The magnificent island of Sicily is one of the top places to visit in Italy. It’s stunning landscape, baroque architecture, traditional food, sunshine and the warm sea will astound you. Here we offer travel tips on what to do in Sicily.
1. Visit the Monreale Norman Cathedral. The splendid cathedral is situated in a hill village of Monreale overlooking Palermo. It was constructed in the 12th century by King William II who employed the best Arabic, Byzantine and Norman craftsmen for the job. The result is an astonishing display Byzantine style mosaics, 108 pairs of marble columns in the Norman-French style and Arabic arches. A real feast for the eyes!
2. Eat in a mafia-free restaurant in Palermo. Antica Focacceria San Francesco is a member of the anti-racket movement called “Addiopizzo” (in Italian means “goodbye protection money”). Eating in this restaurant you can be sure that your money is not used to support the Mafia. The rustic Sicilian dishes served here are famous: tasty sardines, hand-made pasta, and creamy cannoli.
3. Gorge on traditional marzipan delicacies in Erice. There are many lovely small pastry shops in the sleepy town of Erice. Pasticeria di Maria Grammatico is the most famous of them all and the owner Maria is somewhat of a celebrity. There is even a book written about her life! Her pastries and marzipan sweets that she learn to make in a local convent (la frutta di martorana) are delicious masterpieces.
4. Walk in the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. It is one of the main Sicily’s tourist attractions for a reason: seven outstanding examples of ancient Greek temples are set on sun-bleached rocks with the sea as a backdrop.
5. Sample famous chocolate treats in Modica. The chocolate-making tradition of Modica goes back 400 years to the times of the Spanish domination in the area. There many chocolate shops in town, in some of them visitors can watch chocolatiers at work. Ancient Aztec recipes are still used by many of them.
6. Admire Sicilian baroque architecture in Noto. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its magnificent palaces and churches built in opulent baroque style.
7. Feel like a local at the market of Ortygia in Siracusa. This ancient colorful market is full of buzz: the vendors shout out their prices and jokes to attract customers just like centuries ago.
8. See the impressive Greek theatre in Siracusa. Dating back to the 5th century BC, the theatre is one of the largest ever built. It accommodated up to 15,000 spectators and nowadays is still used for performances during the summer Greek theatre festival.
9. Climb the Mount Etna. The largest active volcano in Italy never sleeps. The fittest visitors can climb to the top crater. There is also a circular railway built in the 19th century that can take you for a scenic tour.
10. Have a picnic at the Alcantara Gorges in Taormina. Cross the cool waters of the Alcantara river and follow the path to the top of the gorge for stunning views and a quiet picnic away from the tourist crowds.
Photo credits: Wikipedia, Vittorio Maria Vecchi, Berthold Werner, Anne Jacko