What To Do In Sicily
In Italian: Sicilia
The best places in Sicily for your visit depend on your interest. Let us start with giving you some basic information about Sicily. First about geography, history and climate.
Sicily is the largest of the Italian islands. It is surrounded by three seas: to the west by the Tyrrhenian Sea, to the east by the Ionian Sea and to the south by the Mediterranean Sea. The island of Sicily was occupied by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, French, Germans, Spanish, Italians and even British. They all left their genes and together created a very interesting culture. This is reflected in the language and in the local cuisine.
The climate of Sicily is Mediterranean with mild and wet winters and hot and dry summers. This is perfect for growing oranges, lemons, almonds and wine. Despite this wealth of fertile land, the population has always been poor in the cities, and even today there is a large gap between the rich Italian north and the poor south. Agriculture and tourism are the main sources of income.
The Strait of Messina separates Sicily from mainland Italy, the Calabria region. A bridge is being built as a never-ending dream that has already cost more than €600 million without anything visible. Money better to be spent in education and tourism infrastructure.
Best Places To Visit In Sicily
We have traveled to Sicily quite a few times over the years and discovered new and interesting sites every time. Sicily is a perfect destination throughout the year. It offers a multitude of experiences and yes, Sicily is big. It is about 300km from the east to the west coast and about 200km from the northernmost point to the southernmost point. We are happy to share with you our preferences for things to do in Sicily.
Palermo is the Capital of Sicily
Palermo is a port city, cultural city, and the seat of government of the autonomous region. With a history of over 2700 years, it has many sites to explore.
In 2018, Palermo was named Italy’s cultural capital, which has helped the city to a beneficial change. Since then we find lovely pedestrian areas that connect the historic markets and the most beautiful views.
The most famous attraction is the Norman Palace with the Palatine Chapel and the largest opera house in Italy, the Teatro Massimo.
Located in the north-west corner of Sicily it looks out to the north. It is the perfect starting point for a tour of Sicily discovering historic sites, wandering through breathtaking landscapes, and experiencing the local culinary delights.
Cefalù Travel Guide
Legends surround the city of myths and giants on the northern coast of Sicily, which are not enough for their beauty.
The local mountain is a landmark of Cefalù. It rises from right behind the beautiful cathedral. It is a must-see for every traveler passing Cefalù.
The town itself stretches along the bay with small sandy beaches and houses that reach right up to the surf. A chic holiday resort with small streets and high life in summer.
Cefalù is a great place for a beach holiday.
Catania in East Sicily
At the foot of Mount Etna is Catania, the second largest city in Sicily. It is located right by the sea and is very fertile due to the volcanic soil. Catania has an international airport with direct flights from many European cities as well as direct from China. Therefore, it is the first stop for many on their Sicily Tour.
What are the things to do in Catania?
First of all it is a wonderful city with many baroque palaces, churches and city scapes. Street food is excellent and a visit to the fish market early in the morning is a must. If you look to the north you will notice mount Etna, an active vulcano. In the night you might sometimes see lava glowing in the dark on the mountain. It is a real vulcano that can be visited in a guided day tour unless it is too active at the time of your trip.
Mount Etna Active Vulcano
Mount Etna was declared a World Heritage Site in 2013. It is constantly active and a dreamlike nature reserve for hiking on a volcano.
Other active volcanoes are located on the offshore Eolian islands. There is the island of Vulcano and the island of Stromboli. The latter erupted in 2019 and might not be open for visitors for a while.
Taormina - the Best of Sicily
The first and most famous holiday destination is Taormina in eastern Sicily. It was already inhabited in antiquity, as evidenced by the Greek and Roman theatres.
Syracuse, the Greek City in Sicily
Syracuse was once considered the most beautiful Greek city in Sicily. The Ortigia peninsula is so rich in historical finds and excavations that it takes a few days to explore it all. It is a preferred base for a longer vacation in Sicily.
What to do in Syracuse? You can make beautiful excursions to beaches or UNESCO cultural heritage sites. Once you arrive Syracuse you feel welcome and at ease. It has the Mediterranean Flair we are all longing for. Fresh fish is served in the many restaurants along the coastline. The most difficult day is when you have to leave and go back home.
Val di Noto Baroque Towns
The Baroque Towns in the so called Val di Noto towns of
- Palazzolo Acreide,
- Ragusa, and
Almost completely destroyed after a terrible earthquake in 1693. Almost simultaneously, the villages in the Sicilian Baroque style have been rebuilt and are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Located at 700m altitude, in the Erei Mountains, surrounded by dense forests is the beautiful medieval town of Piazza Armerina. Around 20,000 inhabitants work here in small industrial companies or live from agriculture. The real attraction that made Piazza Armerina famous is the excavation of a Roman villa. Villa Romana del Casale is famous for its unique mosaic floors.
Enna in the geographic center of Sicily
Enna is located in the center of Sicily. From Enna you have a fabulous panoramic view, because you are on the roof of Sicily, so to speak. The view over the landscape all the way to Mount Etna is exceptional. With an altitude of 931 m, Enna is the highest provincial capital of Italy. It has a rich history to explore. Enna is a great location for excursions through magnificient landscapes.
Ancient excavation sites
Discover the History of Sicily
If you are interested in the history of Europe, Sicily is in the right place. There’s so much to discover that a holiday isn’t enough. Bones and commodities have been found in grottoes which date back to the 5th and 12th-century b.c. Found pointing to old settlements. From excavations, it was discovered that already in the 12th century bc small settlements had livestock and agriculture. Well-preserved Roman villas with detailed depictions of life on mosaic floors testify to high culture and vast Greek temples testify to the architectural skills of our ancestors.
Sicily’s most beautiful archaeological sites are located in
- Syracuse-Neapolis Archaeological Park
- The Greek Theatre of Taormina
- The Roman villa of Casale near Piazza Armerina
- Villa Romana del Tellaro
- Pantalica (Syracuse Province)
- The Valley of Temples at Agrigento (La Valle Dei Templi)
The most important surviving archaeological sites are from the Greeks and Romans. They preserve antiquity for us with their treasures and let us better understand life two to three thousand years ago and what has survived it to this day.
Islands off Sicily
Sicily is surrounded by small islands, which are also of volcanic origin and each of which is a gem in itself.
To the northeast is the archipelago of the Liparian Islands, also called Aeoli after the god of wind with the islands of Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Filicudi, Alicudi, Panarea and the famous volcanic island of Stromboli.
To the west are the three Aegadian islands of Favignana, Isola di Levanzo and Marettimo. Near Trapani is the private island Mozia, officially known as the Isola San Pantaleo.
To the northwest is the island of Ustica and to the south Pantelleria, as well as the pelagic islands of Linosa and Lampedusa, which is closer to Tunisia than Sicily.
Practical Guide for Travel Sicily
How best to arrive in Sicily?
Most tourists arrive Sicily by flight. There are direct flights from all Italian international airports to one of the two airports in Sicily. In the East, there is Catania (CTA) and in the north-west Palermo (PMO). Both are international flights that are serviced directly from many European cities as well as from China. There are also regular ferries from Naples and harbors near Genova in northern Italy. This might be of interest to travelers to arrive in their car. Arriving by train is rather unusual as it takes around 15 hours from Rome to Palermo by train with a ferry that carries the train over to the straight of Messina. There is no bridge for trains and not for cars to connect Sicily to the mainland of Italy. But over €500 Million has already disappeared for this project which is postponed to better times.
How best to travel inside Sicily?
We advise travelers that want to explore more of this beautiful island state of Italy to rent a car at the airport or later on from the city they arrived to. Rental cars have Italian license plates, are well maintained, and convenient. The roads are generally in good condition unless you want to reach remote villages to look at the €1 real estate. Some Europeans arrive in their private car, which is also fine as long as you do not leave anything in the car while parking. This is advised to take all over Italy and probably good for most countries in the world.
Is Sicily safe to visit?
From the Godfather movie we know that Sicily is the home of some families that maintain a distinct business culture. The Italian government is quite successful in its drive to eliminate this dark spot on the profile of the country. As a normal tourist, you will not experience any threat or discomfort since the hospitality of the people os overwhelming and you are not a target of their business. What remains is the pocket thieves inn the main cities which you find everywhere in the world.
What are the best places to visit in Sicily?
It depends on your interests. In general, we recommend visiting a mix of city and countryside. A gourmet might want to visit a winemaker for a tour with tasting and wake up early in Catania to go to the fish market and sample some raw seafood. Those interested in beautiful landscapes will head to Val di Noto after a few days in Palermo. And if you are interested in beach and Vulcano, then maybe a beach resort near Taormina with a guided excursion to Mount Etna is the best choice. If you want to stay in one place and have a mix of beach and romantic ancient city then Cefalu might catch your interest. There are also interesting golf courses. Renting a boat for sailing with skipper is also a wonderful idea. Some of our clients come back every year to discover new things in Sicily. No, it does not get boring. Please see above for a brief description of the best places to visit. Please contact us for a private tour that includes your dream destinations and activities. We excel in developing bespoke itineraries for private travellers.