Sicily is one of the two major Italian islands. This region is overwhelming: rich in contrast and blessed with the mild Mediterranean climate. Here you’ll find active volcanos, remote archipelagos, thousands baroque cities, unbelievable emerald blue waters on every beach and street foods that will leave you drooling. With this said here’s my list of the places you really don’t want to miss out if Sicily is in your bucket list.
The most remote isle of the Egadian archipelago. This island is quite rough and wild but if you’re averse to crowds, as I am, this is the place for you. To get there you’ll be needing to take the ferry from Trapani; tickets are bookable online. Once on the island, there’s not much to do: sunbathe and swim on the rocky beach, go on a boat tour around the island, take a walk in the white and blue lazy town of Marettimo, or hike to the very end of the island where there’s a fortress. This last-mentioned activity is only for the braves and expert hikers: the path is rather dangerous and quite steep because it’s overhanging the sea and there’s nothing to hold on to. However your bravery will be praised by the view of the Castle of Punta Troia: a fortress built, by the Saracen, to be a watchtower.
2. MOUNT ETNA
This was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Being on an active volcano is unbelievable. The whole experience was made even more suggestive by the moody weather of that day. Driving up the mount was impressive: seeing villages, trees, fields covered in lava makes you realize how great nature is, and how powerless we are in front of her.
Linguaglossa (1800 mt) is the last place you can drive to, from there on you can only proceed with operators or guides. There are several tour options to choose from. The excursions packs can include hiking to the craters or super jeep tours. Please book your trip in advance because the numbers are limited and they sell quickly. We didn’t make it to go on a tour for this reason.
Moreover, when planning your visit to Mount Etna, keep in mind that the temperatures are low. Even if you’re Sicily the altitude is high, so dress accordingly. That day we went from 30 degrees on the lowland to 6 degrees at 1800 mt. Something that really upset me, and that I can’t leave out of this conversation, is the amount of dirt and trash we saw among the lava field. It is heartbreaking to me because I can’t understand why people would drive that far, to enjoy this unique place on Earth, and then throw their garbage there.
Also called the City of chocolate, Modica is a historic town situated in the south of the Island. It is Unesco listed for her incredible baroque architectural patrimony. The city is divided into two major parts: Modica Bassa is the newest and also busiest area and Modica Alta where you can dive into the real essence of the town. In Modica Alta, the houses were built one against the other, creating a fascinating and unique scenery. Here it isn’t uncommon to find dug into the rock walls, like the one we stayed in. From the balcony of our accommodation, we had a view of the whole city. No need to say it was our favourite place to spend time relaxing while sipping on some Sicilian granita. The streets are narrow and populated by cat colonies. The main things to do in this city are:
- Visiting the major churches: San Giorgio’s Dome, which dates to ‘700; San Pietro’s Church built in 1300; Santa Maria del Gesù of the 15th century.
- Walking through the city centre, situated in Modica Bassa. The heart of this area is Corso Umberto, which is also the main shopping street
- Tasting chocolate in one of the countless chocolate shops. You’ll find loads of different types of chocolate: with oranges, almonds, pepper, grappa, pistachio, and so on.
- Visiting the house of the Sicilian novelist Salvatore Quasimodo, Nobel Prize winner. He was born in this house in 1901.
This city was hands down my favourite. Chief town of the region, Palermo, is an amazing city, overflowing with life. There are so many things worthy of being seen here. First of all I Quattro Canti: this unique square represents the very heart of the city. Then there’s the Palermo’s Cathedral, part of the Unesco Patrimony. Its peculiarity comes from the fact that it is the result of the merge of the various populations and cultures that lived in Sicily. It’s possible to go on the top of the cathedral but you need to pay a ticked and the queue can be very long according to the moment of the day. You’ll find prices and schedule here.
Wake up early in the morning, the next day, and visit one of the four ancient street markets: Vucciaria, Il capo, Ballarò and Borgo Vecchio. It’s going to be an unforgettable experience: the voices of vendors shouting to sell their goods, the smells of the fresh products and their colours, the chaos of the crowd… It’s just like being on a movie set.
Lastly, visit Cappella Palatina and Palazzo dei Normanni. The first is the royal chapel of the Norman palace. This building is a mixture of Byzantine, Norman and Fatimid architectural styles. Palazzo dei Normanni, instead, was the seat of the Kings of Sicily during the Norman domination. You’ll need a single ticket to visit both attractions and you can book it online (here), skipping the queue.
5. RAGUSA IBLA
Part of the World’s Heritage Patrimony, this lazy city lies on the side of a hill, and represent the quintessence of the Sicilian Baroque style. Here you can feel the real Sicilian essence. Get lost walking around the streets and stop for a granatina or brioches col tuppo (a typical breakfast dessert) just in front of the cathedral of San Giorgio. And then you’ll only have to choose which church you want to visit next among a multitude of more than fifty. In Italy, Ragusa is also very famous for being the background of a popular TV series named “Il Commissario Montalbano“.
Ortigia is an island and also the city centre of Siracusa. The area is famous for his important historical landmarks. Staring from the majestic Cattedrale della Natività di Maria Santissima. Then just let loose and walk through every single street and alley you see, it’ll worth it, I promise. Last but not least, if you’re a science enthusiast, or travelling with kids, pay a visit to the very Archimende and Leonardo’s museum. There, you’ll see a lot of interesting and weird stuff.
7. GOLE DELL’ALCANTARA
This place looks like it came straight out of Game of Thrones episode. The amazing artwork made by the waters of the river Alcantara gave this place a unique and thrilling touch. The water is freezing cold and, you’ll need plastic shoes to walk in it because the little stones, that lie on the riverbed, are pretty sharp.
There is a controversy about the parking situation: there are two different parking. One private, which means that I’ll have to pay for a ticket that will grant you access to an elevator that goes down in the gorge and to a botanical garden. The other one is public, which it’s free and you’ll only have to walk down a stairway to reach the bottom of the gorge. Once you reach the pit you can either rest on the river bank, or walk down the rive but, the viable zone is restricted due to the danger of falling rocks.
Caltagirone is the Sicilian capital of ceramic. The most important sight, there, is the stairway of 142 steps decorated with ceramic tiles, representing the history of ceramic. They’re a lot of shops that sell handcrafted ceramic, where you can find great souvenir ideas. And if you’re scared of breaking them on your trip back home they will ship your purchases directly at your house. So handy!
9. ACI CASTELLO
How dramatic is this view: a black castle situated on a cliff, surrounded by rocky black beaches. The rocks of the area originated from a marine volcanic eruption. The castle dates to 1076, during the Normann era. Inside the castle, there’s a historical museum. The best thing to do is come here early in the morning for a quick dip, just to enjoy the environment on your own, since during the day it can be quite packed with people.
10. VALLE DEI TEMPLI
Valle dei Templi is one of the most extensive, representative and best-preserved archaeological sites of classical Greek civilization, granted Unesco World Heritage status. The archaeological area corresponds to the remains of the ancient Akragas, the original nucleus of modern Agrigento.