Sicily holds the prize for being the largest Mediterranean island, and it's packed with diverse attractions and activities. You can step into the past via ancient ruins or soak up the sun on pristine beaches. Additionally, the island is a treasure trove of mouthwatering cuisine and vibrant local culture. Sicily famously offers some of the best experiences for adventurers and relaxation seekers alike. With so much to discover here, it helps to have an insider's view of the best attractions and activities across this stunning Italian gem.
Agrigento is home to the Valley of the Temples, or Valle dei Templi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the biggest archaeological sites in the entire Mediterranean. You can discover stunning Ancient Greek architecture that used to be the heart of the old city of Agrigento. Historians consider it to be one of the most important urban areas of the ancient world. You can explore temples dedicated to Juno, Concordia, and Heracles, and don't forget to get a photo of the statue of Icarus.
San Vito lo Capo is a coastal paradise with crystal-clear waters and some of the finest sandy beaches on the island. The main attraction is Spiaggia San Vito lo Capo, a kilometer-long stretch of pale, tempting sand that's popular with sun-seekers and explorers alike. You can enjoy volleyball and basketball areas, snorkeling opportunities, and, of course, swimming in the warm Mediterranean waters. There are plenty of other beaches around this northwest point of the island, ranging from peaceful, pebbled coves to huge sandy stretches.
If visiting a live volcano is on your bucket list, Sicily is the perfect destination for you! Mount Etna, known locally as Mongibello, is Europe's most active volcano and another of Sicily's UNESCO World Heritage Sites. You can access it all year round, experiencing lush landscapes, hiking in summer, and even skiing during the colder months. Take a guided tour of lava caves, or book a nature walk to discover the rich diversity of flora and fauna around the volcano.
No matter where you stay on the island, make sure you visit Palermo, the capital city of Sicily, before you leave. Palermo is a city of contrasts, seamlessly blending history and modern urban life. You can buy olives and sundried tomatoes from street vendors, marvel at the huge Greek-style pillars, and gawk at the architecturally spectacular Palermo Cathedral and Royal Palace. Indulge in delicacies like arancini (rice balls) and panelle (chickpea fritters), and keep an eye out for modern art installations and events. Palermo is a city brimming with vibrancy and life.
Another UNESCO site, the Val di Noto, is an extended area encompassing gorgeous towns that showcase stunning Baroque architecture. A devastating earthquake in the late 17th century led to the complete rebuilding of the area, resulting in a unique style that's unlike anything else on the island. There are eight towns and cities in the Val di Noto, including Noto, Ragusa, and Modica. Each one is characterized by ornate buildings, grand churches, and intricate facades. Go for the architecture, but stay for the remarkable historical landmarks and the many delicious sweets unique to this area.
Sicily has its own well-defined culture, and nowhere is that more evident than in their cuisine. Food on the island displays a delightful blend of Italian, Greek, French, Spanish, and Arabic influences, offering diners a rich array of flavors and textures. Sicilian seafood soup is a must-try, as is anything that uses the many fresh fruits grown all across the island.
You might recognize the name Marsala from the wine section at your local store, and with good reason. Marsala is a famous winemaking region and the place where the famously sweet dessert wine of the same name is made. Book a tour to visit a winery in this lush, green area. You'll get to see around the cellars, find out how the wine is made, and, of course, taste the wines themselves.
The Aeolian Islands lie just north of Sicily and comprise of seven major islands and numerous smaller islets. You can book a boat tour from Milazzo to explore this stunning volcanic archipelago. Choose between taking a run around several islands or ferrying over to Salina or Lipari and spending a full day discovering a whole new island. Walk on the black sands of Stromboli, indulge in the therapeutic mud baths of Vulcano, or hike to Fossa delle Felci for views across the islands that are out of this world.
Teatro Massimo in Palermo is one of Europe's largest opera houses and a testament to Sicily's rich cultural heritage. The theater's grand architecture and lavish interiors are a sight to behold and contribute to its reportedly perfect acoustics. The real magic happens when the curtain goes up. Whether you book tickets for the opera, ballet, or a classical music concert, a night at Teatro Massimo is an experience you will never forget.
The Blue Grotto near Taormina is a sea cave that has to be seen to be believed. The perfectly blue water reflects all around the walls and ceiling, creating the illusion that the entire cave is ocean blue. Access to the cave is only available by boat, but it's well worth the trip to experience one of Sicily's natural wonders.
Syracuse is a city steeped in history and once rivaled Athens as the most important city of the ancient world. It's another of Sicily's many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, home to crumbling landmarks that are over a thousand years old. These landmarks include the Greek Theater with its enormous amphitheater and the Ear of Dionysius, a limestone cave with unique acoustic properties that actually looks like an ear!
Perched on a hilltop overlooking the city of Trapani, Erice is a medieval town that feels like it's been frozen in time. Its narrow cobblestone streets, ancient churches, and stone-built houses create an atmosphere of timeless beauty. The town is also renowned for its pastries, particularly its almond cookies and marzipan, which you can sample in the many local bakeries.
The Opera dei Pupi is a traditional Sicilian puppet theater that has been recognized by UNESCO as a critical aspect of Sicilian heritage. The shows often depict stories from medieval chivalric literature and clashes between knights and their enemies. The puppetry has changed over the years, impacted by socio-economic factors on the island, making it an intrinsic part of life in Sicily.
The Madonie Natural Park is a protected area in northern Sicily and a haven of incredible biodiversity. It's the perfect destination for hikers who can choose between easy walks or challenging climbs that all provide stunning views of the surrounding Sicilian landscape. Sharp-eyed tourists might even spot a fossil or two since much of the park used to be part of the seabed.
Another highly protected area, the salt pans of Trapani and Paceco, are vital wetlands that offer habitats to migratory birds and other wildlife. Trapani was once the center of salt production in Europe, but today, the area is a stunning contrast of ancient windmills, crystallizing salt basins, and flocks of flamingos and other wading birds.
Caltagirone is a Sicilian town that's so famous for its pottery that the style created here carries the same name: Ceramica di Caltagirone. Pots have been made here since it was vital to keep goods fresh and sealed, and the tradition has developed over the centuries into a fine art form. Visit the museum and see the local and Greek influences in historical pieces, or visit a completely modern workshop and see how the local treasures are made today.
If you fall in love with Sicilian cuisine, why not bring it home with you? Taormina is a picturesque town known for stunning views and rich history, but it's also a top destination for culinary classes that teach local tricks of the trade. You can focus solely on mastering arancini or get a broader course that covers multiple island flavors.
Not for the squeamish, the catacombs of Palermo offer a macabre glimpse into Sicilian history. Billed as the place "Where the living meets the dead," this cemetery at the Convent of the Capuchin Friars houses the largest collection of mummified corpses anywhere in the world. It's a different way to experience the past.
Even if you haven't seen the Godfather films, you're in Sicily, so visiting the filming locations is a must. You can visit the Bar Vitelli, where Michael Corleone asked Apollonia's father for her hand in marriage, and even sit in the same chairs used by the actors. This is essential for movie buffs.
The Festa di Sant'Agata (Festival of Saint Agatha in English) is one of Italy's largest religious festivals and certainly the most important in Catania. It's held every February, and up to a million people get involved. The event features a grand procession, fireworks, and gilded candelore—huge, wooden constructions carried on the shoulders of local strong folks. It's a true religious experience.