Sicily’s busiest port, Messina is a popular jumping-off point for visiting sights farther down the Ionian coast. Spend a day taking in the city’s architecture, art, and street food before adventuring farther south to admire the ancient ruins in Taormina and the smoldering peak of Mount Etna. Here’s how to spend two days in Messina.
Day 1: Messina
**Morning:**Dedicate the morning to exploring the old town, rebuilt after a devastating earthquake and World War II bombing. A handful of historic buildings survive, so join a walking or Segway tour to visit the 12th-century Church of the Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani, Norman cathedral flanked by its spectacular bell tower and astronomical clock, and Fountain of Orion.
**Afternoon:**As the temperatures start to soar, take refuge in the halls of the Regional Museum, hung with an impressive collection of masterpieces by the Messina school and other Renaissance and baroque artists. Highlights include works by the 15th-century painter Antonello da Messina, a local treasure, and the inimitable Caravaggio.
**Night:**Unwind after a day of art and architecture with a food tour, discovering Sicilian street food during a guided stroll through the historic center. True foodies can opt for a home-style cooking class led by a local cook for a hands-on lesson in preparing traditional Sicilian dishes. Cap off the evening with a festive dinner to sample what you’ve created in the kitchen.
Day 2: Taormina and Mt. Etna
**Morning:**One of the most head-turning hill towns in Sicily, perched high above the coast, Taormina is a delightful mix of the truly ancient and simply historic. Tour the old town with a guide to fully appreciate its dazzling Greek Theater, lively Corso Umberto I, and panoramic Piazza IX Aprile.
**Afternoon:**Many day trips to Taormina make a brief but scenic stop at the tiny hill town of Castelmola, with a crumbling castle above and postcard-ready views of the coastline below. Alternatively, head to Isola Bella, below Taormina, a dramatic, rocky outcrop along the coast—it’s a photographer’s paradise.
**Night:**Take advantage of the golden late-afternoon light to summit Mt. Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe, which rumbles and belches on the horizon above Sicily’s eastern coastline. Explore the lava flows and craters on foot, and then stop for a tour and tasting at one of the wineries located on its slopes.