Located just off the ‘toe’ of the iconic ‘boot’ shape of Italy is Sicily. It’s the largest island in Italy and attractive for a short break, a weekend getaway, or an extended summer holiday for so many reasons. Home to magnificent architecture, a wealth of mouth-watering dishes and culinary delights to try, and a coastline of beautiful beaches and dramatic landscapes, Sicily is a destination that’s on most people’s bucket lists. Our travel specialists live, eat, and breathe all things Italy. Making use of their expert advice, here is a short guide to what you should do, what you should eat, and where you should stay when visiting Sicily.
Best things to do in Sicily
Tour of Mount Etna
Covering an area of 1,190 km2, and a height of 3,350 meters above sea level, Mount Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe. While there has not been a major eruption for hundreds of years, it surprises most visitors to know that the volcano is still active today – with frequent Stombolian explosions and ash plumes seen regularly. A tour to see Mount Etna – which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013 – is one of the most recommended things to do in Sicily. There are lots of ways to see Etna including a hiking tour (there are various day trips depending on your hiking experience and fitness level), a jeep or driving tour, or taking the cable car.
Tour of Temple Valley
The Valley of the Temples is a collection of impressive monuments and temples that offer a fantastic overview of the history and architecture of Sicily. These include the temple of Castor and Pollox, the temple of Olympian Zeus, greek theatres, the temple of Concordia, and the temple of Hercules among many others. The collection of temples was rediscovered towards the eighteenth century, and are certainly worth a visit during your stay in Sicily.
Sailing on the Aeolian Islands
The Aeolian Islands are a collection of seven islands north of Sicily. These islands – Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filcudi, Alicudi and Panarea – were the result of volcanic activity and tectonic plate movements. The landscapes are unique and you can sail around them to get a closer look – something that is often top of the list when you come to Sicily. The Aeolian Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and during your visit, you may even see some volcanic activity.
Visit the capital, Palmero
Not only is Palermo the capital city of the island, it is also regarded as the historic and cultural centre of Sicily, and is definitely worth a visit. The city is located in the northwestern part of Sicily and was founded in 734 BC. Ancient Greek colonies were then established and today, it’s a beautiful mix of cultures, arts and architecture. It’s a lively place, with a wealth of culinary delights, local restaurants, and great bars.
Visiting Zingaro Nature Reserve
Situated west of the capital Palmero is the Zingaro Nature Reserve. For those who have spent a lot of time sightseeing and exploring the architectural, archaeological and historic sites of Sicily or across mainland Italy, a day trip to the Zingaro Nature Reserve is a nice change of scenery and pace. The best time to visit is during the spring and summer months when the weather is warm, offering full sunshine almost every day. This area of Lo Zingaro was once inhabited by local communities who spent their livelihoods herding livestock and farming land. Today, the park is an attraction for those looking to be active and enjoy walks and hikes along the coastline. Take the day to explore this area, stumbling across deserted beaches and remote local settlements.
5 best things to eat and drink
While the weather, landscape, and people are very accommodating in Italy, one of the main reasons that people travel to the country and the islands surrounding Italy’s mainland like Sicily is the cuisine. We reached out to our Italian specialists to ask them their top 5 things to eat and drink in Sicily.
Whether you pronounce them as arancine or arancini, these are small crispy Sicilian snacks that you simply must-try during your stay on the Italian island. It’s believed that these crispy rice balls, coated with bread crumbs and filled with meat or cheese – were a product of Frederick II of Swabia and the King of Sicily. Today, you can sample them all across the island in bakeries, restaurants, or local food stalls.
In our opinion, cannoli is one of the most delicious pastries in Italy. Identified as a tube-shaped pastry, you will see cannoli in every restaurant and bakery across Sicily. While they do make cannoli on mainland Italy, it’s believed to originate from Sicily. The filling can either be sweet or savory, with fillings like cream, orange, ricotta, and chocolate used regularly.
As you walk the capital city of Palermo, you will certainly come across the baked cassata. If you didn’t get your sweet fix with cannoli, cassata will do exactly that. Like cannoli, cassata can either be sweet or savory, with fillings like ricotta, sugar, chocolate, and cream used. The cakes are beautifully decorated, with fresh ingredients and delicious flavors.
4. Spaghetti Norma
Of course a pasta dish is included in one of the best things to eat in Sicily. This one in particular is called pasta (usually spaghetti) norma. This traditional pasta dish is often featured on the menu of all local restaurants, and is a perfect blend of tastes and flavors. Crispy eggplant and ricotta is mixed in a tomato-based sauce and mixed with freshly-cooked spaghetti.
Caponta is a hearty dish of stewed and tasty Mediterranean vegetables. These usually include aubergines, courgettes, olives, and tomatoes. As a filling meal, it’s definitely more of an evening meal, accompanied by some crusty bread or pine nuts.
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