There is no place quite like Sicily. A Mediterranean gem with a rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural wonders, it’s no surprise that it has become one of Italy’s top tourist destinations. Whether you’re a lover of art and architecture, a nature enthusiast seeking serene escapes, a culinary explorer with a palate for authentic […]
There is no place quite like Sicily. A Mediterranean gem with a rich tapestry of history, culture, and natural wonders, it’s no surprise that it has become one of Italy’s top tourist destinations.
Whether you're a lover of art and architecture, a nature enthusiast seeking serene escapes, a culinary explorer with a palate for authentic flavours, or an adventurer eager to delve into Sicily's heritage, our travel experts will navigate you through the diverse landscape of must-see attractions and hidden treasures.
This comprehensive guide is designed to be your passport to an unforgettable Sicilian adventure, offering a curated collection of the best things to do in Sicily and ensuring you have an extraordinary Mediterranean experience.
Palermo is a city where layers of history have combined to create a unique blend of Arabic and Norman architecture. The Martorana Church is a testament to this fusion, adorned with stunning mosaics that narrate tales of the city's past. Likewise, the Palermo Cathedral, with its imposing presence, showcases a fascinating mix of architectural styles that reflect the city's historical evolution.
Fontana Pretoria, a significant landmark in Palermo, is an awe-inspiring fountain known for its intricate sculptures carved into the stone. It was built by Francesco Camilliani in Florence in 1554 before being transferred to Palermo in 1574.
Also within the heart of Palermo is the Capella Palatina, an extraordinary chapel reflecting a lustrous quality. The walls are decorated with beautiful marble, and the wooden ceiling is painted in gold featuring muqarnas, a decorative architecture resembling stalactites, which is really unique in a Christian church. Witnessing these architectural marvels is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Sicily.
Strolling through the bustling market in Il Capo is an immersion into the heart of local Sicilian culture. Here, amid the winding alleys and vibrant stalls, visitors can explore a tapestry of goods that mirror the island's rich heritage.
The aromatic scent of locally grown fruits, freshly caught seafood, and fragrant spices fills the air, inviting travellers to indulge their senses in the authentic flavours of Sicily.
Opera enthusiasts and history fans will find Teatro Massimo a remarkable site. This grand opera house, located in the centre of Palermo’s Piazza Verdi, is the third biggest in the world and is certainly a cultural jewel worth exploring. Built during a period of wealth in the late 19th century and dedicated to King Victor Emanuel II, its interiors are doused in luxury and rich history, fit for royalty.
For those intrigued by Sicily's complex history, anti-mafia tours offer a unique perspective on the city's past, shedding light on the impact of organised crime while emphasising the city's resilience and transformation. You’ll explore the inner-city of Palermo and former mafia stronghold Corleone to see first-hand where this notorious part of Italian history unfolded.
The picturesque town of Cefalù boasts a remarkable landmark dating back to the 12th century, the Cefalù Cathedral. This UNESCO World Heritage site showcases stunning mosaics and a fusion of Norman and Arab architectural influences, offering a glimpse into the town's rich history.
Its exterior features imposing twin towers and an intricately adorned façade, which immediately captivates visitors, hinting at the exquisite beauty housed within. The mosaics inside are crafted with meticulous detail, showcasing exceptional artistry and serving as a historical story, narrating tales of a bygone era.
Cefalù's Old Town (La Rocca) is a maze of narrow streets and medieval charm. Quaint shops line the alleys, offering a treasure trove of local artisanal creations and traditional crafts. Charming cafes and trattorias line the cobblestone streets, where the aroma of freshly baked bread and rich espresso wafts through the air, inviting visitors to indulge in authentic Sicilian cuisine. From savoury arancini to delectable cannoli, these cafes offer a delightful array of local delicacies, and is certainly one of the top things to do in Sicily.
Hiking enthusiasts will find delight in ascending La Rocca mountain, which offers not only a rewarding physical challenge but also panoramic views of Cefalù and its stunning coastline. As hikers navigate the winding paths and rocky terrain, they are treated to spectacular glimpses of the vast Tyrrhenian Sea, framed by the rugged cliffs that define Sicily's coastal beauty. Once at the top, Cefalu town, with its charming red-roofed houses and the Cathedral's towering silhouette, lies like a gem against the backdrop of the sea.
A visit to Cefalù's lively food market promises a delightful journey into authentic Sicilian flavours. As you wander among the colourful stalls, the fragrant aromas of freshly baked bread, savoury cheeses, and sun-ripened fruits beckon, tempting you to taste a variety of local delights.
With a spectacular coastline, Sicily is the perfect destination for the sun worshippers and beachgoers amongst us. For a more in-depth look at Sicily’s beaches, have a read of the best beaches in Sicily.
If it's long sandy beaches you're after, head to the beaches in the north of the island, though these do tend to be the busier parts of the coast. If it's the wild and untouched beaches, the south could appeal more, while the east has a greater number of rocky beaches and charming fishing villages. Spending your time relaxing on the island’s coastlines is for sure one of the best things to do in Sicily.
Visit Spiaggia di Cefalù in the north of Sicily for a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure on the island’s stunning coast. Sun-seekers can bask in the warm Mediterranean sun on the golden sand, and enjoy swimming, snorkelling, and paddleboarding in its calm, family-friendly waters. The beachfront also has cafes offering authentic Sicilian cuisine and drinks.
Also known as the Pearl of the Ionian Sea, Isola Bella, situated within the Isola Bella Marine Park in eastern Sicily, is an Italian gem boasting a pristine beach and a stunning sea cave known as Grotta Azzurra. The beach itself offers golden sands and crystal-clear waters, inviting visitors into a tranquil paradise.
Grotta Azzurra, with its captivating blue waters and hidden chambers, presents a surreal underground world waiting to be explored. Snorkellers will be enthralled by the incredible underwater scenery, encountering vibrant marine life and colourful fish darting among the cave's rocky formations.
Situated southwest of Sicily, midway between Sciacca and Agrigento, Torre Salsa is managed by the World Wide Fund for Nature due to the peregrine falcons and loggerhead sea turtles which breed there. Visitors can relax on the golden sands and uncrowded shoreline, which stretches along a rugged coast, surrounded by stunning cliffs and lush Mediterranean vegetation. Rich in marine life, here you can enjoy some snorkelling or scuba diving.
Located northwest of Sicily and named after the Mediterranean dwarf palm, the Zingaro Nature Reserve is a paradise for nature enthusiasts and beachgoers alike. It holds the distinction of being Sicily's first protected area, established in 1981.
This reserve is home to seven distinct beaches, each with its own unique charm. The coastline within the reserve encompasses a blend of golden sands, secluded coves, and pristine waters. You walk from one beach to another, climbing just a little bit, but it can be exhausting on a hot day, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead.
If you're looking for a stunning panorama that embraces the complete landscape of eastern Sicily, you shouldn’t miss the chance to explore the UNESCO-verified Mount Etna. Located on the east coast of Sicily, Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe, standing at 10,810 feet tall.
If you don’t like the idea of hiking or trekking up a volcano, you can take the Circumetnea train for a beautiful circular trip around Mount Etna. The 110 km long railway is a private line that runs around the base of the volcano through fertile lands and lava formations.
There is also a cable car that you can ride up to Torre Del Filosofo at 2,900m for a tour of the summit. Bear in mind that it’s not for the faint-hearted; the top section and intermediate station were consumed by volcanic explosions in 1971, 1983, 1985, and 2001. There are vineyards and olive groves on the lower slopes of Etna where you can indulge in Sicily’s best volcanic wines – the perfect way to wind down after an adrenaline-fuelled ride up Mount Etna.
For those holidaying with kids, be sure to check out one of the most famous water parks in Sicily, Etnaland. Located at the foot of Mount Etna, very close to Catania, Etnaland will give your thrill-seeking little rascals the time of their lives. Be sure to reserve your ticket in advance to guarantee a full day of excitement and adrenaline amongst enchanting surroundings.
Escape the tourist bustle of Cefalù with a day trip to Madonie Regional National Park, offering a genuine peek into rural Sicilian life. Nestled amidst the scenic Madonie mountain range, this park showcases unspoiled hilltop villages amid rolling hills and lush forests, far from the crowds.
Nature enthusiasts can explore a network of trails leading to hidden waterfalls and ancient caves. The landscape treats hikers to breathtaking views of the countryside and the shimmering Mediterranean, while the park's wildlife offers birdwatching and glimpses of rare flora and fauna in their natural habitat.
Exploring Madonie allows you to discover charming medieval villages where time appears to stand still. The park promises to unveil a lesser-known side of Cefalù that captivates visitors seeking outdoor adventure, cultural immersion, or a serene retreat into nature's embrace.
Step back in history and discover the ancient ruins at the Valley of the Temples, which lie on the outskirts of the modern city of Agrigento. Set in a stunning landscape, this UNESCO World Heritage site boasts a series of remarkably preserved ancient Greek temples over 2600 years old, including the iconic Temple of Concordia.
Visitors can wander among these impressive ruins, gaining insight into the ancient city of Akragas. The valley offers a glimpse into the architectural prowess of the Greeks, showcasing the grandeur of Doric temples against a backdrop of the Sicilian countryside.
Once you’ve soaked up all the history, you’ll have the opportunity to lunch in a restaurant with a splendid view over the sea, which is for sure one of the best things to do in Sicily.
Syracuse, a city renowned for its rich history, holds a wealth of ancient wonders.
The Greek Theatre stands as one of the largest and best-preserved ancient Greek theatres and is a must if you are interested in Greek history in Italy. With a capacity of 15,000 spectators and a diameter of almost 140 meters, visitors can still witness events in the theatre or simply absorb the echoes of its historical past. This theatre hosted famous performances such as ‘The Persians’ and ‘The Women of Etna’ by Aeschylus.
The Roman Amphitheatre, adjacent to the Greek Theatre, provides an insight into the Romans' influence in Syracuse. Every single sector of this famous amphitheatre was dedicated to different social categories; the first rows of seats were for the people who had Roman citizenship, the second section was for the wealthy families, and the last group of rows was for the poor. It once hosted gladiatorial battles and currently serves as a testament to Roman architectural expertise.
In the heart of Ortygia, Syracuse's historical centre, lies the Cathedral which is built upon the Temple of Athena. The Temple of Apollo, an ancient Doric temple, and Arethusa's Fountain, a natural freshwater spring, also add to the enchanting history of the city.
The Catacombs, a winding network of underground passages and burial chambers, reflect Syracuse's early Christian history. Exploring these catacombs unveils a fascinating journey into early Christian funeral practices and beliefs.
Sicily is certainly a jewel in the Mediterranean, offering a splendid array of experiences that cater to every traveller's desires. From the rich history woven through ancient ruins and architectural marvels to the breathtaking natural landscapes and culinary delights, Sicily is a haven for those seeking an extraordinary Italian adventure. The best things to do in Sicily encapsulate the essence of the island's allure, offering a journey through time, culture, nature, and culinary excellence.
Ready to embark on your Sicilian adventure? Italian Breaks has a gorgeous selection of villas in Sicily for you to choose from, so you can start planning your European getaway to Italy’s most treasured destination.