On the eastern edge of the island of Sicily, built on the Peloritani Mountains as they end at the sea, is Messina. Founded by settlers from Chalcis and later colonized by Greek colonists, this crescent-shaped harbor and the city around it changed hands constantly throughout its tumultuous history.

The result was architecture and influences from cultures throughout the Mediterranean. Nearly destroyed by invasion and multiple earthquakes the ruins of the old city remain as a reminder of its history.

THETRAVEL VIDEO OF THE DAY

Perhaps lacking the draw of Athens, the ruins of Messina remain a worthwhile tourist destination for those seeking to experience Grecian Architecture and the beauty of the Mediterranian.

A History of Occupation and Influence

With a history that dates back as far as 730 BC, Messina originated as a colony for Greek Settlers called Chalcis. They first called the city Zankle which was a reference to its crescent-shaped harbor.

In the fifth century AD, it was controlled by Greek fugitives from Persian controlled Miletus and Samos. The city would later be destroyed by Carthage, then rebuilt by the Syracusan tyrant Dionysius. It would then be claimed by the Mamertini in 292 BC who would ally with Rome after being pressured by both Syracuse and Carthage.

Messina would eventually become a free city, allied with Rome until the fall of Western Rome. After Rome fell Messin would be taken by the Goths, the Byzantines, the Muslims, and then eventually it would be conquered by the Normans.

Having constantly changed hands due to its strategic location ad valuable resources, the city of Messina is full of diverse and stunning structures. If your goal is to travel and experience ancient ruins then look toward Messina. You will not only find Greek and Roman ruins but a mix of several cultures all in one stunning location.

Related: Consider Visiting One Of Italy’s Smallest Cities Over Rome

Ruins of Prominence

Messina has numerous ruins from different points throughout history constructed by the various cultures that have occupied the region. Perhaps the most interesting part about the ruins of Messina is that they are all a little bit different, fingerprints left by those who came before.

Ancient Theatre of Taormina

A Hellenistic theatre once stood here but with the occupation of Rome, it was rebuilt in the third century. What remains today are the ruins of that Roman theater. 107 meters in diameter, this theater could once hold an audience of 10,000. If you time your visit correctly, this theater is still used to host art shows that are held here annually.

  • Recommended Visit Time - 1-2 hours
  • Date Constructed - third century BC
  • Constructed By - Rome

Castello di Mistretta

First built by the Byzantines, Castello di Mistretta stands atop a crag and looks over the valley of the Serravalle a thousand feet below. During the Muslim occupation of Messina, the castle was enhanced as structures were added or improved. A little way out of Messina, it is worth the hike up to experience the ruins for yourself.

  • Recommended Visit Time - 1-2 hours
  • Date Constructed - eleventh century AD
  • Constructed By - Byzantine Empire

Related: Historically-Accurate Things To Do In Athens, Greece

Sito archeologico di Tindari

Dionysius the Tyrant of Syracuse founded this site to house 600 Messenin mercenaries. Due to this city's location and well-run government, it would eventually house over 5,000 people. During the Punic War, it would even house a Carthaginian base. Now it is a wonderful destination to experience history in how it remains today.

  • Recommended Visit Time - 1-2 hours
  • Date Constructed - 396 BC
  • Constructed By - Syracusan

Honorable Mentions

 

  • The Cathedral of Taormina - thirteenth and fourteenth centuries AD,
  • The Odeon - 21 BC, Roman
  • Fontana Abate - Fra' Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli
  • Area Archeologica Halaesa Arconidea - 403 BC, Greek/Roman

Refresh in Messina

Every worthwhile travel adventure requires a little refueling. Refuel in style at these highly recommended dining locations.

I Ruggeri boutique restaurant

Enjoy a classy dining experience with fresh Sicilian ingredients. Husband and wife operated, this is the place to go to enjoy local seafood and perhaps a glass of wine.

  • Address - Via Leone Pozzo 25, 98122, Messina, Sicily Italy
  • Contact - +39 090 343938
  • Cost - $$-$$$
  • Must-Try - The menu is constantly changing, but their seafood is recommended

Pizzeria Kairos

Perhaps the best pizza in Messina, Pizzeria Kairos is well known for its delicious pies. It’s an authentic Italian pizzeria where you can enjoy a great and filling meal at a low cost.

  • Address - Via Risorgimento 192, 98123, Messina, Sicily Italy
  • Contact - +39 090 662413
  • Cost - $
  • Must-Try - Any of their pizzas

Amici Miei

Located on the main road some distance from the harbor Amici Miei is quiet while still being chic and authentic. The pasta here is delicious but it is highly recommended to give the anti-pasta a try.

  • Address - Via Cesare Battisti 122/124, 98123, Messina, Sicily Italy
  • Contact - +39 090 674393
  • Cost - $$-$$$
  • Must-Try - their varieties of anti-pasta

Next: See The Best Roman Ruins In Scotland (North Of Hadrian's Wall)