Ah Messina... what to say about Messina. From the ship it very much looked the part, a city flowing down from the hills into a busy port but before we had even set off from Belfast on this trip we'd struggled to find anything to do in Messina.
We had just one thing on the list. Watching the astronomical mechanical clock move. The rest of the things to do, if they existed, we'd hope would reveal themselves when we got there. They didn't.
I suppose I should give Messina the benefit of the doubt. To be fair we didn't see much of it, just a square mile or so. Saying that, our lack of exploring was more a symptom of having trouble finding anything interesting or fun to do. If you are fanatical about churches or boats you might be OK but other than that...
Sooooo... here is what we did.
Getting off the ship and dodging the horde of scarf sellers, it was a nice surprise to find a 13th Century Church just a stones throw from where the ship docked. Here is the Church of Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani.
We stopped for a look before making it over to the Cathedral of Messina.
And here is the Fontana di Orione outside the Cathedral in front of the clock tower.
Inside the Cathedral it was suitably cavernous, donned in the usual garnishing of symbolism and wealth but impressive never the less.
Back outside the Cathedral it was a bear pit of tour touts and swarming pushy trinket sellers. Going by a seller/tourist ratio it was probably worse than the big tourist locations like outside the Colosseum in Rome. I really didn't like the atmosphere.
It was a captive audience as everyone who wasn't selling was there to watch the mechanical parts of the clock tower move.
Move they did... a Cockerel here, a Lion there and some bell ringing. It was slow going but all the gold coloured things got where they were going in the end.
So we wandered a little out of the way to find a fridge magnet. It was something like being in a more built up Italian version of Lurgan on a Sunday morning but this was a Monday... in a city. Maybe we were just in the wrong area?
Norngirl still wasn't very mobile and a lot of Messina is up hill, plus it was raining so we then negotiated a price to go on an historical road train tour to see the other few (pretty much all religious buildings) sights in town. Yeeeeeeaaah... it never set off, they couldn't get enough people to fill it so we ended up getting our money back.
With loads of time and nothing to do we wandered back towards the boat in search of a cafe or wine bar. Down by the port we found both and also a lot of the other tourists who had been watching the clock too. First we had some local Messina beer in a cafe, it was alright like, nothing to write home about but nicely refreshing.
We then found a gelato shop almost next door that had been mentioned to us on the ship. The guy serving here was the politest and friendliest person I came in contact with in Messina. He didn't even mock my attempt to order in Italian and made me feel like it actually worked without the comfort blanket hand gesture.
Last but not least we settled down in a coffee/wine bar. Ordered Red wine, got steadily tipsy and put the world to rights whilst in view of the Church of Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani again.
And that was that, our entire trip to Messina. As days go it was nicely relaxing once we'd found the bar.
We headed back on board the cruise ship and continued our relaxing day of drinking with a sail away cocktail. From the top of the ship Messina still looked like an interesting place even if it flattered to deceive.
To see us off on our safe travels having maybe helped convert the water into wine for us was HeyZeus himself - well the Madonna della Lettera anyway.
As for ever going back. I'd still like to see Mount Etna so having to travel through that part of the world again might not be out of the realms of possibility, however, if I did, I probably wouldn't hang around in Messina. At most it would be a comfort stop for the all the healthy things like ice cream and local wine.