Sicily is one of our favorite places on earth. Each time we go, the island situated in the Mediterranean Sea calls us back every time. Sicily almost touches mainland Italy because it is just off the tip of the Apennine peninsula where the “toe” of Italy is.
Mount Etna is the tallest active in all of Europe and is over 10,990 feet (3,350 meters). Sicily is a treasure trove of the undiscovered. Sicily contains so many lovely coastal towns, hip cities, amazing art and food that is touched by the flavors of places like Morocco.
Sicily is one of the few places on earth that have the earliest evidence of humans; dating back to about 12,000 BC. The island is filled with architectural treasures like the Valley of the Temples, the Pantalica Necropolis and Selinunte. Don’t forget the amazing Aeolian Islands! Sicily has so much to offer.
Sicily’s attractions are cultural and scenic; aside from a couple of summer water parks, there’s not much in the way of typical “Tourist” money pits. Instead Sicily is full of authentic experiences that can only be had in this unique island and Palermo is the place to start.
At the crossroads of several important Mediterranean trade routes and subject in its long history to Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantine Greeks, Arabs, Normans and Spaniards, Sicily’s regional capital (1) is a fascinating historical palimpsest – and, with its palm trees, prickly pears and banyan trees, a botanical melting pot.
Don’t miss the glorious 12th-century mosaics in the church of La Martorana or Roger II’s private chapel, the Capella Palatina; and set aside half a day for the trip up to lofty Monreale, whose cathedral boasts yet more dazzling Norman-era mosaics.
Make sure you take time to visit the two fresh markets Palermo has. Each market is different offering the sights and sounds of Palermo Sicily that you will remember for a lifetime.
Check the Palermo opera schedule to see if there is something playing at Teatro Massimo.
One of the great cities of the Western Greek diaspora (it was home to mathematician and engineer Archimedes), Syracuse is today undergoing something of a Renaissance. Syracuse has a great historical area that has many shops and cafes for you to stop and enjoy a drink and a bit of people watching. Don’t miss the Syracuse market for the freshest veggies, meats and cheeses.
Agrigento is famous for an archaeological site know as the Valle dei Templi “Valley of Temples” spreads over two almost complete temples and the partly-reconstructed ruins of three others.
The three great Greek temple complexes of western and southern Sicily are the equal to those in Greece itself.
Selinunte, on the south coast between Mazara del Vallo and Sciacca, not such well-preserved ruins, but its position on a coast with an abundance of wild flowers & celery that gives the site its name is hugely atmospheric. If you seek out Cave di Cusa, seven miles to the north-east, chances are you’ll have it all to yourself. Suddenly abandoned in 409BC, this was where the stone used in Selinunte’s temples was quarried, and it’s a fascinating place, with great fluted column sections, carved in situ, still anchored in the mother rock.
So is that of Segesta, the closest to Palermo: although unfinished, the elegance of the fifth-century temple that perched on the crest of a hill makes it perhaps Sicily’s most impressive Greek ruin.
Taormina combines a breathtaking position beneath Mount Etna with a balmy climate that allows jasmine and bougainvillea to flower even in December.
Taormina has a historical center that is high above the sea and has hotels that offer amazing views. Lower Taormina is where you can dip your feet in the sea and eat a great seafood meal overlooking the ocean.