Cruisers guide to Messina in Sicily

Some ships dock at Messina (but mainly ferries) and have magnificent views of the coastline, but you are just a pleasant ten-minute walk to Messina station where you can get a train to Taormina.  Ships also dock at Palermo. Messina to Palermo is about 2 hours, trains and buses are frequent, the whole round trip joining all the dots by car is 7 hours, you would only do that if staying on the island and moving hotels. You know how we love Google transit here at Doris Visits. Do a hotel search here and see how exciting that can be in Sicily. You could stay in the village of Corleone, nicknamed the town of 100 churches. However, most cruise ships from the UK Cruises to Giardini Naxos.  Aurora and Arcadia cruise here as many other ships we tour and show – Click here. Fred Olsen’s Islands of the Mediterranean on the Balmoral stops there. Some ships just transit the Messina Straits.

Messina and Palmero are 2 hours apart, and Messina and Taormina are just over an hour apart by train. You can travel but try and book a tour from where you are staying or where you dock, contact the operator in the message section and sort every detail. We love film-based tours as we are filmmakers, but Sicilian tours stretch from winemaking to pizza cooking, from the anti-mafia tour to the catacombs and the darker side of the Romans. Full tour list here. Sicily is the island right at the tip of Italy forming a passage of water between it and the mainland, much like the English Channel with Europe, but this is called the strait of Messina. It is only two miles wide and many cruises go through it without stopping. It will no doubt one day have a huge suspension bridge over it one day; in 2006 Berlusconi promised to build the bridge, in 2013 Maria Monti’s government cancelled the plans.

Our Tour of Siracuse


Messina has a stunning cathedral with a 60m high bell tower with one of the world’s most outstanding astronomical clocks. At mid-day, it puts on its mechanical show, the Madonna hands over a letter blessing the city. You cannot go anywhere without seeing a church or references to the mafia and the famous soundtrack of the film and the heritage of The Godfather. Not that the two go hand in hand.

Doing Messina and Taormina by train in a day is enough, and you realise that to get to know this island you need more time. You could travel around with a different hotel in so many places. To see all of the Godfather’s three film locations is an epic task, so you need to choose which flavour of tour might be best. Most British cruise ships seem to favour sailing into Giardini Naxos, near Taormina.

There are often tours that go to the nearby beautiful medieval villages of Savoca and Forza D’Agrò where Francis Ford Coppola shot some parts of The Godfather movies. The guide explores splendid hidden corners of authentic Sicily, way off the beaten paths. Fall in love with these medieval villages nested on the peak of two beautiful hills. Visit St. Lucy Church, where Michael married Apollonia and imagine them leaving followed by the brass band playing. The Cathedral of Forza d’Agrò, where another wedding scene was shot.

Have a drink or a lemon granita at Bar Vitelli, where Michael Corleone asked Mr. Vitelli the hand of her daughter Apollonia. Then explore the splendid “Castello degli schiavi” (on demand, subject to availability).
Drive through the hilly landscape of Sicily before arriving in the town of Corleone, nicknamed the Town of 100 Churches, which at the beginning of the 1960s became famous as where the Sicilian Mafia had their headquarters. This was the Clan dei Corleonesi, ruled by Totò Riina, head of the cupola, or hidden Mafia council. You can admire the mother church, named after St. Martin on the way to the Palazzo St’Agostino, where a photographic exhibition of judges Falcone and Borsellino is displayed.

Our Tour of Palermo

Or Drive in a convoy of convertible Fiat 500’s

Starting from your cruiseship, drive the medieval hill town above Taormina with breathtaking sea and Etna views, then drive to arrive in Savoca and it will be like taking a step back in time following your expert driver. This tour is two per car. You need to be able to drive a manual with clutch and have a driver’s license. It starts in Taormina, so to be picked up from somewhere else you will need to contact them here. You may be able to book this on the ship. Explore the towns of Savoca and Forza D’Agro.

Bar Vitelli is where Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) met Mr. Vitelli (the bar owner) and asked his permission to court his daughter Apollonia (Simonetta Stefanelli), and also for the official engagement and for the party after the wedding cerimony. While in town “a must” is the stop for a Lemon Granita in this famous bar.