Situated on the western shore of the Messina Strait, the port at the entrance to Sicily is one of the deepest in the Mediterranean. Messina's 3,000-year history recounts numerous disasters, among them a terrible earthquake that wrecked the city in 1908 and killed some 60,000 people out of a population of 120,000.Today, Messina has nearly 300,000 inhabitants and is the third largest city in Sicily after Palermo and Catania. When Messina was rebuilt, focus was put on exceptionally broad streets with low buildings to minimize damage in case of earthquakes. This gives the center a pleasant, open townscape, combining sea, sky and hills. Train-ferries, car-ferries and hydrofoils make the connection across the Strait of Messina to Reggio Calabria on the Italian mainland.
Among the main attractions is the Norman-Romanesque cathedral; its origin goes back to the 12th century. Much of the original plan was retained in the reconstruction, including the Norman battlements, an enormous apse and the splendid wood-beam ceiling. The adjoining bell tower features one of the city's principal features ' a clock, reputed to be one of the world's largest and most complex mechanical timepieces. Daily at noon, a host of gilded automatons spring into action (unless the clock is under repair, which happens quite frequently).
From Messina, trips to popular destinations include Taormina and Mount Etna.