We headed for Piazza Duomo to see the famous bell tower there. The campanile houses the largest and most complex mechanical and astronomical clock in the world. The clock was built in 1933 in the bell tower of the Cathedral of Messina. At noon each day, the automated clock changes through a system of counterweights, levers, and gears. Quite a large group of tourists, both on foot and on tour buses, gathered there with us a few minutes before noon to hear and see the clock. The clock includes movement of large gold statues and scenes that change for the days of the week, month, year, liturgical seasons, hour and quarter hours of the day, solar system rotation, phases of the moon, as well as, scenes representing the four stages of life, the awakening of man, and several stories of local history and lore.
Although this piazza cannot compete with more beautiful ones in Italy, it is a good starting point for further exploration. In this piazza you can also visit the cathedral, see the fountain (Fontana di Orione, built in 1547), obtain tourist information, get a taxi, eat at a café, or buy a gelato. Walking the nearby streets gives you a good feel for this part of the city, which appears to be heavily focused on students. The University of Messina was established in 1548, but had to be rebuilt following an earthquake in 1908 that killed 84,000 Messina residents. Today, Messina is a busy port city that reflects not only Italian culture, but all of the many ruling powers that have claimed Sicily since its founding in the 8th century BC.
Local attractions near Messina include: the town of Taormina (a favorite resort destination for many famous figures), Mt. Etna (for hiking in summer and skiing in winter), and the town of Savoca (a particularly interesting destination for fans of the movie “The Godfather”, directed by Francis Ford Coppola).
Our next port: Argostoli, Greece on the island of Kefalonia.