Friday, December 30, 2011


After we left Civitavecchia it was a long night a sea while we traveled down the long coast of Italy to Messina. Messina is about as far south as you can go in Italy, it is located  on the northeast corner of Sicily. In the morning, as we were approaching Messina, we were told that we were going to pass the island of Stromboli which is a live volcano. This was pretty amazing for me because I had never seen a live volcano or any kind of volcano before.

The city of Messina is nestled into a natural protected harbor that is perfect for fishermen to launch their fishing boats which was the traditional industry of Messina.

When you dock in Messina the city is immediately accessible from the harbor. We literally walked off the boat and we were in the city of Messina.

We had a specific agenda in Messina, you could call it a culinary agenda. Our goal was to eat thin crust pizza in Messina because we had heard that it was the finest pizza in all of Italy. We also wanted to eat canoli, preferably with a freshly brewed espresso. If possible, we also wanted to find Torrone, the Italian candy that is a blend of honey, nougat and nuts covered with chocolate.

We had no real direction in Messina, there was no tourist bureau that we could see when we landed so we just struck out in a direction that looked interesting. we saw a church up on a hilltop that looked interesting so we walked towards it.

A view of the church on the hilltop

Getting to the church was more elusive that we imagined and we had a few detours on the way. Eventually, we stopped a postman and asked him how to get to the church. He told us how to get there. I understood most of what he said except for the last part which involved some hand motions that were probably easily understood by the locals but lost on me. We followed his directions until we got to the last part. The church was in sight but above us and we could not figure how to get there so we made a choice which turned out to be wrong. We retraced our steps then realized what his hand motion meant, " you get to this point then you walk around the ramp going upwards and then you are at the church", all that in a hand gesture. At any rate we are at the church. It was interesting enough as far as churches go. It could not compare to the churches of Florence. At  one point, we were standing by a spiral staircase that seemed to go right up to the roof. A man asked us if we wanted to go up. I said I did, my wife declined. the way up the stairs was a lot trickier than it seemed. At the top another man opened a small hatch and then I was out on the roof of the church. yet another man walked me around the inside of the dome an let me out at each quadrant of the dome to look out over Messina. The view was spectacular. At the last hatch that I walked out I could climb up a short ladder and get an even better view. It was a breathtaking experience.

A view of the harbor and our cruise ship

Another view of the harbor

After climbing up to the church and walking back down it was almost noon and we were hungry. We had passed a neighborhood restaurant on the way up to the church that had not been open at the time. On the way down the restaurant was open so we decided that this was where we were going to eat Sicilian pizza. We were seated immediately and ordered two pizzas; Frutti di Mare  which was a pizza made with sea food and Margherita which is a pizza with tomato sauce and herbs. Both pizzas were excellent, the crust was crisp and paper thin. The flavor was outstanding. We washed the pizzas down with a liter of sparkling mineral water and I had an espresso. Our entire lunch was less than 20 euros, a bargain.

With our bellies full of great pizza we made our way back towards the ship, looking at everything that looked interesting. There is always something of interest on every street in Italy. Everywhere you turn there is some kind of ruin or other. We made our way down to the main road that runs parallel to the dock. Most of the shops were still closed. In Italy, all businesses close between noon and 2:00PM, except for restaurants. We found a bakery that looked very nice. In fact, this bakery not only had Canoli in their display case but we could see that they also had Torrone. Unfortunately, the bakery was not open. We were just about to turn away and walk down the street when a young woman walked up to us and told us to wait a minute, her father was going to open the bakery for us. They were just returning to the bakery after their mid-day rest. They would have waited to open the store but they saw us standing there and decided to open the bakery early. We went inside and ordered two canoli which were incredibly delicious. We also bought two kilograms of Torrone which we took away with us.Our day in Messina was a complete success!

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