role in Italy’s unification, was voted deputy at Messina in the 1866 elections.
In December 1908, 80,000
people perished and almost all the ancient architecture was badly damaged by
the earthquake. In 1909, following a more rational plan the city had a new start. Unfortunately, in 1943 during the Second World War the Allies dropped their
bombs and the death toll reached thousands.
The city was awarded a Golden
Medal for military valour and another medal for Civil Valour was given in
honour of those who made efforts to rebuild the city.
In June 1955 Messina played host to the Messina Conference of Western European
Foreign Ministers, where the creation of the EEC was conceived.
Messina has given the art, spiritual and academic world notable
people such as the Renaissance painter Antonello da Messina, the mathematician
and philosopher Dicaearchus, Saint Eustochia Smeralda Calafato, the astronomer
and mathematician Francesco Maurolico, Saint Hannibal Mary Di Francia and the anthropologist
The city has also provided many writers with a perfect setting for their
works such as Antony and Cleopatra and Much Ado about Nothing by
Shakespeare, L’Etourdi by Molière, Idylls from Messina by Nietzsche, Women of Messina by Elio Vittorini.
Plutarch, Boccaccio, Matteo Bandello, Schiller, Silvio Pellico, Giovanni Pascoli,
Stefano D'Arrigo and Julien Green also chose this city for some of their works.
BY PLANE: Messina does not have its own airport. The nearest one is
located in Reggio
called Aereoporto dello Stretto
BY TRAIN: Messina connects Sicily to the main train network of the mainland. There are long distance
trains from Rome and Naples which cross over the strait and
and Catania. There are regular trains which reach Milazzo, Cefalu, Taormina and Syracuse.
BY BUS: there are long distance buses
from Rome and Naples to Catania and Palermo calling at Messina. There are regular services to Taormina and Milazzo (for the Aeolian
BY BOAT: hourly ferries cross the strait to reach Villa San Giovanni and daily hydrofoils link Messina to Reggio
di Calabria. During the summer, cruises berth at Messina’s downtown
where visitors can take a tour on a double-decker bus along Messina´s coast.