Cefalu'-Sicily

Sicily Travel Guide: What makes Sicily an ideal holiday destination

Welcome to Sicily

In this article I will guide you through some of Sicily’s highlights that make this beautiful Island a great holiday destination.

Sicily is the largest island in Italy and of the Mediterranean. The Strait of Messina separates Sicily from the italian peninsula. Also part of Sicily are the archipelagos of the Aeolian, Egadi and Pelagie islands plus the islands of Ustica and Pantelleria.

Landscape of Sicily

The Sicilian territory is mainly hilly and mountainous, but the sea is the real main attraction of the island. The Northern Territory with its rocky coasts and sandy beaches opens onto the Tyrrhenian Sea with frequent wide inlets, such as the gulfs of Castellammare del Golfo, Palermo and Termini Imerese. 

The east the Ionian coast is more varied with plenty of narrow pebble beaches like the one of Taormina; it does get more irregular proceeding to the south, with inlets and bays like Giardini Naxos and rugged cliffs up towards Catania.

The southern coast is generally sandy and uniform and right in the centre part you will find the largest gulf of Gela which is the largest in the region. The coast gets more varied around Ragusa, Agrigento and the Western Trapani area.

See also: Sicily where to fly into

The climate in Sicily

The climate of Sicily is Mediterranean, where summer can be very hot and winter can be mild and rainy. On the coast, especially the south-western coast, the climate is most affected by African currents, so summers can be hot and dry. 

Sicily is seen as an island of heat even in winter however along the Tyrrhenian coast and inland areas, winters can also be cold as usually these are geographically elevated areas. 

You are now probably wondering what is the best time to travel to Sicily? 

The best time of the year to visit Sicily is from late April to early June and from mid September to October as it would be less hot, less busy and cheaper.

See also: My list of Sicily Best Beaches

A Melting Pot of Civilizations 

Valle Dei Templi-Sicily

Many civilizations have passed through Sicily leaving their mark like the Greeks and the Phoenicians, the Romans and the Byzantines, the Arabs and the Normans, the Spaniards and the Austrians.

In the 1800 century the largest island in the Mediterranean became a must for the upper class European scholars such as Maupassant, Edmondo De Amicis, Elliot, Alexandre Dumas, Goethe and Tocqueville. They travelled to Sicily to complete their studies, remaining fascinated by Etna, the Aeolian Islands and from all those places known for classical art such as Syracuse, Segesta and Selinunte.

Sicily Unesco World Heritage sites 

There are 7 Sicilian sites that have become part of the “UNESCO World Heritage” list (all the names are in bold).

The first of these is the Villa Romana del Casale, a late Roman villa near Piazza Armerina known for its architecture and apparently the world’s best kept mosaics. 

Then we have Agrigento with its Greek temples in Doric style, three sanctuaries and some necropolises from the Hellenic period which are all part of the Valley of the Temples.  This is an archaeological area of ​​1,300 hectares.

The third UNESCO site is represented by the Aeolian Islands, an archipelago of volcanic origin consisting of seven islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea: Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi and Panarea. 

All of these islands offer beautiful beaches, coves, caves, inlets and more. 

Next we have the eight baroque historical centers of Val di Noto, such as Caltagirone, are also part of the Unesco heritage Militello in Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa and Scicli, awarded for their high architectural and artistic level. 

The fifth site is composed of the Necropolis of Pantalica with more than 5,000 tombs built between the 13th and 7th centuries BC, and Syracuse, with the ancient city that contains Ortigia, the first settlement founded by the Greek colonists of Corinth, with its remains of the Athena’s temple, today a cathedral.

Etna has also been proclaimed Unesco heritage “for the exceptional level of volcanic activity and for the testimonies inherent to this activity that date back to over 2700 years ago. 

The last but not least is the Palermo Cathedral one of the most astonishing works of the city:

its originality derives from the mixture of shapes and styles mainly Arab and Norman in a single architectural body.

These were introduced by different civilizations that over the centuries had conquered Sicily.

Great Food and wine are a great  reason to visit Sicily

The richness of Sicilian food and wine enjoys the succession over the centuries of the various invasions that have taken place, leaving their traditions in the food. 

The genuine products closely linked to the land, in fact typical dishes of Ragusa and Syracuse area derive from the Greeks. 

Related: My 15 Best Sicilian Foods

To the  Arabs, on the other hand, we owe the combination of flavors such as sweet and sour or the use of raisins and pine nuts in pasta, typical of western Sicilian cuisine such as the bucatini con le sarde which is a type of pasta thicker than spaghetti with sardines, pine nuts, raisins and wild fennel topped with toasted breadcrumb. 

The Normans imported in Sicily the techniques of salting and drying the great cods of the Atlantic, respectively cod and stockfish. 

The Sicilian cuisine is often considered one of the best in Italy. Some of the best known foods, that are also known worldwide, are the cassata siciliana, the cannoli, the caponata and the arancine.

Thanks to its mild climate, the island is rich in spices and aromatic plants; oregano, mint, rosemary, are part of the Sicilian condiments every day. 

The fertile soil produces large quantities of oranges and lemons, to the point that Sicily is often nicknamed the land of lemons or the land of oranges. Almonds, prickly pear, pistachio and olives are his other culinary symbols in which Sicily excels.

The Sicilian wine tourism

The gastronomic tradition is accompanied by the production of good quality wine production.

With over 300 wine producers and its 23 DOCG wines under its belt which  makes Sicily the region of Italy with the most vineyards thanks to the perfect soil and climatic conditions. 

The Nero D’Avola, the Syrah, Inzolia, Grillo, Bianco d’Alcamo the Muscat, Zibibbo, Marsala and the Passito are the cornerstones of Sicilian wine production, and are ideal as a complement to a rich and tasty cuisine like ours.

Wine-Resorts and Agritourism in Sicily offer the tourist an experience in direct contact with the vineyard, as well as with the cellar where the wines are produced.

A way to experience wine up close and also enjoy the stunning countryside. Often these resorts have a pool as well.

Outdoor activities in Sicily 

Sicily has a lot to offer anyone who just fancy a lovely trek or bird watching to a more thrill seeking adventure there are plenty of activities for everyone. 

For example you could:

  1. Tandem paragliding over Palermo
  2. Hiking on Mount Etna
  3. Snorkeling in the aeolian islands
  4. Water trekking in the Alcantara gorges
  5. Paddle boarding in Mondello and so on …

Perfect beach holiday 

The sea itself is an unmissable treasure.  With its 1500 km of coastline, including the smaller islands, Sicily offers many solutions for a seaside holiday.  

The big cities all offer equipped beaches such as the Palermo beach of Mondello with its sporting events, the white sand and palm trees, the liberty architecture, or the Playa of Catania in the East, the coast of San Leone outside Agrigento or Fontane  Bianche in Syracuse, just to name few of the best. Then we have the stunning beaches of the smaller islands, Aeolian, Egadi, Pelagie, Pantelleria and Ustica, the latter the most beautiful destination for diving enthusiasts.

See also: The Sicilian Islands

The coast that leads from Trapani to Marsala offers an extraordinary spectacle, in which the salt marshes and the reserve of the Stagnone Islands are located, a vast lagoon that includes San Pantaleo, the ancient Mothia, a perfect balance between art and landscape and a destination for kitesurf enthusiasts, and also Santa Maria and Isola Grande.

Nautical tourism in Sicily 

The island can accommodate about 13,000 boats in more than 30 marinas.

If you, like me, love the sea there are plenty of places where you can rent a boat like a sailing boat, a rib or book yourself a boat tour of the Zingaro Nature reserve for example.

In the last 15 years, the visits from large yachts in Sicily has also increased exponentially and in a decisive way: from 40 in 2005 to the current 350, with over 1000 stopovers around the island which are based on the main touristic  destinations. 

Some of the main Marina are:

  • Marina of Palermo
  • Marina del Nettuno Messina
  • Porto Palo
  • Marina of Ragusa
  • Marina Villa Igea 
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