Sicily, Italy - a travel guide
Discover all that is best about Sicily, from magnificent beaches to ancient monuments and fine baroque towns, from secluded beaches on quiet islands to bustling resorts and Greek Temples on this exceptional island to the south-west of Italy.
Less well known than the beaches and coast but also worth exploring is the interior of the island, where olive trees and vineyards create a picturesque landscape around quiet hill villages unchanged with the passage of time - and of course volcanic Mount Etna, still erupting occasionally to cast an ominous shadow across the fertile land around the mountain.
Places to visit in Sicily
The places below include most of the highlights and places that you will discover during your Sicily visit. See also the map of Sicily to see where on the attractive Italian island they are to be found.
Sicily - an introduction
Sicily is more than just an island paradise on which to enjoy the beaches and beautiful scenery - although given its location, the year round climate is perfect for spending your days at the local beaches and touring the countryside in order to soak up the sights.
It is just 100 miles north of the African coast, which accounts for the sun that shines on Sicily most of the year. Expect the winter and early spring to be in the 60s with only occasional rain, although inland in the winter it is possible to ski or sled on famous Mount Etna. In April, May and June you can count on near perfect temperatures in the high 70s and mid to low 80s. In the hotter summer months of July and August those temperature may surpass 90. See Sicily weather.
There are many things that make Sicily more than just another island. It is historical and modern all at the same time, a unique place brimming with art, history, archeology, folklore, and scenery, not to mention some of the best food in the world. Following is a closer look at some of the beaches, towns, and historical sites that should not be missed when visiting Sicily.
TOWNS, HISTORICAL SITES, AND OTHER PLACES TO EXPLORE - A COUPLE OF HIGHLIGHTS
Castelmola: only 10 minutes by car from Taormina. Taormina is known for its great views, but Castelmola, at 1800 feet above sea level, gives a whole new meaning to the word “scenic.” The cobblestone streets of the town are encompassed by ancient walls and from anywhere in Castelmola there is a 360-degree view of the sea, sky, and mountains of Sicily.See Castelmola.
A three-quarter mile path of stairs leads visitors up to the town center from parking lots below where you will find Castello Normanno. This is the best place to soak up the views from Castelmola as well as some history in the ruins of Castello Normanno. The views include that of Mount Etna while it spews its smoke and of the town itself scattered down the side of a mountain.
Palermo: Palermo is famous for its rich history, culture, architecture, and food. It has played a large role in the areas history since it was formed 2700 years ago. Perhaps the most intriguing thing to see in Palermo is the Catacombe dei Cappuccini, catacombs that were built in the 16th century. Today they still hold the remains of over 9,000 people either in tombs or preserved by mummification. See Palermo.
But Palermo has much more to offer like historical sights, open-air markets, and museums.
Siracusa: of the many sites to see in Siracusa, the Duomo may be one of the more interesting. During the 5th century BC, the Greeks built a temple to Athena over the remains of the Duomo where even older remnants of Sicily’s history were discovered. In the 7th century, a Christian cathedral was built on top of the Greek structure, parts of which are still visible inside and out. See Syracuse.
Mount Etna: you don’t have to travel far to see Mount Etna since it is 10,901 feet high. It is not just one of the major active volcanoes in the world but the largest in Europe. Mount Etna still erupts on occasion, most recently in 2008 and 2009. Despite Etna’s activity, you can walk up and down the huge dunes of lava and wander around the surface that is reminiscent of the moon with dead craters as long as Etna is peaceful the day you go.
Since Sicily is an island, it is naturally surrounded by beaches. There are close to 40 from which to choose, although some are farther away from the towns and may not have lifeguards.
Some of Sicily’s best beaches are on the Aeolian Islands, a volcanic archipelago off of the eastern coast. These are easy to get to by ferry or hydrofoil. On these little island beaches you will find gorgeous scenery, volcanoes, castles, water sports, fishing, thermal resorts and the great beaches you are looking for. One of these little islands is Vulcano where you can experience the vapor jets spewing from the ground. Many people come her to soak in the sulfur springs. Some of the archipelago’s best beaches on are Vulcano.
See Sicily beaches for some of the finest beaches on the island
Sicily has always been known for food that is a reflection of the many different cultures that have made Sicily what it is over the years. The island is riddled with wonderful restaurants that serve everything from Sicily’s rich desserts and pastries like Cannoli. Seafood and cheese like pecorino or staples here. Of course in many areas you will fine the pasta and pizza that you may picture as typical Sicilian food.
OTHER SICILY INFORMATION FOR VISITORS
- discover the villages of Sicily listed as most beautiful villages in Italy
- limited time available for your visit? Explore the highlights for each of the regions of Sicily