It’s hard not to fall in love with Sicily. It dozes with pleasure on the water’s edge, warm and sometimes hot-tempered, folds within it hundreds of years of history stretching back to centuries BC, includes a land steeped in volcanic phenomena, tastes, sights, experiences and a lot of interest. It is an evening of many interesting cultural influences, some aristocratic from the Greek and Roman golden teachings, some darker like the one that centers on mafia crimes and the destruction and destruction that the island has known throughout history.
The island of Sicily is considered the largest and most populated in the Mediterranean. In Italy, it is considered the largest district and its shape resembles a triangle. About 5 million residents live here. Throughout history, the Greeks, the Romans, the Normans, the Byzantines, the Spaniards and the Germans came here – each left their unique mark and the result is a place that is difficult to convey in words: wild mountains next to sketchy valleys, medieval charm next to modern indulgences, a happy and embracing community next to warming volcanoes With alarming ease, vineyards, orchards, forests and legendary lakes next to impressive churches, authentic rural life, next to modern cities and many other unique contrasts that work in an inspiring harmony.
It is recommended to travel in Sicily leisurely, allow yourself to get to know it in depth and give up the intense hopping between places and sites. This is a place where you have to “seize” the moment, soak it up and enjoy mostly the little things like good food, exchange a word with the seller in the market and breathe some clean sea air on the boardwalk. If you are interested in traveling to all the big cities, make sure you dedicate two days or so to each city, so that you have time to enjoy yourself, but also to get to know the special character of each of the places.
Palermo – big, diverse and experiential
The meaning of the name Palermo is “the golden shell”. The meaning of the ancient name given to the city by the Phoenicians who founded it is “protrusion” or “protrusion”, since its outline includes such a protuberance. The Greeks called Palermo: “Panoremos” (harbor of everything) thanks to the beautiful natural harbor. Later the name of the city evolved into the name Palermo. It is a large and bustling city, the fifth largest in all of Italy and the capital of Sicily, offering a quality life center, successful shops, restaurants, markets and a rich nightlife. The old quarter in the city offers architecture from a variety of periods, including ancient churches and palaces. You will also find here a lot of fine food, pure country cooking and seafood delicacies.
Recommended attractions in Palermo and the surrounding area
An amazing town that overlooks dreamy landscapes. In Monarla stands a local cathedral, which is considered one of the most beautiful monuments in the world: the walls of the cathedral are inlaid with gold and decorated with magnificent mosaics.
The “Shame Square” is a central and iconic square in Palermo, built in the 16th century and decorated with many artistic nude sculptures.
The large market in Palermo offers a very wide variety of products, of every type and field. You can of course find good souvenirs here, enjoy good local flavors and tour among fabrics, sculptures, art objects, antiques and more. Vecheria is also considered the most central night life center in Palermo.
The Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo
The local burial caves contain more than 8,000 burials of the city’s residents, members of the upper class, who were embalmed in their clothes between the 16th century and the beginning of the 20th century.
Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele
It is the largest theater in the land of the boot and the third largest in all of Europe. The theater is impressive in its size and beauty, contains excellent acoustics and has 1,387 seats. You can come to the performance on the spot, but you can also take tour days where you will be exposed to costumes and sets. By the way, the last scene of the movie “The Godfather 3” was filmed here.
A picturesque fishing town east of Palermo, which offers preserved buildings from the 15th-16th centuries, including magnificent palaces and one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Sicily. The town’s alleys are full of restaurants and galleries.
Monte Pellegrino (Monte Pellegrino)
On a high hill that overlooks the city of Palermo and its bay, there is a special church where the body of Saint Rosalia – the patroness of the city of Sicily and a nun who lives in a nearby cave – is preserved.
Catania – trendy, but with a glorious history
Catania, the second largest city in Italy and the most special in Sicily, built hundreds of years ago at the foot of Mount Etna. The main economy of the city is growing olives, vines, citrus fruits and almonds, which suggests the fine and fresh local menu. Catania suffered throughout history from eruptions in the nearby volcano, which caused it to be rebuilt several times and its special story is told by dozens of the city’s buildings that have been preserved or restored over the years. Catania offers a relaxed and pleasant stroll through the city between squares, markets and special sites. It is recommended to taste here the granita – a cold and refreshing sorbet drink and the cannelloni – a pasta tube filled with cheeses, chocolates or jams.
Recommended attractions in Catania and the surrounding area
Etna is the second largest active volcano in the world, whose peak is the highest in Europe. This is, among other things, a thriving tourist center, which offers tours of the mountain to one or more of the 16 smoking and active mouths. The eruptions in the mountain are quite frequent and occur in varying magnitudes.
The Cathedral of Sant’Agata
This is one of the most important buildings in the city, the construction of which began in 1086 AD, with the Norman conquest. The earthquake forced the residents to renovate the cathedral and since then it has incorporated elements from many periods and even several catacombs.
Piazza del Doumo (Piaaza del Doumo)
The central square is large and impressive, built from the Baroque period. In the center of the square is an elephant statue made of lava and you can tour the square using a special tourist train.
Ursino Castle (Castello Ursino)
The castle is built in a typical medieval manner and is fortified on all sides, with four turrets in the corners. In the center there is a beautiful and well-kept courtyard.
The Roman Theater
In the past there was an Acropolis here, so the Romans decided to build a theater at its foot. The building, erected in the second century BC, is made of hardened lava.
A beautiful and recommended sandy beach south of the city of Catania with a water sports complex, cafes and in the summer also plenty of parties hosting top DJs from all over the world.
Via Etnea pedestrian street
This is the bustling and central shopping street of Catania, which passes through Duomo Square, University Square and other important places such as Villa Blaini. On both sides of the street you will find the best shops in the city, special boutiques next to all the shiny brands.
Syracuse – particularly ancient and no less beautiful
The Province of Siracusa (Provincia di Siracusa) is located in the southeastern part of Sicily. The city kisses the sea and is full of walls and steps up to the water’s edge, it contains a unique history and archeology (among other things, it is the birthplace of Archimedes), along with lots of trips, attractions and places of entertainment. You can start the day in a successful cafe in one of the squares of the city and then continue to the beaches, or to a visit to the historical monuments, most of which are among the oldest and most intriguing in all of Sicily.
Attractions in Syracuse and the surrounding area
Neapolis Archaeological Park
The special archaeological park is divided into three parts: “The Ear of Dionysus” – an ancient Greek structure with openings that resemble ears in shape, “The Greek Theater” – a huge amphitheater from the 5th century BC that was carved out of living rock and the “Roman Amphitheater” – an equally impressive structure that was used for battles Gladiators and now sometimes as a summer concert hall. In the park you will find a variety of models of restored churches and buildings as well as tools from the period of life in the Middle Ages.
The Cathedral of Sicrose (Santa Maria delle Collone)
The place where the cathedral stands has been the temple of Athena since the beginning of the century. It is possible to notice the tall and impressive columns of that temple that remain intact to this day. The cathedral makes it possible to better understand the periods in which different peoples ruled Sicily and it symbolizes a kind of architectural snapshot that is very interesting for the subject.
Temple of Apollo (Tempio di Apollo)
This is the oldest Doric building in all of Sicily, the construction of which dates back to 580 BC. The temple was considered impressive and huge, high, with sturdy columns and painted ceilings. This is the second most important building in Sicily, after the Palermo Museum.
This is the old and beautiful district of Syracuse, but it actually stands as an island in itself. Most of the historical sites are concentrated here and it can be reached via the Umbertino Bridge, on the sides of which many fishing boats and yachts of all sizes are moored. Down from the bridge is a small market, but with a particularly successful abundance of products and delicacies. Ortega is located entirely along the water, on a wide and lively promenade.
Messina – sea, architecture and unique folklore
The third largest city in Sicily and the 13th largest in Italy, is located on the narrowest part of the strait that connects Italy and Sicily. Here, culture and economy are based on the wonders of the sea. This is also where all the luxurious cruise ships come to rest and enjoy the fine view. You will find in its commercial port plenty of entertainment and food options. Messina also holds secrets from history and among them is a rumor about a particularly cruel curse. According to legend, the plague that struck Messina in the 18th century and led to an outbreak of cholera caused many to believe that the city was under a curse. The belief was strengthened following a series of severe earthquakes, which ended in the death of nearly 80,000 residents. In the Second World War that followed, the city experienced another significant destruction.
Attractions in Messina and the surrounding area
Astronomical Clock Tower (Orologio Astronomico)
A must for travelers. It is an ancient astronomical clock tower, which you can climb to the top and overlook the city, the port and the spectacular beaches. The tower is wrapped in the stories of the Bible. Every round hour a huge mechanism activates, from which come out dolls telling one of the stories of the Bible and you can watch them from the large square at its foot.
Fountain of Orion (Fontana di Orione)
A fountain dedicated to the god Orion, the founder of the city and in which his image and the image of his beloved dog Sirius are sculpted. The fountain was built in the 16th century by the artist Anglo Montorsoli.
The local cathedral was built in the 12th century but was destroyed in the earthquakes and then again in the bombings of World War II. The entrance gate built in the 15th century remains and the clock tower stands next to it.
A central and lively square adjacent to the Duomo and the central Garibaldi Street. Here is an Arab-Norman church built in the 12th century and next to it is a statue of the defeater of the Turks in the 16th century, Don Juan. To the north of the square, there is another square (Piazza di Unita de la Italia) with a fountain dedicated to the god Neptune.
Other places in Sicily that are worth your visit
The town of Taormina is one of the most picturesque places in Sicily, located above the sea and overlooking the blue expanses and Mount Athena. The city is not usually crowded with tourists, but for movie lovers it is a gem: many scenes from the classic mafia movie “The Godfather” were filmed here and the city streets are full of tributes to the subject. In reality, more than 30 top Sicilian mafia leaders were born and raised in a small coastal town in Taormina called Castel Mare del Golfo (Mare Castel Gandolfo), which is also worth visiting to soak up mainly the peace and quiet by the sea.
One of the must-see spots is the ancient Greek theater, built in the 3rd century BC and steeped in the atmosphere of gladiatorial battles. It is also recommended to visit the clock tower and the two remaining city gates from the ancient perimeter wall (Catania Gate and Messina Gate), Duomo Square, the Cathedral and Trabillian Gardens. Also pay attention to a particularly narrow alley called Vicolo Strato, which is considered the narrowest alley in the world. You’ll also be happy to know that Taormina is home to a host of events throughout the year, from shows in the ancient Greek theater to major film festivals. Throughout the year, you can find a variety of music shows of all kinds in the city, so it’s worth checking what’s happening on the dates of your arrival.
The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento (Valle dei Templi)
Near the city of Agrigento, there is an archaeological site that is the “Valley of the Temples” where the ancient Greek city of Akergas was once found. It is a world heritage site with the remains of 8 ancient temples, some of which were dedicated to the great gods such as Zeus and Hera or Hercules, but the most preserved of all is the Temple of Concordia, which was still active in the 6th century AD. Amazingly, the structure that towers over a high hill, is completely preserved on all 38 of its columns.
Villa Romana del Casale
The Roman villa in Casale is a world heritage site built at the beginning of the 4th century and contains the largest collection of mosaics that Rome has accumulated. In the magnificent Roman villa there are 50 rooms, in each of them breathtaking mosaics documenting scenes from everyday life, scenes from mythology, plants, animals and more. Near the place there is a small town (Caltagirone) with many artist galleries, for those of you interested in purchasing good souvenirs.
Aeolian Islands (Isole Eolie)
Northern Sicily offers 7 volcanic islands, which include beaches with black sand, a mesmerizing volcanic landscape and a host of pampering hot springs. The largest island of all, Lipari, also offers good restaurants and art galleries. You can also sail to the nearby island of Stromboli, which occupies a tiny area of 13 square kilometers in total, on which resides an active, huge and menacing volcano that erupts and covers the sky with glowing sparks very often.
A picturesque town that has been preserved since the Middle Ages, is located on a steep cliff above the sea and overlooks a beautiful landscape. The stone alleys, the small galleries, the flower pots and the peace make Aricha a sweet and addictive place. There are many family factories operating there that produce marzipan and therefore it is also called “the town of marzipan”.