As the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily offers a little bit of everything for every traveller.
Walk through the remains and history of the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.
Dive well below the watchful eye of Helios to a long forgotten ancient world right off the coast of Taormina.
Eat Sicilian delicacies in the island’s capital, Palermo.
Or just get lost in the alleys of Cefalù.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned Sicilian jetsetter, the island can be overwhelming with its pristine water and beaches, expansive history dating back to the BC era and rich culture. Struggling with what to do or see first to experience an authentic Sicily?
These cities are a good place to start:
Are you infatuated with ancient history and stories where gods and goddesses ruled with magic and omnipotent power?
Then Agrigento, a lesser known city nestled into the countryside of the southern coast, needs to be on your bucket list. It is home to the Valley of the Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage site that’s home to seven impressively preserved Doric temples.
While a popular tourist attraction, it is well worth the visit purely to say you’ve wandered amongst the likes of remains from 500 BC.
And while Agrigento attracts those mostly interested in the history and archaeology, this small city hosts a few days’ worth of sites.
From the old town to Scala dei Turchi, your camera roll will be filled with postcard-quality pictures.
Spend an afternoon walking through the old town eating Sicilian delicacies and admiring the city’s medieval design that divides the city into quarters that reach towards the sea on massive slabs of rock. And end your time in Agrigento climbing the Scala dei Turchi, or Stair of the Turks, and catching the sunset along the rocky cliff that juts out from the coast of Realmonte.
Agrigento is a dream destination among mortals, and a museum for the gods.
Caltagirone is an artist’s paradise as the city rivals the ceramics of those famously found in Portugal and Morocco.
Nestled away from the shore break along the coast, come to this inland gem for swirls of colours and pottery and leave with a new favourite city to come back to.
Known as the ‘City of Ceramics,’ you’ll get lost in the heart of the city as you follow the vibrant colours etched into the alleys and streets – including the famous ceramics stairway named for Santa Maria del Monte.
You can find this 142-step stairway in the old fortified district where its engraved ceramics lead the ascent to a hilltop with incredible views of the city and the ancient Church Matrice from the medieval area. The best time to visit this vibrant staple in the heart of Sicily is during the summer when the city wakes up to festival and celebrate its rich history.
Come here in May when the staircase dawns flowers in honour of the Madonna or visit at the end of July to see the same beautifully decorated art piece illuminated by oil lamps for the feat of the Holy Patron, Saint Giacomo. During this event, you can also glimpse parades of horses and carriages touring the city below.
And while you’re here, you might as well enjoy a traditional cuddureddi sweet, delicious biscuit with honey, almonds or mulled wine.
Lying along the Ionian coast under the gaze of Mount Etna, this city is the perfect place to call home for your Sicilian vacation.
It’s ideal location makes day trips to Mount Etna, nearby islands and the eastern and southern coasts very much possible. And it’s right by the airport for easy arrival and departure. But even within the city you can find that dreamy Sicilian culture – and a resilient population.
In 1669, Catania was destroyed by Mount Etna’s spewing lava, and then once again in 1693, the city fell privy to an earthquake. So, while the city isn’t as beautiful as Caltagirone, its atmosphere and location make this place well worth the stop.
Come here to navigate the smells of the bustling fish markets where freshly caught lobsters, sardines and anchovies lay to rest, meet the incredibly friendly locals and relax in piazzas to read or eat Pasta alla Norma, a dish with fried chunks of aubergine, rich tomato sauce and ricotta cheese.
Piazza del Duomo is the heart of the city, and a must-see before you move onward to the rest of your Sicily adventure!
An off-the-beaten path destination, Noto is a rising city among tourists in the southeastern region of Sicily. Although locals have always found its character charming.
As a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site, Noto offers a stunning landscape of 18th century Sicilian Baroque buildings for you to explore. It’s probably the quintessential destination for those who admire the intricacies of the Baroque style as every building has its own unique design, while contributing to the city’s overall burnt hue of colours.
Other than falling in love with Noto and its buildings, this city has a whole host of attractions for the wanderer.
The Noto Cathedral is a looming mass of yellowed limestone that is hard to miss, and shouldn’t be anyways. Worked into its features are a church bell and clock that make you feel reminiscent of the pre-technology era.
Visit the Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata for a picture album full of intricately displayed and designed balconies fit for royalty. The balconies host sculptures of chiseled mythical creatures that transcend time and transport you into the ancient world of Greek mythology.
The best part about Noto? Is how the buildings capture the sun’s rays at dusk. Noto is the ultimate destination for golden hour experiences.
Do you want local and traditional Sicily? This northern coastal city living and breathing the neighboring sea has it all.
Wander along the coastal walkway to the slow rhythm of this city’s heartbeat and see the beauty of authentic Sicily. The gleaming water along the city’s edge highlights the sunkissed Arab-Norman buildings to highlight Cefalù’s architecture and history.
Fishermen socializing and slapping the day’s catch from their boat into market-ready transportation. Nearby mountains peering down from their perches and welcoming the tourists and always greeting the locals.
Find yourself walking towards the ancient cathedral where you can spot the famous fresco of Christ, Christus Pantokrator, or hike La Rocca for a morning sunrise wake-up before relaxing on the beach as the water nips at your toes. While Cefalù’s luring aura attracts throngs of tourists in the summer, it still holds its heat and charm in October and November without the crowds.
Skipping Cefalù during your Sicilian holiday is like refusing to eat the pasta or cannolis.
Although an obvious choice, the capital of Sicily is an obvious choice for a reason.
For travellers this should probably your first or one of your first stops for a healthy dose of what this Mediterranean island offers. Plus, it’s an ideal gateway to getting to the rest of the island’s must-see spots. And as you snake your way through the winding streets, you’ll feel the character of this Sicilian hotspot from every small shop etched into the city’s foundation and thick accent offering you food.
It’s not about ‘What is there to do in Palermo?’ but rather “What isn’t there to do?”
First and foremost, wander through the stalls of Palermo’s three main markets – yes, three. Ballaro, Capo and Vucciria are wafting with smells of fresh meats and cheese and offering some of the world’s best street food. Plus, these are great spots for gifts and souvenirs to remember your idyllic Sicilian vacation.
And once you’re full, be sure to eat some more and stop at a gelato artigianale for a gelato stuffed into a brioche bun.
Then walk it off and check out sites like Quattro Canti, the Palermo Cathedral and the Capuchin Monastery Catacombs. Each attraction is steeped in history, and unique experiences that are most definitely Instagram-worthy. And beyond the cultural ripeness of Palermo, day trips are only a few miles away to beautiful beaches and diving sites for the naturally curious explorers.
Palermo could be your entire vacation, and it would still be quintessential Sicily.
Ragusa may be one of the most picture-worthy cities in all of Sicily.
It’s a part of the southern heel of Italy, where it sits atop a limestone hill overlooking two sloping valleys. It’s divided into Ragusa Superiore and Ragusa Ibla, which creates a really interesting history lesson for tourists.
While Ragusa Superiore is the modern and towering section of the city, Ragusa Ibla is the old town entrenched lower in the valley. When Ragusa Ibla was destroyed in an earthquake in 1693, the locals recreated their beautiful city with Ragusa Superiore. But then they rebuilt Ragusa Ibla to its former glory, and united the two towns in 1929 to become the city of Ragusa – beauty and history, what’s not to love?
Visit Ragusa Superiore for the views, and explore Ragusa Ibla for its dilapidated ruins, ancient alleys and the Baroque-style or architecture that lines the streets and restored this city from a devastating disaster.
The draw of Ragusa is an afternoon spent just meandering through this charming city and exploring Giardino Ibleo, the crown jewel of Ragusa as a well-maintained garden to stroll through amongst both tourists and locals alike. Another great activity is to climb to Ragusa Superiore for sunset and descend with the sun’s rays into the shadows of Ragusa Ibla for a delicious meal or refreshing Aperol Spritz.
Enjoy the elegant cafes and admire the relaxing vibes of this incredible Sicilian city.
This port city is more beautiful than the likes of France’s Marseille and Italy’s Venice. As the Sicilian haven for archaeological and historical sites it rivals the Valley of the Temples and Agrigento.
In ancient times, Syracuse was once the largest city in this region, even larger than Athens, Greece. And while modern times have aged this 2,700-year-old relic, it still offers Greek ruins to explore, coastline to meander and that traditional Baroque architecture that structures most of Sicily.
Head to the Neapolis archaeological park that draws people from all over the world for its well-preserved Roman and Greek artefacts, including the Greek theatre that was putting on shows all the way back in the 5th century BC. And if you prefer a creepier and darker history, then head to the Catacombs of San Giovanni that run the expanse of the city. Syracuse is a curious tourist’s dream destination, plus up-and-coming tourist dream destination, Noto, and Ortigia Island are easy day trips from here.
Are you the kind of traveller who wants a little taste of everything a country has to offer? Well then Taormina is your next destination.
Taormina extends from a hilltop on Sicily’s east coast where it overlooks the turquoise waters playing against the shoreline below.
It captures views made for travel guides and holds attractions for friends and family.
From the Greek theatre originally erected in 3rd-century BC, and that still holds summer performances.
To the medieval quarter that welcomes tourists with a clock-tower gate that you’ve probably only seen in old time movies. And then Corso Umberto is a whole experience where this narrow street literally pulses with life at all times of the day as it’s lined with shops and bars to treat yourself after a long day of exploring.
Or even just spend your days relaxing on the beach a few miles away where the water will hypnotize you with its expanse of blues and the warm soft sand will lull you to sleep.
To discover more about Sicily and the rest of your Italian holiday, check out Italian Breaks for where to go, where to stay and what to do.