Founded by Greek colonists in the 8th century BC, it was originally called Zancle (scythe) because of the shape of its natural harbour. Of that name there is still remained the 'Scalinata Zanclea' stairs. Messina was sacked in 396 BC by the Carthaginians.
The city was almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake and associated tsunami on the morning of December 28, 1908, killing over 75,000. In June 1955, Messina was the location of the conference of western European foreign ministers which led to the creation of the European Economic Community.
Other cities and places of interest in the province include Barcellona Pozzo di Gotto, Milazzo, the Aeolian Islands (Lipari), Tindari and Capo d'Orlando. Messina has over 100 comunes in this province.