The Strait of Messina is the narrow waterway between Sicily and Calabria, the southernmost region on the Italian peninsula. Despite its relatively short length, the Strait of Messina is endowed with many unique qualities, making it one of the more dramatic passages in the Mediterranean. Its narrowest point—less than three kilometers (two miles)—creates a natural bottleneck and a distinct sheltered marine ecosystem; it is also a significant migration point for numerous species of birds. Noted for its large numbers of raptors and storks, the strait is one of the most popular and important bird-watching locations in Europe. Whales also swim along the length of the strait, adding to the area’s remarkable biodiversity.
The Strait of Messina figures prominently in Greek mythology, most notably as the site of Scylla and Charybdis, mythical monsters of the sea that were embodied in rocky shoals on the Calabrian side and a whirlpool on the Sicilian side. These natural hazards would later lead to the phrase “between a rock and a hard place,” in English. For travelers today, however, sailing the strait is an easy decision, with its opportunities to spot wildlife in the shadow of Mount Etna.