Top 10 things to do in Sicily
Wed Jan 2017
- 1. Greek Theatre of Taormina
This magnificent remnant of the Greek and Roman ages has one of the most stunning settings imaginable with the Mediterranean Sea and Mount Etna as its backdrop. It was first created around the 3rd century BC to host performances and then transformed by the Romans for games and mock battles.
- 2. Baroque Towns of the Val Noto
Nestling in the south-east corner of Sicily are some of the most beautiful towns in Italy. This part of the island was struck by an earthquake in 1693 meaning that the towns had to be rebuilt from scratch and the architectural style that prevailed at the time was the flamboyant baroque. Wander the streets of Noto, Scicli, Modica and Ragusa to admire the churches and palazzi with ornate façades with carvings and gargoyles. More recently these towns have enjoyed fame as the setting for the BBC 4 detective series, Inspector Montalbano.
- 3. Historical City of Syracuse
Syracuse was founded by the Greeks in 733BC and it’s possible to visit the fascinating Archaeological Park with its enormous amphitheatre. The historical centre of the city, on the other hand, dates to the early 18th century and is completely designed in the beautiful baroque style. The Cathedral is unique in that it started life as a Greek temple but has been transformed into a glorious church with an elaborate baroque façade.
- 4. Cathedral of Monreale
Known for its selection of golden mosaics, Monreale Cathedral is possibly one of the most spectacular Norman buildings in Sicily. The cathedral was originally built in the twelfth century to be a part of a large royal complex situated just outside of Palermo. The exterior of the building is interesting but the real splendour lies within; the entire interior is covered in ornate, golden mosaics depicting biblical scenes that glisten in the light.
- 5. Valley of the Temples in Agrigento
This area is home to one of the most important archaeological sites in Europe, if not the world. It contains various temples for gods including Hera, Zeus and Hercules. They are all dramatically perched along a rocky outcrop. This archaeological site in Sicily was added onto the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997.
- 6. Norman Palace and Palatine Chapel in Palermo
The Norman King Roger II designed this chapel in 1130 and now this extraordinary building is Palermo's top tourist attraction. Its intricate gold Byzantine mosaics are complimented by beautifully inlaid marble floors and a wooden adorned ceiling. The ceiling is an Arabic-style honeycomb carved masterpiece reflecting Norman Sicily's cultural complexity.
- 7. Markets and Street Food of Palermo
Visit the capital of the island, once called the most European of North Africa’s cities! Palermo is wonderfully unconventional but with a long and complicated past which has left it with a fascinating culture. There are many street markets but the Ballarò and La Vucciria are the most famous and are great places to immerse yourself in the Sicilian culture and cuisine. To experience the wonderful street food of Palermo join one of the excellent walking tours.
- 8. Vineyards and wineries of Sicily
The cultivation of vines goes back centuries in Sicily but in recent years there have been many innovations taking Sicilian wine to the top of its class. Vines are grown all over the island and there are many wineries you can visit to learn more about the particular grape varieties grown here such as Inzolia, Nero d’Avola, Cataratto and Grecanico. In fact, we can even organise a stay in a winery such as the Santa Anastasia which is situated in the north of the island. You can also stay in Marsala where the sweet, fortified wine was created by the British in the 18th century.
- 9. Mount Etna
Europe’s highest active volcano looms large over the eastern coast of Sicily and forms the backdrop to the famous resort of Taormina from where you can join an excursion to visit the craters. You can take your pick from several different tours; some visit the beautiful Alcantara Gorge on the way and others offer the chance to spend the whole day trekking and discovering the many craters.
- 10. The Aeolian Islands
This volcanic archipelago lies in crystalline waters off the north-east corner of Sicily. You can island hop, staying on one or two islands, each different from the next and travel between them by ferry. There are also boat trips available and sunset cruises to watch the mesmerising sight of the volcano on Stromboli erupting at dusk.