The good (and bad!) thing about visiting Sicily is that you never run out of cities and sights you really “must see” and “must do”. You could spend a week—or even two—and still not come close to seeing it all. It’s one of the reasons so many people return time and again.
That being said, there really are a few things that should top your first-time-visitor list; I’m going to share my list, developed over years of listening to what our own guests enjoy the most.
Sicily’s incredible historical and cultural legacy
You don’t need to be a student of classical studies to appreciate connecting with the earliest traces of Western Civilization that abound in Sicily.
Sicily alone has seven sites in the UNESCO World Heritage List and each is spectacular in its own right.
The Archaeological Area of Agrigento one of the world’s foremost Mediterranean cultural centers from the 6th century B.C. The Doric temples and monuments to Greek art and culture are truly magnificent.
The Villa Romana del Casale. Villa Romana, one of the most well-preserved examples of luxury Roman villas, dates back to the 3rd or 4th century B.C. and is known for its incredible mosaics which are unequaled in the region.
Isole Eolie. The Aeolian Islands (Panarea, Stromboli, Vulcano, Alicudi, Filicudi, Lipari, Salina) are all of volcanic origin and have contributed to the scientific study of volcanology over the centuries.
Val di Noto. The cities here were rebuilt in the 1600s after a massive earthquake and represent some of the finest examples of baroque architecture in the world.
Ancient Syracuse and the Necropolis of Pantalica. This ancient necropolis contains some 5,000 tombs and dates as far back as the 13th century B.C. The Greek theatre, Roman amphitheater, and Temple of Athena stretch back to the 8th century B.C.
Mt. Etna. Etna is the crown jewel of Italy’s UNESCO heritage. It’s the highest volcano in Europe and is well-known for its persistent activity.
Arab-Norman Palermo and the Church Cathedrals of Cefalu and Monreale. These sites were listed in 2015 and represent the cultural syncretism of these two major influences. The Royal Palace, the Church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti, Admiral’s Bridge, and the Monreale Cathedral are especially significant specimens.
Much of Sicily’s appeal lies in its outdoor activities and pursuits
The resort city of Taormina and Mt. Etna are especially appealing for outdoor activities. The beaches around Giardini-Naxos offer abundant opportunities to enjoy watersports and more relaxing pursuits like sunbathing and paddling about in the sea.
The coves below Taormina around the islet of Isola Bella are connected by cable car and make a wonderful outing for exploration.
You will of course not want to miss a trip to the summit of Mt. Etna via cable car or gondola lift—the views are simply indescribable.
The vibrant markets are bustling with life
Some of the most famous markets are found around Siracusa and Ortygia and especially Palermo—don’t miss Ballaro, Palermo’s most lively market overflowing with beautifully arranged produce and goods. Mercato del Capo, another popular Palermo market, is known for its olives, pungent cheeses, and handsome vegetables.
Sicily’s coastline is unrivaled in all of Italy
Our climate allows for swimming six months out of the year (May through October) and there are more than enough sandy beaches and dramatic coastlines to delight even the most dedicated beach lover.
My favorite beaches
Mondello, the beautiful crescent-shaped “people’s beach” near Palermo.
The Aeolian Islands, especially Lipari and Salina, have clear, calm waters.
The dramatic coastline and pebbly beaches around Taormina are a beautiful place to enjoy the cerulean waters of the Ionian Sea.
San Vito lo Capo near Trapani has exquisite white sand beaches and calm turquoise waters.
Connect with your family heritage
This is perhaps the most meaningful activity for many visitors to Sicily. There is, for so many, a deep pull to discover one’s family ancestry...to connect with the origins of one’s personal heritage.
It is truly a delight for me and others in our company to work closely with guests to trace their family’s journey and walk in the footsteps of their Sicilian ancestors. If this is your passion, please fill in a few details here and let me know how I can help you make this dream a reality for you.
There is nothing quite like the Sicilian food and wine culture
Our unique geography and history have birthed Sicily a cuisine unlike any other in Italy—blending Greek, Norman, Arab and even Spanish, North African, and Middle Eastern flavors and techniques into a magnificent whole.
The seafood—tuna, sardines, anchovies and especially prawns—and our voluptuous vegetables create a cuisine that must be experienced first-hand. And our luscious wines rival any in Europe.
You won’t want to miss my next email when I give you an in-depth look at Sicily’s food and wines...my mouth waters just thinking of it.
Your friend, Valeria
P.S. If there is a particular activity—active pursuits, museums, art, shopping—that I’ve missed, I’m happy to find the information you need. Please hit reply to this email and let me know what interests you. Myself, Vincenzo, and our team of travel experts are always here to help any way we can.