Just finished reading the enjoyable and informative Rick Steves Sicily Guidebook. It makes me want to visit and we'll likely add a Sicily leg to our planned Italian-French Riviera trip that has been sidetracked by the Covid. I was surprised there was no real coverage of Messina in the book. Also, perhaps a sidebar somewhere listing/briefly describing the strategic sites/fighting that took place during WWII. For example, Randazzo is recommended in the book but there's no mention of the action it saw during the war. The triumphant reception the American Army received after liberating Palermo certainly seems worth noting as well. The RS guidebooks are great for travel but what really sets them apart is their appreciation of history and art.
Just want to comment that this is why I always use more than just one resource when planning a trip and why most people here would recommend that also. No one guidebook is going to contain all the information you need to make your trip a pleasant and satisfying one. There are other resources that will help you narrow the focus of your trip and/or the itinerary you want to pursue based on your interests, be they museums, in situ art works, scenic wonders, wildlife, photography, military history, social history, world history, etc.. Rick Steves guides are good for general planning for certain areas but are by no means able to cover everything that might be of interest to everyone.
Interesting that you mention the American involvement in the liberation of Sicily. My father was a British Commando, and he told me that he was in Sicily several weeks before the Americans were, softening it up.
I spent part of an afternoon walking around Messina in 2015. It's not a bad place, but from an aesthetic perspective it doesn't remotely compare to what you will see in Palermo, Siracusa or Catania. Based on my admittedly very limited exposure to the city, unless there is a family connection or some sort of special historical point of interest for a traveler, I wouldn't recommend including Messina in a Sicilian itinerary for someone with only 2 or 3 weeks available. There are just so many other worthwhile destinations to choose from.
I stand ready to be told how wrong I am!
We visited the WWII invasion museum in Catania, and it gives you a bit of different perspective. If you were a Sicilian family sheltering from the Allied bombs being dropped on your city, you might not feel so jubilant. Or considering the fact that the Americans re-empowered the Mafia to help in Sicily, after Mussolini had pretty much stamped their influence out. Lots of gray areas in history.
I did the Rick Steves Sicily tour, which included the WWII museum in Catania, and yes, there are lots of gray areas in history.
RS makes it clear that his guidebooks don't cover everything and every place. He chooses what he thinks is important to most visitors with limited time. I, for one, can appreciate the importance of war sites, but really don't care to immerse myself in them.
If you go to https://www.ricksteves.com/ and scroll to the bottom you'll see the tab Submit Book Feedback under the Travel Help heading. It's worth checking out.
Our first visit to Sicily was in 2014 & the RS Sicily Guidebook was not available. At that time I used Lonely Planet and Insight Guides Sicily. We were on a Southern Italy Tour that ended in Eastern Sicily. We connected to Sicily by ferry boat from Messina to Reggio Calabria. The highlight of Reggio Calabria was visiting the Riace Warriors statues at the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia. I highly recommend seeing the two perfect Riace Bronzes of the fifth century BC. We missed the WWll Museum in Catania. It was our intention to see this museum in 2020, but canceled due to the Pandemic. We did use the RS Sicily Guide when planning our 2020 trip along with excellent advice from this Forum. We also took a Sicily class from Sarah Murdoch who co-authored the guide.
We had planned to follow another forum friend's itinerary last Sept. If interested, Search trip reports- "My trip to Sicily-in Zoe's memory." Zoe sadly passed away a few years ago. She was a friend to many of us and her trip reports were amazing.
Among others, I used the Cadogan guidebook to Sicily for our trips there. I no longer have it, so I can't check the war references you mentioned, but their guides often have much more on history than other guides.
Other than wanting to revisit places I saw back in the late 1970s, I used TripAdvisor for some research. If you were going to drive in Sicily there are plenty of WWII bunkers throughout the island. The were a number very near the Naval Air Station at Sigonella south of Catania, and we saw another outside Trapani near the salt farm. Some in the Marsala / Mazara Del Vallo area are used as lodging by illegal immigrants coming over from North Africa, so ones needs to be cautious if wanting to go into any of them.
Similar to Janis’ experience described above, our first Sicily trip was in 2012, when Rick had filmed a Sicily program, but didn’t have a dedicated guidebook, or even a chapter in his Italy book. We relied on the Lonely Planet book, and got outstanding lodging recommendations, along with a number of great locations for sights. We didn’t make it to Messina, on rather that trip or the second.
As far as Messina not being in Rick’s current Sicily, book, his books have always contained carefully selected and researched places, for whatever country or region the book covers. Not every place worthwhile to many people has made it into his book. He’s got reasons for what he does cover, and without having guidebooks a thousand pages long, he can’t/won’t include every location, with the thorough information provided for the locations that he does include.
Things can sometimes change. For years, his Spain book didn’t include Cordoba, but it’s now a star in more recent editions.