Just two miles off Italy’s southern tip, step foot onto the largest (and most magical) island in the Mediterranean – Sicily. There are countless things to swell every traveller’s heart here. Blissful hilltop towns frozen in time, crumbling ancient ruins and sun-drenched beaches are just the start. So read this pocket-sized guide to Sicily to help you decide where to turn next.
A guide to Sicily and 8 unmissable spots
From popular hotspots to off-the-beaten-track secrets, here’s where to travel on your Sicily adventure.
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Hovering on a high rock above the Ionian sea (on Sicily’s east coast), Taormina is calling your name. To start: pick up a local gelato as you stroll the Corso Umberto main street. Before peeling off to the Greek-Roman theatre (built in the 3rd century BC) where you can drink in the history, imagine past performances and take in an incredible panoramic view of the coast with Mount Etna towering in the background.
Elsewhere, get to know locals at a family owned Sicilian lemon farm overlooking Etna. Or head down the winding trail to the gorgeous Giardini Naxos resort town for a soaking of Sicilian sun.
A guide to Sicily must include its capital: Palermo. A trip to Massimo Theater is a must here – Italy’s largest opera house and the third largest in Europe – and which you might recognise from the Godfather III film. So is a hike up to the Sanctuary of Santa Rosalia, nestled in the Mount Pellegrino hills, where the statue of Palermo’s patron saint: ‘La Santuzza’ lives. Colourful food markets, Baroque churches (housing royal tombs) and Gothic palaces (patterned with Byzantine mosaics) are also big features in this multicultural city. And the best part? You can experience it all with a Local Specialist on Trafalgar’s Southern Italy and Sicily tour.
A hour’s drive north from Palermo along a stunning coastal highway, you catch yourself in Cefalù. This quaint fortress-style medieval village halves your heartrate in seconds – with its Norman Cathedral, winding Arab streets and glowing beaches. Consider yourself a foodie? The seafood here gives ‘fresh’ a whole new meaning.
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The hilltop city of Agrigento is full of ancient wonders, breathtaking beaches and serene street walks. But there’s more. Thanks to past Greek settlers in southern Italy, the best Greek architecture outside the Acropolis exists here: the Valley of the Temples in Akragas. A short hop from Agrigento, you’ll find stunning Greek temples overlooking the sea (like Temple of Concord and the Temple of Juno), dating back to the 8th century. This should be top of your travel list here. As should a moment on the Scala dei Turchi white cliff to appreciate the postcard-perfect views of glowing yellow beaches below.
Often the best way to immerse yourself in a new place and culture is by foot. And nowhere is this more true than in Erice. The medieval cobbled streets in this cosy mountain-top town (2464 feet above sea level) are a point of pride for locals. And amazingly, these narrow lanes spill out into wooded hillsides, Norman castles, salt pans, cathedrals and tastebud-tingling trattorias. Need we say more?
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Stop for a second to savour Scopello. This charming coastal village (in the Trapani province) is a special slice of Sicilian heaven. It’s based around a farmstead and charming central courtyard that enchants visitors and locals like. But before you lose concept of time, remember to meander down the coastal trails to San Vito Lo Capo beach to drink in the crystal-clear air and wash any life concerns away.
Cicero called Syracuse ‘the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all’. And it’s difficult to dispute this. The former capital of Magna Graecia on Sicily’s east coast is full of amazing archaeological remains – including a 15,000 capacity Greek theatre, 140m-long Roman amphitheatre and the Orecchio di Dionisio limestone cave shaped like a human ear. Next, we recommend a stop on the minuscule Ortygia island to explore bright fruit markets, trattorias, medieval buildings, cathedrals and fountains.
One foot in Savoca leaves you speechless. Tucked into green hills above the sea, you feel authentic village life at its best here. Film fans are also especially hooked because this is the setting for ‘The Godfather’, where you can visit Vitelli’s bar featured in the film for a refreshing ‘granita di limone’ (frozen lemon desert). Or simply walk around absorbing the aura.
And what’s better… you can explore this village frozen in time with a Local Specialist on Trafalgar’s Southern Italy and Sicily tour. Plus hike a stretch of one of the world’s most jaw-dropping volcanoes: Mount Etna.
Will you keep this guide to Sicily on your trip? Which spot would you like to visit first? Tell us in the comments below