Sicily’s sunny and dry climate, scenery, cuisine, history, and architecture attract many tourists from mainland Italy and abroad. It is a region with a stunning amount of culture and beauty, also because of the dizzying succession of kingdoms that conquered it.
It boasts seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and some of the world’s best-preserved ancient Greek ruins in Syracuse (the Greek theatre, the Temple of Apollo, the Ear of Dionysius and more) and Agrigento (the Valley of the Temples), to make only two examples. Sicily is famous for its delicious foods too: try the arancini and the cannoli! And if you like, take a look at the active volcano Mount Etna and shop in the seaside town of Taormina.
How to get to Sicily
If possible, take a nonstop flight to Rome, Milan or any other city in Italy, then a national flight to the airports towards Catania or Palermo. Although there are many in this region, those two airports are the best served, biggest and most international ones.
The largest and main airport in Sicily is Catania-Fontanarossa. It is very busy and incredibly close to Catania, so driving to the city centre (Via Acquicella) or getting there by bus will take only a few minutes. Palermo’s airport Puntaraisi-Aeroporto Falcone Borsellino is close to the regional capital, and in order to get to its centre you can drive on the E90, or take a bus (there are also many buses that can take you to lots of other Sicily’s cities and towns from the airport).
Driving on the main roads is very manageable, although the larger cities can be daunting. If you do not have a car with you, you will be able to rent one at the airport.
Things to do in Sicily
Palermo is the regional capital of Sicily and its history, culture, architecture and gastronomy are the result of its over 2,700 years of existence.
Many pieces of the city’s walls still survive today, and among the many things to see, check the beautiful UNESCO sites: the Royal Palace (or Palace of the Normans); the Palatine Chapel of the Royal Palace; La Zisa castle; the Cathedral of the Assumption of Virgin Mary; the Church of Saint John of the Hermits; the Church of the Martorana; the Church of Saint Cataldo; and Admiral’s Bridge (in Piazza Scaffa). If you like, check the Port of Palermo as well, in order to sail yachts and catamarans.
Bjs, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Sicily’s islands and sea
Sicily’s waters are simply fantastic and its numerous islands a true paradise on Earth. There are many to choose from (if possible, visit every one of them!). The most easily accessible one is Isola Bella, a small island near Taormina, also known as The Pearl of the Ionian Sea.
It is a nature reserve, surrounded by sea grottos and characterised by a rocky beach, with a narrow path that often connects it to the mainland beach. Ustica is another pretty island, especially known for scuba diving: relatively deep dives are possible, thanks to the island’s volcanic geology.
Incredibly beautiful and a must-visit destination though are the Aeolian Islands, named after the demigod of the winds Aeolus. They are a volcanic archipelago part of the province of Messina and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are seven of them: Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi and Panarea (plus a few minor ones). Lipari is possibly the most popular one, especially for the Faraglioni (Pietra Lunga and Pietra Menalda) for diving and snorkelling.
|View location on Google Maps|
|Hydrofoil and/or ferry: hydrofoils are more comfortable than ferries, they are quick and perfect for travelling from the mainland to Ustica or the Aeolian Islands.
Car: you can take your car with you using hydrofoils or ferries, or leave it at a parking lot on the mainland. The islands have buses and car rentals available.
Mount Etna, also known as Mongibello and located between the cities of Messina and Catania, is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and is in an almost constant state of activity (but luckily, it rarely poses a threat to the population).
In Greek mythology, it is said that the monster Typhon and the forges of Hephaestus (god of blacksmiths and volcanoes) are underneath Etna. Its soils are very fertile, and vineyards and orchards spread across the lower slopes of the mountain and the broad Plain of Catania.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it boasts a beautiful park, with unique surroundings and sounds, perfumes, colours.
|View location on Google Maps|
|From Catania Centrale railway station to Sapienza Refuge (on Etna):
Once in Sapienza Refuge, you will be able to explore on your own or on a guided tour, and use the funicular railway to get up the Etna.
For more information, check the website:
Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples
Agrigento (ancient Greek Akragas) was one of the leading cities of Magna Graecia during the golden age of Ancient Greece, and today it is a major tourist centre due to its extraordinarily rich archaeological legacy, especially represented by the renowned Valle dei Templi.
The Valley of the Temples is one of the most outstanding examples of Greater Greece art and architecture, with remains of seven Doric-style temples, which are: the Temple of Concordia, the Temple of Juno, the Temple of Heracles, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Temple of Castor and Pollux, the Temple of Hephaestus (known in Roman tradition as Vulcan), the Temple of Asclepius (once a goal of pilgrims seeking cures for illness).