Do not confuse the town with the region of the same name. The town is out on an isthmus into the ocean, connected to the mainland by a thin sliver of land. The town is old and cobbled and a bit hilly but beautiful, with fairly narrow streets and that faded charm that the Med does so well. The central market is very lively, and most of the shopping streets are pedestrianised (except for disabled access/ taxis/ police/ ambulances/ deliveries, i.e. not very!). We took a taxi to the Archaeological Museum, because this is one of the only places in the world with a significant Phoenician history and collection of finds (they called it Gadyr). But, despite my research on the internet prior to departure, they did not warn us that they only let in 25 people per hour, and closed for siesta until after our departure time, so I didn’t get to go inside. We then made our way down to the shopping area, and found that Punt Roma (mum’s favourite shop – although I was the only one who made a purchase) was very easy to find and C&A closed down in August. Not the most satisfying of mornings! We went to the Senator Hotel (the only 4-star in the place) for a bite of lunch (there’s a lovely spa in the basement, fyi), and then we went for another wander, after which we returned to the ship, so we could all shower whilst we were still moored.
Messina is a proper town, with the standard Mediterranean thing of putting a dual carriageway along the front (WHY do they all do that?!). It was noisy and smelly and surprisingly friendly. We plodded along the fairly well-paved pavements to the Piazza Duomo. We drank expensive (tourist priced) drinks and used the cafe’s (pretty poor) toilets while we killed time until noon struck, at which point, we all gathered under the Campanile to watch the rather impressive moving parts perform to the tune of Ave Maria. The ages of man processed, saints raised their hands in blessing, a dove of peace circled, a cock crowed and a lion roared. On one side of the tower is one of the most beautiful astronomical clocks in the world. The weather was gorgeous, and we enjoyed the whole thing immensely.
Then we got on a rather cute road train for a tour of the town. Unfortunately, the roads are not as lovely as the pavements, and I suggested they put up a warning sign to alert people to the fact that their vertebrae may not be returned to them in the same order as that in which they arrived. We tootled up to the top of the town, where we took photos of little Oriana (1800 passengers) parked in front of MSC Meraviglia (5,000 passengers) parked in front of a Seabourn three-master mock schooner that holds a few dozen. We found a lovely little neighbourhood restaurant for lunch (with much better loo!), and then we then plodded in (futile) search of shops (but at least it was all downhill!) until we ended up back at the ship. The one shop we did find was one that allowed mum to replace the reading glasses she had sat on the day before, so that was a plus.
It’s a very nice place, Messina, but although they have dipped kerbs for the mobility impaired, car parking is pretty haphazard (double parking, sideways parking, on the pavement, on the dual carriageway, you name it), and they park across the dips without blinking an eyelid, which means the rather high kerbs are the only option. Not for the severely mobility impaired, this one, I’m afraid. And if you cross the road, pushing a wheelchair, at a zebra crossing, with a green man light in your favour, you will still get people trying to run you down, and when you object, they will tell you to go and do things to yourself that would usually be said in Anglo-Saxon in the UK – even my limited Italian understood that. Charming! Well, everyone ELSE was friendly! And the sun shone, which helped.
Corigliano Calabro (possible prize available if you can find this on a map!)
We waited AGES for a shuttle bus and took the 20 minute drive away from Schiaveno, where we moored, up into the hills overlooking the beaches, where this tiny town is perched, on, if not actually in, the cliff face. This town is not for tourists, and certainly not for those of limited mobility. The roads are so narrow, there is no vehicular access, and the town has no taxi service. It is also entirely built on sloping hills, which makes it quite unsuitable for wheelchair users. There is a pretty impressive castle (built by the Normans – no, I didn’t know they had come this far south either) with some lovely views. That’s it. For the whole town. No shops, no restaurants, no bars (except the one the shuttle bus parked outside of), no souvenirs, no postcards, no taxis, no maps, nothing. So we took the shuttle bus back down again.
The port area of Schiaveno is a very large patch of concrete with no freight cranes, so clearly intended to welcome passenger ships, rather than stuff, but the town is not ready. According to the internet, there are two resort hotels nearby, but as there were no taxis or maps, we couldn’t go looking for them. We never got to see Schiaveno town either, for the same reason. P&O wanted to whisk us up to Corigliano Calabro and if we wanted to go elsewhere, tough poo. We were back on board in time for lunch by the pool, and so were most of the other passengers. A shame, really. A bit of a waste of a day, that could have been much more enjoyable if P&O had tried a little harder. But, I think it was their first time here too, so maybe things will improve for future visits. I certainly hope so, anyway. What little we saw had the potential to be a lovely place to visit.
This is the end of the first few ports. It gets a bit complicated from hereon in so bear with me!