The city of Messina is the third largest city in Sicily with a population of around 250,000. The area is a vital service centre not only for the surrounding municipalities of the province, but also for the Calabria and Straits area. Its particular geographical position, squeezed between the Peloritani hills and the sea, has imposed a natural limit on its potential for industrial expansion. It has also suffered from a series of earthquakes over the course of its history.
The state, in its various forms, is the city’s major employer—providing nearly half of the local jobs. The port area is a centre for logistics and contains both civil and military shipyards. Agriculture is another major activity, notably with the cultivation of citrus fruits and olives, along with the vineyards of the local wine producers. The city has a number of historic churches, palaces, forts and fountains, together with numerous museums. However, its architectural heritage suffered extensive damage during the devastating 1908 earthquake and Allied bombing during World War II.
Founded in the 16th century, the city’s university has become an increasingly important asset, with 11 faculties and 80 graduate programmes. Messina’s research centres have been recognised with international awards in the fields of renewable energy, new materials and marine environments. That success has been reflected in the city’s knowledge base, with the proportion of residents holding a degree rising from 5% in 1981 to 11% in 2001.