Modern Messini is about 8km out of Kalamata, it’s a bustling regional town with a large open square at its centre, and many small shops clustered along the roads around the square that meet the needs of the surrounding rural population; if you have a sudden need of a chainsaw, Messini is the place to go.
Ancient Messini is another 20km away up in the hills, so don’t get a bus to Messini hoping to walk to the site. The village close to the site is Mavromati, there are 2 buses a day that run there.
Excavation of the site began only 25 years ago and are continuing – and its quickly become a significant site. The complex of temples, aesclepion, theatres, stadium, gymnasium and baths was founded in 371BC. Sections still exist of a defensive wall 9km long that defended the city. The Messinians built the city and walls after they freed themselves from the tyranny of Spartan slavery, clearly intending never to be subjugated again. A section of the walls can be seen outside the main site if you follow the road outside the main gate down for 800m. Here the Arcadian Gate straddles the old road, renowned for its unusual circular design.
It’s a lovely site in a mountain setting which doesn’t attract a lot of visitors, definitely worth visiting though its not (yet) on the scale of major sites such as Olympia and Delphi. The excavations are spread out over quite a large area with little shade so be prepared for some walking around. The Stadium, with stone seating and surrounding columns is particularly impressive. There is a small museum on the main road. Also next to the main road in the village above the site there is a taverna with a pleasant shaded terrace that has nice views over the site.