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A day in Messina

Today (Wednesday) we’ve been in Messina. As I mentioned a few posts ago, this was put into the itinerary at very short notice to replace the call in Dubrovnik which had to be cancelled.

Messina is a considerably-sized city of about 250,000 (in the urban area itself) and is a busy commercial and administrative centre. Although the site itself is historic – there has been a town here for well over 2000 years – there are very few old buildings remaining and certainly no ‘old town’. The reasons are because of frequent earthquakes, most recently and devastatingly in 1908, and also because of allied bombing in WWII. As a result of these events Messina was almost completely rebuilt in the post-war period. Even a lot of the apparently older buildings were reconstructed during this period.

Messina has a significant port and for that reason alone would be attractive to the cruise lines. Add to that the fact that there are several prime destinations within reasonable distance and its attractions are clear. The destinations are first, Mount Etna, Europe’s biggest and most active volcano, and secondly Taormina, which manages to combine truly spectacular classical-era remains (a Greco-Roman amphitheatre) with seriously high-class shopping (along Corso Umberto) and a spectacular location – high above the Gulf of Messina. However, we didn’t visit either of them….

We have good reasons for this. We went back to Magnums after dinner yesterday (Tuesday) and somehow got into a cocktail-tasting situation. We’d say “what does [some cocktail] taste like?”; Brandul would describe it; and then a few minutes later we’d be trying it. We are now converts to the mighty Mojito, and Val is in thrall to the Pornstar Martini. So we were late to bed last night and did not rise early enough to make our own way to either Mount Etna (never likely, actually) or even Taormina (we’ve been before). Instead, the day began later and more slowly.

We did eventually get ashore not long after 10 o’clock, and wandered around the centre of town looking for a bank or an ATM, and then coffee. We eventually found both, though perhaps not the best examples of either. But following this unpromising beginning we rallied and produced a plan. This was to walk to the Regional Museum which apparently had some paintings (or art of some kind) by Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and others. But we decided to vary the walk and pick up one or two other locations. We checked out the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II in the centre of town – quite run down and decrepit, but still impressive for its scale. Then we made our way up to a spot high over the town where there was what had looked like a church, but which turned out to be a military memorial – perhaps a war memorial? We didn’t really visit the memorial, but we enjoyed the views across the harbour and the Straits of Messina from that high location. Then we headed for the museum, but in the end decided not to bother – we’d walked far enough, we were back down by the waterfront which was more attractive than around the harbour, and lunchtime was approaching. So we sat in a small park near the waterfront to rest and the headed back into town for lunch.

We had pizzas in a pizzeria back on the outside of the Galleria. Val had a pizza Diavola which she said was delicious. I had a pizza with ham, artichoke and mushroom, but also with sour cream instead of mozzarella and tomato sauce – most strange, although pleasant enough. Then we walked back around the Duomo area before finding a bar for final drink ashore. Val had a full-bodied Sicilian white wine that we didn’t catch the name of, unfortunately; I had a glass of a very pleasant Nero d’Avola. Then we returned to the ship, to do our packing.

We went down to dinner early (without the pre-dinner drink this time) and had a good time with engaging companions. One couple in particular were memorable – from New Zealand, they were approaching the end of a three-month trip to the U.K., Ireland, and other parts of Europe.

We couldn’t have our last night on Oceana without a final visit to Magnums, however, and we had a final couple of drinks there after dinner. Then it was back to the cabin for a (comparatively) early night.

(This was all written on Wednesday but posted on Thursday during that mournful period after vacating the cabin and waiting for our departure bus…)

One Response to “A day in Messina”

  1. I look forward to your posts and find them all interesting and informative. The info about the aft cabins on Azura and Ventura has been particularly useful. We are off next Wednesday on Arcadia so your comments about Messina have been noted!

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