Have you seen “Cinema Paradiso”? Or maybe “Eat, Pray, Love”? Do you prefer the Italian cuisine over any other gastronomic culture in the world? Usually, travellers choose to visit cities that have old architecture and to leave behind anything related to sky-scrappers. If you’re one of those travellers and if you’ve answered “yes” to the above-mentioned questions, then you may want to add Sicily, Italy to your next-destination list.
Sicily, a destination you must not miss
What exactly is waiting for you in Sicily? There’s no place more Italian than this island, especially when you associate the image of Italy with the above-mentioned movies. Despite its historical position, Rome does not occupy the first place in top “most Italian” places in Italy. Let’s not forget, though, that the history of these places and the archaeological proofs of human activity in these areas go far back in time, to the 12th millennium BC. The island of Sicily is rich in a variety of aspects: unique landscapes, history, architecture, gastronomic delicacies, art and literature.
Geography and politics
Sicily is not a regular island of Italy, but the largest dry land area in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. The well-known strait of Messina separates the island from the continent. It is an autonomous region, surrounded by other smaller islands and together they form the so-called “Sicilian Region”.
Landforms and climate
The island has the shape of a triangle and has a little over 25,700 km2 (without counting the other adjacent islands). The main landforms are hills, which are highly cultivated, and mountains (in the North), with the marvellous view of the Etna in the back – the greatest active volcano in Europe. Sicily is crossed by several rivers that flow Southwards and into the sea: Salso and Alcantra.
The climate and vegetation are Mediterranean, which means that there are mild and wet winters, dry summers and there is very changeable weather during spring and autumn.
This is a very special chapter. Nearly all regions in Italy abound in amazing smells and tastes when it comes to the gastronomic culture. This is actually an old custom of the country that makes Sicily the gastronomic pole of Italy.
What dishes you can find here? The well-known casata was born in this region (home-made ice cream), as well as granita. Here you’ll see people putting artichoke flowers on grill (a perfectly eatable dish). This is the land of the cannoli pasta, and the place where you’ll find the ricotta cheese, arancini (rice croquettes), sardines, tuna, eggplant-based dishes, nougat and the best olive oil.
Don’t forget about the wines, as these too are part of the Sicily’s culture. Some of the most popular wines are nero d’avola (a type of red wine) and nerello mascalese.
Sicilian people and their customs
This is a traditional region, where people are proud of their history. For this reason, anniversaries, memorial ceremonies and religious celebrations are of high importance. Every city has a spiritual leader, and every ceremony dedicated to them is full of colour and accompanied by street processions.
Most important cities
Sicily is divided in nine provinces and each of them is named after the biggest, most important city: Palermo, Catania, Messina, Siracuza, Enna and Agrigento.
Tourist attractions in Sicily
There are numerous tourist attractions on the island and all of them deserve to be visited at least once. To be able to see them all, we recommend you spend several days here.
The Sicilian beaches
Most beaches here are wild beaches and provide a relaxing and quiet atmosphere, except Taormina and the Cefalu beach, which have numerous tourists every year. Some examples of such wild beaches are: Lampedusa, Licata, Torre Salsa, Lo Zingaro and San Vito Lo Capo.
The Etna Volcano
Located somewhere between Messina and Catania, Etna is the biggest active volcano in Europe and has over 3300 m in height. Even so, there are many people living at the base of this volcano. Tourists can also visit the region and there are even some areas where they can ski.
The Monreale Cathedral
The cathedral was built in the 12th century and is located in Palermo, Sicily. It is probably the most representative nomad-style cathedral and is also part of the UNESCO cultural heritage.
The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento
Valle dei Templi (i.e. The Valley of the Temples) is an archaeological site located on the hill where the Greeks built the Akragras city, many centuries ago. Among the monuments you can visit are the Temple of Jupiter, the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Athena and the Temple of Concordia – the best preserved one of them all.
The Temples of Selinunte
Selinunte is an ancient Greek city, located on the south-western coast of Sicily. Here you can find the Temple of Hera and the acropolis.
Villa Romana del Casale
Here, you can find an impressive collection of well-preserved Roman mosaics. The building is a Roman villa located in the vicinity of the Piazza Armerina city and dates back to the 4th century BC. It is also included in the UNESCO world heritage.
Neapolis Archaeological Park in Siracuza
Latomia del Paradiso, the Roman ruins and the Greek theatre in Siracuza are definitely worth visiting. It is a vast archaeological park, divided in three main sections.
The Cathedral in Cefalu
If you go on a holiday to Sicily, make sure that you also add the Cathedral in Cefalu to your to-visit list. This building may not be as popular as the Monreale Cathedral in Palermo, but it surely is a beauty worth visiting. It is a Roman-Catholic cathedral and the nomad style in which it was built will definitely amaze you.
San Vito lo Capo is a small town located in the north-western part of Sicily, in a valley surrounded by mountains that create a mesmerizing view. Here, you’ll find some of the most beautiful beaches in Sicily. Not far from here, you’ll find the natural reservation dello Zingaro, spreading over several kilometers.
Taormina is located in the Messina province, right on the eastern coast of Sicily and it has been one of the most popular tourist destinations ever since the 19th century. The most well-known beach is Isola Bella, where you can easily get by a gondola lift ride above the sea. Taormina is rich in history, but the main attraction here is represented by the mesmerizing landscapes. You can even see Mount Etna from here.
The islands around Sicily
Sicily is surrounded by many smaller islands and each of them has its own charm.
The Ustica island
The Pantelleria island
The Vulcano island
The Stromboli island
The Panarea island
The Lipari island
How to plan your trip to Sicily
Now you know what tourist attractions you can visit in Sicily. Let’s talk about the practical stuff and how to plan your trip to Sicily.
The best time to travel
During spring and autumn, the temperatures are more than pleasant. However, there are numerous tourists during the hot season as well, especially in July and August, when the temperatures are quite high, but this doesn’t seem to bother them too much.
How to get there
The best way to travel there is by airplane. Blue Air has numerous direct flights and connections throughout the entire Europe, so you can easily get to your dream, Sicilian destination.
Airports in Sicily
The main airports in Sicily are Catania, Palermo, Lampedusa and Pantelleria.
How to get there by car
Even though there are highways there, driving may not be the best traveling solution. The Sicilian streets are quite crowded, so you’d better go for other traveling options.
Means of transportation
Probably the best traveling option around the island is the train (especially when going to Messina, Siracuza or Palermo), followed by the bus. Bus stations are usually in the vicinity of the rail stations, thus making traveling a lot easier.
How to rent a car in Sicily
If you want to stick to driving, there are numerous rent-a-car services available on the island and many of them can be accessed via their websites. You can book a car and request to have it waiting for you at the airport, in a train or bus station, or elsewhere that best suits you.
Payment methods in Sicily
You can pay using your card. However, since it is a rural region, it is recommended you have some cash money with you, just in case.
In Sicily, there are numerous hotels, boutique hotels (one of the most popular choices), as well as accommodation via Airbnb, especially when it comes to villas. Among the most beautiful hotels, there are Gutkowski (in Ortigia), Bellmond Villa Sant’ Andrea (Taormina), BB22 (Palermo), Giuggiulena (Siracuza).
Two of the most well-known amusement parks on the island are Etnaland in Catania and Aretusa Park in Meilli, Siracuza.
Sea Spirit Diving and Divesicily, both located in Taormina, are two amazing places where you can practice your scuba-diving.