10 Best Things to Do in Sicily

What is Sicily Most Famous For?

    Italy’s largest island, Sicily offers exceptional beaches, charming villages and towns, as well as an abundance of ancient ruins and archaeological sites. aces the warm waters of the Mediterranean. Throughout history, Sicily has been at the crossroad of cultures, landscapes and cuisine. Taking influence from its North African and Arab neighbours, the island has enjoyed a prosperous and eclectic past.

    Swim in warm Mediterranean waters along rugged and sandy coastlines, explore mountaintop sandstone villages, and uncover centuries-old ruins from major settlements throughout history. We’ve pulled together some of the best things to do in Sicily to give you an idea of the variety of activities and sightseeing that you can enjoy on the shores of this Italian Island.

    What are the best things to do in Sicily?

    1

    Palermo

    Explore the streets of Sicily’s capital

    Sicily’s capital, Palermo has a vibrant and heady mix of arabesque architecture and Byzantine mosaics adorning its streets. Known as the Italian Capital of Culture, the city basks in the fusion of ancient charm influenced by Sicily’s junction between Europe and North Africa. A city proud of its heritage, you can get lost among the souk-like markets that line the stony streets – Capo, Vucciria and Ballaro are the city’s main markets.

    Explore Palermo’s streets to discover a multitude of piazzas marked by handsome architecture. Piazza Vigliena observes the centre of the historic quarter with its 4 baroque corners. Piazza Pretoria is perhaps the most magnificent in the city. Check out statues depicting nymphs, tritons, and leaping river gods in a brilliant fountain, located in front of the city hall. Of course, you cannot miss Palermo Cathedral, a 12th-century church that has been adapted to suit evolving aesthetics through history, with a blend of Moorish and Catalan architecture.

    Location: Palermo PA, Italy

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    2

    Eat sarde a beccafico

    For a truly Sicilian culinary experience

    Italians are renowned the world over for their cuisine, and the Sicilians comfortably play their part on the nation’s culinary influence. As an island, Sicily specialises in simple and fresh seafood dishes that focus on the excellent flavour of local ingredients. A popular and tasty starter you have to try is sarde a beccafico.

    A dish of baked or grilled butterflied sardines stuffed with toasted breadcrumbs, parsley, anchovies, pine nuts, and raisins, it’s served on skewers drizzled in lemon. If you’re in Catania, make your way to Trattoria La Canonica for authentic sarde a beccafico served in a truly Sicilian home-style setting.

    Location: Trattoria La Canonica, Via Raddusa 7, 95131 Catania, Sicily, Italy

    Open: Thursday–Tuesday from 12.30pm to 3.30pm and from 7pm to midnight (closed on Wednesdays)

    Phone: +39 334 878 7190

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    photo by franzconde (CC BY 2.0) modified

    3

    Cefalu

    A fishing town brimming with history

    Cefalu is a picturesque village on the northern coast of Sicily. An idyllic town with strong fishing roots, it has a beautiful town for you to explore, as well as one of the island’s best beaches. Explore the stretch of sandy shoreline or swim in the aquamarine waters, before watching fishermen tend to their nets in the small port in the late afternoon.

    Take your time to meander the cobblestone laneways adorned with washing draped from the balconies of honey-hued buildings. Explore the medieval district to visit the exceptional 12th-century Norman cathedral, which dominates the town with its twin-towered design.

    Location: Cefalù PA, Italy

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    4

    The Aeolian Islands

    A UNESCO-listed cluster in the north

    The Aeolian Islands are a true paradise just north of Sicily’s main island. This tiny cluster of 7 islands makes up the archipelago, each offering hours of relaxation and exploration. The largest and liveliest of the Aeolian Islands is Lipari, where holidaymakers can explore the water by kayak or sailboat and tackle some of the local hiking paths.

    Spend a few days hopping between the islands to discover their varying landscapes, such as the black sand beaches and volcanic vistas of Stromboli and Vulcano, the whitewashed villages of Panarea, and Filicudi’s under-the-radar adventures. Don’t miss sampling the sweet flavours of locally produced Malvasia wine while you’re here.

    Location: Province of Messina, Italy

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    5

    Taormina

    With exceptional views across the coast

    Taormina is a port frequented by daytrippers travelling on cruise liners and those looking for a truly extravagant Sicilian holiday experience. While more touristy than other regions of the Italian island, the resort town offers breathtaking views and plenty of history to retain its charm.

    Explore the ruins of the Ancient Theatre, built in the 3rd century BCE, to enjoy the spectacular views that can reach Calabria on a clear day. Continue by wandering the pastel streets, happening upon the Duomo di San Nicola and Palace Dukes of Santo Stefano for excellent examples of the regions’ architecture. Cool off at Isola Bella, an idyllic beach at the bottom of the hills.

    Location: Taormina ME, Italy

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    6

    Mount Etna

    Explore the volcanic summit

    Mount Etna is the highest volcano in Europe. Residing on Sicily’s east coast, this active volcano still regularly erupts with fiery lava spewing from its top. This beast of a mountain dominates the Sicilian landscape and its slopes are part of the Parco dell' Etna. In winter, Mount Etna becomes engulfed by snow on its peak while barren black lava fields lay below.

    Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013, Mount Etna draws in thousands of hikers looking to tackle its smouldering craters and lava fields. Those who don’t want to hike the whole way can take advantage of a cable car, which offers scenic views along the way. The region is also an excellent producer of the highly-rated DOC wine.

    Location: 95012 Castiglione di Sicilia, Province of Catania, Italy

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    photo by Jacopo Werther (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    7

    Syracuse

    Visit one of the world's largest Greek theatres

    Syracuse, set on the Ionian Coast, captures the quintessential charm of Sicily’s timelessness. Once the largest city in the world, you’ll see baroque piazzas and creamy stone buildings against the glimmering blue sea. Explore the ancient ruins of the city by foot, taking in the lovingly worn facades and remnants of ancient Greek and Corinthian heritage.

    Weave your way through cobbled laneways, discovering the Piazza Archimede and Fonte Aretusa. Find your way to Maniace Castle by the seaside before heading to the Greek theatre, one of the largest in the world. Ortigia can’t be left out from any visit to Syracuse – take in the flavours of Sicily at the daily produce market offering local cheese, meat and fresh seafood.

    Location: Syracuse, Province of Syracuse, Italy

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    photo by Ввласенко (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    8

    The Valley of Temples

    A Greek archaeological treasure trove

    Agrigento is one of Sicily’s oldest towns and an epicentre of ancient ruin sites. At the forefront of the ruins that dot the surrounding region in the south of Sicily is The Valley of Temples, an outstanding example of ancient Greek architecture. The Temple of Concordia is one of the most well-preserved Doric temples in the world.

    Horticultural enthusiasts will enjoy the Garden of Kolymbethra, which has been restored to its former glory following years of abandonment. Spanning 50,000 square metres, the gardens have a wide collection of plants, from ancient citrus trees, prickly pears and mulberry bushes to myrtle, willow and white poplar trees.

    Location: 92100 Agrigento, Province of Agrigento, Italy

    Open: Daily from 8.30am to 7pm

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    photo by Berthold Werner (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    9

    Favignana

    Traverse the island by bike

    The largest of the Egadi Islands, Favignana lies around 28.5 km southwest of Trapani. Easily reached by ferry, the butterfly-shaped island has an intriguing and beautiful hoard of coves, grottos and beaches skirting its coastline. This popular summer destination for Sicilians is relatively under the radar, so it rarely sees tourists most of the time.

    Explore Favignana on a bicycle so that you can easily stop by its crystalline swimming holes. Cala Rossa is a favourite, while the rocky cove of Scalo Cavallo is great for snorkelling. Circle back to Favignana Town, where sun-faded buildings line its pedestrianised squares. A must-see is the town’s small port, which is dominated by the Fort of Santa Caterina. This former watchtower was built by the Arabs and later used as a prison by the Bourbon Kings.

    Location: Favignana 91023, Province of Trapani, Italy

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    10

    Zingaro Nature Reserve

    An excellent hiking spot

    Sunseekers and hikers will enjoy Italy’s Zingaro Nature Reserve, located 117 km west of Palermo. Sea stacks and grottos are carved into hard limestone cliffs that line the shoreline, making for a truly dramatic scene.

    Both land and sea are abundant with life, with more than 650 species of plants thriving in the reserve’s humid microclimate. Birdwatchers will enjoy the spectacle of falcons, eagles, kestrels and owls nesting at Zingaro Nature Reserve. After exploring the sights across the reserve’s landscape, you can end your day with a cooling dip in the Mediterranean Sea. 

    Location: 91010 San Vito Lo Capo, Province of Trapani, Italy

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    photo by René Bongard (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    Kiri Nowak | Contributing Writer

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