Hotel dello Stretto, Messina ****
The Jolly Hotel Dello Stretto, Messina is an imposing four-star hotel right on the harbourside in downtown Messina, Sicily. This large hotel has 95 reasonably-priced rooms, each equipped with air conditioning, hairdryer and mini-bar, and decorated in a clean and modern style. View hotel
Double rooms from €50
Grand Hotel Liberty, Messina ****
The Grand Hotel Liberty is one of the most elegant in Messina, with marble floors and pillars, full-length drapes and exquisite cherry wood in public areas, and refined, neutral colours in the bedrooms. Each of the 51 rooms in this impressive, four-star hotel in Sicily has air conditioning, mini-bar, satellite TV, DVD player and a useful selection of complimentary toiletry items. View hotel
Double rooms from €65
Royal Palace Hotel, Messina ****
The Royal Palace is a modern hotel in the eastern town of Messina, one of the closest parts of Sicily to mainland Italy. There are 102 bright and spacious rooms here, each filled with plants and tastefully furnished to a high standard. View hotel
Double rooms from €49
The third largest city on Sicily, Messina is many visitors' first sight of the island, and for many thousands of years it has occupied a singular place in the history and mythology of Europe. Mythology, because this ancient city, founded by the Greeks in the eighth century BC lies on one side of the treacherous Strait of Messina (Calabria forms the toe of Italy on the other) and the treacherous rocks of the strait were anthropomorphised by Homer as Scylla and Charibdis.
And Messina has been popping up in literature ever since - Boccaccio, Shakespeare, Moliere and Nietzsche are among those who have set plays and other works here. The sickle-shaped port, with its civil and military shipyards is also a centre of agriculture, with orange, lemon and mandarin groves around the town. Sadly, Messina hasn't made it down the millennia unscathed - lying on a faultline it was devastated by a number of earthquakes culminating in the disastrous quake of 1908, which killed 84,000. Much of the restoration work was then levelled by Allied bombing in 1943.
There are superb sights to see nonetheless. The Duomo is a careful reconstruction of the earlier medieval building, and the attendant campanile has the largest astronomical clock in the world (be there at noon to see the show). The Museo Regionale contains many of the treasures salvaged from the 1908 disaster, with some very good Caravaggios inter alia. Important churches include the Annunziata dei Catalani, Santa Maria degli Alemanni and the Sanctuary of Montevergine. Other sights include the Fountain of Orion in the Cathedral Square, the Fountain of Neptune and the Senatory Fountain. See too the Pietro Castelli botanic gardens and the San Ranieri Lighthouse. Perhaps the most curious historical artefacts are the Pylons. Built in 1957 to carry power cables across the Strait, they were the highest pylons on the planet. The cables run under the sea now, but the pylons remain, protected as historic monuments.