According to Greek mythology the Straits of Messina were home to sea monsters Scylla and Charybdis. Celebrated by Virgil and Homer, these dangerous monsters represented the difficulties sailors met when passing through the narrow passage separating Sicily from the Italian mainland.
The names Scylla and Charybdis ( in Italian Scilla e Cariddi ) have remained, even in the English language, to signify danger and the plight of having to decide between two evils.
Lovely beaches, villages and medieval castles dot both the Calabrian and Sicilian sides of the Straits , but the coast line is also marred by two huge steel plyons used between 1955 and 1994 to carry electric lines across the straits.
Let’s hope that no other monsters- giant wind towers or Berlusconi’s planned bridge- are constructed here.
|Madonna greets cruise ships in Messina|
When cruise ships arrive to the port of Messina, they are greeted by the Madonna della Lettera and find that they are in the heart of the city , making it easy to explore Messina on their own.
|cruise ships next to an historic church|
|aftermath of 1908 earthquake|
Messina has seen a succession of civilizations: Greek , Roman, Saracen and Norman , but sadly very little of these ancient layers of history is evident at first glance. What is evident is the amazing astronomical clock on the bell tower next to the Duomo.
|detail of Duomo's main doorway|
|Messina's rebuilt Duomo|
|the bell man, near Messina's Duomo|
|moving figures on the clock tower|
Created by the Ungerer brothers of Strasbourg and installed in the rebuilt tower in 1933, it is more than a reference point to locate the city center.
The gilded mechanical figures representing people and happenings of local history make it the city’s major tourist attraction.
One wonders today about the political mechanisms and friendships that were activated (local bishop, governments of Mussolini and Hitler) to organize and pay for this mechanical wonder.
|the angel points out the season, month, day|
|the astronomical clock, Messina|
A young couple, hoping for tips, entertains the crowds with their interpretation of the tarantella until the clock strikes noon and the bells peal. Then numerous mechanical beasts and statues put on a sound and motion show that lasts for a quarter of an hour.
|improvising a profession in Messina|
A 4 metre high gilded lion holds a banner, roars and moves its head and tail , a giant cockerel crows and flaps its wings and numerous figures representing other important moments in the city’s history move across the façade of the bell tower .
|tourist train Messina|
Following the show the crowd disperses to indulge in ricotta filled cannoli at the nearby pasticceria, or to ride the mini train that criss crosses the city center.
Another of Messina’s mysteries is the phantom museum located at the northern end of the modern single track train that runs the length of the city along the seaside.
|Phantom museum of the Sicilian Region|
The Regional Museum of Sicily, a huge modern complex meant to house the region’s art masterpieces must have cost a fortune.
Upon arrival at the end of the metro line - the crude reality. The majestic brick and glass building has never been opened, rather it is abandoned to the elements and overgrown with weeds.
|entrance and guardian at old museum|
|Courtyard of old museum|
|bells at old museum entrance|