The largest island in the Mediterranean is a land of exceptional nature, architecture, cuisine and history. Greeks, Arabs and Normans left their traces here, with medieval palaces, baroque churches, Greek temples and oriental gardens fighting for your attention. The architectural and historical buffet on offer in Sicilian cities is as charming as it is varied.
Proud of its distinct identity (here they are Sicilian before being Italian), the ancient island of Trinacria (as it was known to the Greeks) is not only a mosaic of cultures but also a mosaic of landscapes. Explore the island from turquoise sea to snow-capped mountains and from fields burnt golden by the sun to lush and bountiful orchards.
Climb the black slopes of Etna, move to the rhythm of the markets of Palermo or Catania, walk the picturesque alleys of Syracuse, sunbathe on beaches lapped by translucent waters, discover what oranges truly taste like, refresh the palate with a granita al limone, get drunk with the scent of aromatic herbs, and taste pasta so good that the Sardinians won’t let it leave the island. This is just a hint of our hoteliers’ recommendations that awaits you on this exceptional island with a volcanic temperament. Find out here what our local experts recommend doing, visiting during your stay at one of our well-located hotels in Sicily, Italia.
Getting to Sicily
If you want to arrive by car, then the ferry that connects Genoa to Palermo will get you there (the crossing is a fairly long 20 hours). To get to the island’s south after docking, allow around 2.5 hours of motorway driving, but our hoteliers recommend taking some time to explore the hillside villages, tiny towns and wheat fields filled with grazing cows and sheep by taking a detour off the big roads and onto the smaller ones. That’s where they assure us you will discover true Sicily.
By plane, you can land in Palermo to the north, Trapani to the west or Catania at the foot of Mount Etna. And, while we are on the subject of the volcano, as impressive as it is to look at, the vagaries of its behaviour do mean that flight delays or cancellations are not unheard of.
Best time to go to Sicily
The gods of Olympus may have deserted the island for 2 millennia, but Helios continues to tirelessly race his chariot across the Sicilian sky blessing the island with 300 days of sunshine a year. The winters, mild and wet on the coast, become frankly cold inland where snow is not uncommon. Snow is such a fixture of the climate that as you start to climb inland there are even two ski resorts on Mount Etna. Our hoteliers recommend visiting Sicily anytime between May and September for the best exploring and al fresco dining weather. In the summer months the beaches fill up as quickly as the temperatures rise. But for a real inside tip, then our hoteliers say come in spring. Nature is at its most sumptuous and there is an incomparable display of lemon and orange trees in bloom.
Very proud of the beauty of their island and of knowing it perfectly, our hoteliers will gladly help you plan your holiday schedule from Palermo the vibrant capital to Cefalù the seaside favourite and from peaceful Syracuse to chic Taormina. Our local hoteliers are also looking forward to introducing you to their traditions, including ‘passeggiata’ the especially Sicilian habit of dressing up and taking an evening stroll where the idea is as much about socializing as it is being seen in your designer best. Find out here all of our hoteliers‘ recommendations about the main attractions, points of interests and things to do in Sicily.
Explore beyond the modern districts of the capital into the charm of the narrow old streets where cracked and faded facades overlook appetizing markets spread out below. Do not miss Madonna Assunta Cathedral and its astonishing mix of styles, the Palazzo dei Normanni and the Palatine Chapel (the golden mosaics and Byzantine pavements are unforgettable), all silent witnesses the riches of Sicilian history. Feel free to leave the city to climb the heights of Monreale, which offers breath taking views of the city and of the fertile ‘La Conca d’oro’ valley filled with orange, olive and almond trees.
The city encapsulated in verse by Henri Salvador is a jewel placed on the turquoise waters of the Ionian Sea. The district of Neapolis will reveal its catacombs, its Greek theatre and the astonishing sanctuary of Madonna delle Lacrime. Pass the Umbertino or Santa Lucia bridges and dive into the picturesque maze of alleys in the Ortygia district. The Piazza Duomo will dazzle you with its splendour and the craftsmen scattered throughout the alleyways make it difficult to leave without a souvenir worth treasuring.
Welcome to the Valley of the Temples. The view of the modern city might not be postcard worthy, but the stunning collection of Greek temples is well worth going in for a closer look to explore the temples of Vulcan, Castor and Pollux, Jupiter, Concorde (almost intact) and Juno. Once you’ve had your fill of Olympian gods, make time for a visit to the Kolymbetra Garden below, where the refreshing shade of oranges, lemons and fig trees are the perfect companion to complete your temple exploration.
Catania and Etna
One of the most attractive cities of Sicily reveals its extraordinary Baroque heritage in the shadow of the one who destroyed it in 1669: Etna. As dangerous as it is beneficial, the highest volcano (3,295 m) and the most active volcano in Europe, offers fertile ground to the whole region. Vineyards and orchards couldn’t be happier with up to 4 lemon crops a year. The sensation of crossing lava flows that have cooled to become crisp and black is an experience quite unlike any other.
Bathed by the clear waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea, Cefalù is a small seaside town that was once an ancient fortified city at the foot of a mighty rock. Its cathedral-fortress deserves a visit before descending through the alleyways where shops and restaurants follow one after another all the way to the beach. The beaches get busy in summer, but if you’re prepared to spend some Euros then head to one of the paying beaches and hire a deckchair and parasol.
Yachts and cruise ships cruise through the bay and opulent hotels dot the seafront, Taormina is an elegant destination. This small city clings to the cliffside and whispers romantic ideas with its sea views, medieval history and flower-filled streets. Indulge in a shopping session along the lengthy pedestrian street of Corso Umberto, dive into the crystal-clear waters on the city’s bathing beaches and visit the Greek theatre for another extraordinary view of Mount Etna.
Bathed in sunshine and fertilized by the ashes of Etna, Sicily is generous to its farmers and its kitchens. In addition to the essential citrus fruits, pomodori (tomatoes), melanzane (eggplant), zuccini (zucchini) and carciofi (artichokes) are featured prominently on local menus. Of course, you are in Italy, so Sardinian pasta (pasta with sardines) or arancini (fried rice balls garnished with meat or vegetables) and caponata (ratatouille with capers) are definite favourites. Our hoteliers insist that for the perfect palate cleanser you must taste an authentic lemon granita and for something sweet choose a crisp cannolo stuffed with ricotta or the irresistible cream of pistacchio.
The cuisine of this restaurant in Taormina is as good as it gets. The setting hidden in the alleys of the old city between two flights of stairs adds to the romance as does a small terrace hidden away from the hustle and serving up the best Sicilian flavours. Perfetto!
Sicilia In Bocca
This very popular Catania address, near the duomo, showcases the best of local seafood. From spaghetti with sea urchins to ravioli stuffed with grouper the catch of the day is in the spotlight and cooked to perfection.
Buatta Cucina Popolana
This small Palermo restaurant in the historic center offers traditional and seasonal cuisine in a former 19th century shop. The irresistible charm of the setting is only forgotten once you receive your order. If you are feeling a little brave and have a taste for something especially local then opt for the Pane con la Milza (a bread dish made with the spleen of veal) or for something more crowd pleasing the cannoli with cassata (cake with candied fruits) can’t be beat.
In this Bagheria gourmet restaurant (10 km from Palermo), named after the typical puppets of Sicily, expect a performance worthy of the name. The dishes follow one another in an orchestrated choreography and with presentations worthy of a small theatre. 1 Michelin star.
This hidden restaurant in the alleys of Syracuse (district of Ortygia) really deserves to be found. In addition to its elegant and historic setting, it offers a beautiful gastronomic interlude with typical dishes of the island. Even after you have found the restaurant, the menu written in the Sicilian dialect might leave you feeling a little lost once again. Thankfully there is a translated version that’s worth diving into.