These best places to see in Sicily are the ones that will show you the authentic side of the largest island in Italy.
My first trip to Sicily started on a hot August day when I landed at the airport in Catania. Going out of the messy airport, l ready anticipated the emotions arising in me waiting to see the rocky coast of Sicily. During my two trips to Sicily, I practically covered the whole coastline of the island.
In stark contrast to the well-organized airports of Rome and Milan, the airport of Sicily immediately dip the arrivals in the local atmosphere of a noisy and emotional local culture. The history of Sicily is turbulent, with many different rulers that have bequeathed to the new generations. As Sicilians themselves say: “We are not Italians, we are Sicilians.”
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On the other hand, the proximity of the African continent (only about 130 km) makes the climate very hot. The three seas that wash the shores of Sicily saturate the air with extreme humidity, which sticks to the skin like a heavy cloak. Perhaps that’s why the locals are obsessed with going to the beach and to old age spend several hours a day in a bathing suit along the sea. The cool seawater feels like a blessing in such a hot Sicilian day.
Each of the places listed below features something characteristic. The list is a diverse mix of the essence of Sicilian culture and nature. Places I listed below are in the order you can visit them. You can use this post as itinerary. Refer to the map of Sicily for info about the distance in kilometres between each destination.
10 BEST PLACES TO SEE IN SICILY
Taormina is the pearl of Sicily – the most popular but also the most beautiful. This is the place for a romantic getaway in Sicily. One of the reasons for this are the many dreamy hotels scattered on the slopes on which the town was built. Despite that, you can enjoy its beauty as a solo traveller too.
The houses are beautifully edged with the violet colour of the bougainvillaea and are leaning over the dark blue-green sea. At both street sides divided by the stone steps, you will find countless restaurants and shops in which to try the local delicacies like arancini and cannoli.
Mount Etna is an active volcano with two volcanic centres and is the tallest and most active volcano in Europe. For these reasons, they are many visitors at the place every year. It is so close to Taormina that can be seen from the town. Day-tours from Taormina are very popular.
As the volcano is between Catania and Taormina, it towers over the Catania’s suburbs with its beautiful straight cone and snowy peak. Despite the unforeseeable danger it represents, life around the volcano has not abated and even many residents of the area have set their homes on its slopes. Even more, the rich soil formed by the lava provides excellent conditions for producing some really good wines.
Syracuse/ also known as Siracusa
Syracuse is interesting with its Greek heritage and historical significance. It was one of the most important ports and many sites are still there to confirm this. Among the most interesting are the Temple of Apollo, the Basilica of Santa Lucia where you can see a painting by Caravaggio, the Greek Theatre and the Catacombs of San Giovanni. But even just walking the streets of the Old Town will give you the sense of the past and its unique atmosphere.
Ragusa is interesting with the fact that it’s not hugely popular with international tourists but has a UNESCO status. To be precise, there are 18 Ragusa sites in the UNESCO’s list.
Go to Ragusa Ibla to explore its narrow streets; you will be impressed by the Catholic architectural grandeur while visiting the Duomo of San Giorgio; for a beach day go to a Marina di Ragusa; and for the lovers of palace experiences, Palazzo Bertini is the place, it is one of the UNESCO listed sites of Ragusa.
>> Check this walking tour in Ragusa.
Agrigento is famous for its ancient Greek temples, located in the Valley of the Temples. The two most preserved are beautifully illuminated at night and visible from afar because they are built on two not far from one another hills.
The good news is that the temples are open for visits at night, from 10 p.m., after the heat of the day has left and in its place fresh, a cool breeze has come. There is a walkway between the two temples, so the walk after dinner is very pleasant.
Scala dei Turchi
This is my favourite beach in Sicily. You will find the “Ladder of the Turks” not far from Agrigento.
According to the legend, its name comes from the time when the Saracens attacked the island. To surprise the enemy, they appeared in the only place that was considered inaccessible. White cliffs stand as carved by a sculptor against the colour of the deep dark sea. The sand is fine and white like the surrounding rocks. The view from the path leading to the beach will leave you speechless.
There are mainly Sicilians and Italians from other parts of the country that you will see here. Foreigner visitors are rare. The place is not only uniquely beautiful but authentically Sicilian. You can get an idea of the local culture, watching the families around. Young and old enjoy the summer like children and their joy is contagious.
>> Want to spend a day sailing the turquoise sea?
Its name is sweet as a liqueur and fragrant as a matured wine. Marsala is the name of a special type of wine which is highly valued by chefs and used in the gourmet cuisine.
The name comes from the city and the region where it is produced, and even though the city is interesting with its other attractions, the most memorable is the visit to the Florio Winery, where the wine is produced. There are tours and wine tasting organized several times a day.
Besides the famous winery, you should visit the ancient salt ponds (which are most beautiful at sunset!) and stroll in the old, covered with cobblestones, part of the city. You will not go wrong if you finish the evening with a delicious local ice cream (gelato) as the local people do.
There will be two periods in your life – before visiting Erice and after visiting Erice. Why is that?
Because your life will not be the same after you taste the Genovese cake.
You can try it in the bakery of Maria Grammatiko in the village. Don’t worry; you just need to ask the locals where to find her pasticceria. Everyone knows Maria and her delicious pastries. For decades she prepares many of the sweet temptations in the shop. The village itself is situated at a peak above the city of Trapani in the eponymous region and reveals a magnificent view of the bay.
Palermo is the largest city in Sicily and it’s its official capital. It’s known as a dangerous city because it is also the centre of the operation of Cosa Nostra, internationally known as the Mafia.
But don’t be afraid. As a tourist, you will not see the presence of this organization. Although there are some shadowy parts of the city, if you stay in the central part you will find an unexpectedly compelling atmosphere.
Start your walk from Teatro Massimo and continue along the Via Marqueda up to Piazza Pretoria to see the magnificent Fountain Pretoria. In this area, you will find many palaces and churches worth visiting. Don’t hesitate to go see the food stalls at Mercato il Capo, the Farmer’s Market at Via Cappuccinelle.
Cefalu is a small town on the northern coastline of Sicily. It mostly attracts visitors with its small size and proximity to a beach. Even if this is one of the less-popular destinations, people like it. Its because of its eclectic mix of historical and cultural sites and beachside vacation vibes.
However, Cefalu has also an interesting Medieval history and beautiful Duomo.
If you wonder what to see in Sicily, don’t hesitate to include these places on your itinerary. Let them immerse you in the local history, enjoy beach time, and taste the best Sicilian food.
Besides, who can resist the beauty of one of the top romantic getaways in Europe?!
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