Cruise Port Messina, Italy with Kids

Cruise Port Messina, Italy with Kids

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We ended up at Cruise Port Messina with access to Taormina and Mount Etna, completely unprepared. Our MSC Christmas Mediterranean Cruise faced several disruptions due to rough weather in the Mediterranean. Instead of heading to Malta we were re-routed to Messina in Sicily. We booked an MSC transfer to Taormina since we had limited time to make our own arrangements and this ended up working out perfectly.

We arrived in Messina at 8am and departed at 5pm. The port is small and provides direct access to Messina.

We booked a bus transfer to Taormina through MSC. (We were advised by the MSC staff not to take the Mount Etna excursion as in winter the road is slippery and it prevents the tour from reaching the caldera.) MSC also offered guided tours with the transfer but we decided to explore on our own. Self exploration worked out perfectly as our group is large and moves slowly. Jeff and I had a trip to Sicily in the works (but luckily not booked) so once we had some Internet we were able to pull up our google Document complete with details on the area.

We met our tour group in a lounge on the ship and received a huge sticker identifying us as MSC tour guests and the number of our tour. We brought the Baby Jogger City Tour stroller with us as well as the Ergo Carrier. The stroller was useful through the town but had to be parked at the Greek amphitheater entrance. In the bus our stroller was stored underneath. The bus transfer from the cruise terminal took about 45min and we had 3 hours to explore the city on our own.

The roads are winding and provide stunning views of the coastline. The bus parks in the Taormina parking deck, and it just barely fits between the pillars of the deck. The parking deck has free public toilets, which is good to note since they are otherwise hard to find. Once at the top of the parking deck (half the lifts worked on the day we were there) you are treated to stunning views of Mount Etna. These views are rivaled only by those from the top of the amphitheater.

The parking deck is on the edge of the main road through Taormina. We spent our time wandering up this road.

There is plenty of shopping available and remarkably none of it terribly touristy. We are not much of a shopping crowd though so instead enjoyed our stroll through town. We paused at a few bakeries to try some of the local treats. Yummy!

There is a small Roman theater (called the Odeon) nestled into the buildings that you can explore about halfway through the town (adjacent the TI).

We were the only ones here and the kids enjoyed scrambling around on the stones.

Even in winter the town was full of blooming flowers.

The larger attraction though is the huge Greek Theater of Taormina at the end of the road. There is a small entrance fee. You can easily explore the theater on your own. 

The ruins are in great shape and perfect for walking around. Head up the stairs on either side to enjoy unparalleled views of Mount Etna over the theater or the coastline behind it.

The kids were perfectly amused putting on their own show on the theater floor and later pretending to watch a show from the bleachers high above.

There are plenty of restaurants in Taormina with great looking Italian lunches. We wanted just a quick slice of pizza to take with us though and that was hard to come by.

Antica Rosticceria da Cristina, just south from Fontana di Piazza makes pizza by the slice though. Jeff ordered a bunch and we sat on the fountain and enjoyed this delicious pizza made on focaccia bread.

It was just enough to fill the kids’ bellies before taking the bus ride back into Messina. As usual though we regretted not eating more of this delicious pizza.

We also stopped to grab a photo in traditional dress with Mount Etna behind us!

Once back in Messina, my sister and parents got back on board the boat to have some lunch while we took the kids to the playground near the cruise terminal. It is in a lovely little park that had a turtle pond and an aquarium. The aquarium said it opened at 3pm, but in fact never opened while we were there. The kids loved running around the park though.

We also convinced our kids to peek into the Duomo and see large astrological clock adjacent to the church along with the interior of the Duomo.

Messina doesn’t have a ton to offer so it’s not really worth hanging out in the city for very long. We got back on the boat and had a quick snack and glass of wine before the buffet closed at the end of lunch. Then we watched the boat sail out of port before dinner!


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9 thoughts on “Cruise Port Messina, Italy with Kids”

  • It sounds like you turned a possible bad experience into a great new adventure! I’m not much of a shopper either, so I think I would have hit up the bakeries like you did. I even tried to zoom into the picture to see what your child was eating!! Looks great from what I can see!

    • I wish I could remember what he was eating… he literally just pointed at things in the bakery and we obliged. haha. Trying new foods is always a good idea!

  • I don’t know much about cruising, but how does it work if you can’t visit certain ports of call? I can see people being unhappy about this, but I’m sure its covered in the fine print. It also seems like it would get very expensive if you couldn’t plan in advance so you would be tied to booking the ship excursions? It seems like you made the best of it though! Also, when you dock – can you come and go as you please or are there only certain times that you can come back to the ship? (See… so many questions, lol.) #citytripping

    • Hi Sara. This was my first cruise where we had to change ports. It was weather that prevented us from getting into port so I can’t complain. What we had planned in the ports we didn’t visit were all refunded and actually the cruise line gave us all ship credit for the inconvenience. When you dock you can come and go as often as you want. There are security measures each time you get on and off the ship but other then that you can do as you wish.

  • We went to Taormina on our last holiday before having children. I loved the amphitheater- was incredible – although super hot when we went. Weather looks great in winter when you guys went! Thanks for linking #citytripping

  • Hi there, this post is very helpful as our cruise in July will also be stopping by Messina. When I was looking into the best things to do here, I also stumbled accross the Greek theatre – Parco Archeologico della Neapolis. However, I was under the impressing that it was located in However, it was located in the city of Syracuse, about a two hour drive south of Messina, so I wasn’t sure if we would have enough time to go check it out. Your post sounds like it might be close to the ship in Taormina? Or did you travel another hour further south after Taormina to get the theatre? So it is worth travelling there to see it? What do you think is the best method of getting there (as ships tours are always quite expensive)?

    • Hello. It really depends on how long you have in port. Our ship docked in Messina and we took the bus to Taormina. We thought Taormina was worth seeing. I can’t speak to the town of Syracuse. We found both theaters in Taormina.

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