Visiting Sicily for the first time? Wondering where to go and what to see?
Well, you are in for a treat. Sicily is not so much a destination as an experience. It needs to be felt emotionally, rather than simply "visited".
The best way to do that is to take things slowly.
So, What to see in Sicily?
Well, if time is limited, focus on one part of the island and experience, within that area, the four things listed below:
It is hard to narrow the list down, there is so much to see really and so much of that is world beating.
Our recommendations are scattered across the island of Sicily and some are a little offshore. Ready to explore? Let's go...
Stepping into this picturesque town feels like stepping back in time, as ancient ruins and medieval architecture coexist harmoniously with vibrant shops and charming cafes.
As you wander through the labyrinthine alleys, you'll stumble upon delightful surprises at every turn. Discover hidden courtyards adorned with colorful flowers, boutique shops offering handmade crafts and local treasures, and inviting trattorias serving delectable Sicilian cuisine. The vibrant atmosphere of Taormina is alive with the melodies of street musicians, the laughter of locals, and the joyful chatter of tourists.
One of the highlights of Taormina is its breathtaking panoramic views. Perched on a hillside, the town offers unrivaled vistas of the shimmering Ionian Sea stretching towards the horizon. With Mount Etna, Europe's largest active volcano, as a backdrop, the scenery becomes truly unforgettable. Be sure to visit the Greek Theatre, an ancient amphitheater perched high above the town, where you can immerse yourself in history while taking in the sweeping vistas.
Valley of the Temples (Valle dei Templi), Agrigento
One of Sicily's greatest attractions. These temples, like those in Paestum, date back over 2000 years.
Once a thriving city known as Akragas, Agrigento was one of the most important Greek colonies in Sicily. The Valley of the Temples was the beating heart of this ancient city, adorned with impressive temples dedicated to various gods and goddesses. The Temple of Concordia, one of the best-preserved Doric temples in the world, stands as the crown jewel of the valley, radiating a sense of timeless beauty and harmony.
Exploring the Valley of the Temples is like stepping into a living history book. As you wander through the site, you can envision the bustling streets and vibrant city life that once flourished here. Take a moment to contemplate the significance of these ancient structures and the religious ceremonies that took place within their hallowed walls.
The Valley of the Temples is not only a treasure trove for history enthusiasts but also a source of inspiration for artists, writers, and philosophers. The sheer magnitude of the ruins, coupled with the breathtaking vistas that stretch out to the horizon, stirs the soul and sparks the imagination.
A historical city and UNESCO world heritage site. together with Athens, the most important Greek city in the world and a city mentioned in the Bible. Still today, the city is enchanting and unique—quite unlike any other Italian city.
It has superb street markets. Lots of history, a treasure trove of Baroque architecture, art by Caravaggio, and food from heaven—you have to try the caponata, pistachio gelato, and arancini balls.
The highlight for me is the old town of Syracuse on the island of Ortigia. The island connects by bridge to the rest of Syracuse and offers a tantalizing mix of narrow lanes, piazze, chaos, and the classical scenes of Sicily. It feels like you are in a movie, and every corner is a photographer's dream.
Boasts one of the most breathtaking settings in all of Italy. As you approach the town, the sight of the majestic La Rocca towering above and the shimmering azure waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea stretching out before you, will leave you in awe.
The charm of Cefalù lies in its fusion of natural beauty and rich history. Stroll through its narrow, winding streets, lined with charming old houses adorned with colorful flowers. Discover hidden squares where locals gather and vibrant cafés and trattorias where the aroma of fresh seafood fills the air. Cefalù's vibrant atmosphere is contagious, and you can't help but fall in love with the town's enchanting ambiance.
For fans of the popular Italian detective series "Montalbano," Cefalù holds a special place in their hearts and mine... I love that show, and this idyllic coastal town has served as a backdrop for many of Inspector Montalbano's adventures.
But Cefalù's charm extends beyond its association with Montalbano. The town is home to a true gem, the stunning Cefalù Cathedral. This impressive Norman-Arab cathedral dominates the skyline with its intricate architectural details and imposing towers. Step inside to admire the beautiful Byzantine mosaics that adorn the interior, depicting scenes from biblical stories.
Beyond its architectural wonders, Cefalù boasts a pristine sandy beach that stretches along its coastline. Whether you're looking to take a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear waters or simply lounge on the golden sands, Cefalù's beach offers the perfect spot to unwind and enjoy the Mediterranean bliss.
Just a short drive from Cefalù lies the charming town of Savoca, which gained fame as one of the filming locations for the iconic movie "The Godfather." Stepping into Savoca is like entering a time capsule, as the town has preserved its traditional Sicilian character and offers a unique glimpse into the world of the Corleone family.
As you wander through the narrow streets of Savoca, you'll recognize iconic scenes from the movie, such as Bar Vitelli, where Michael Corleone asked for Apollonia's hand in marriage. Sit at one of the outdoor tables, sip on a refreshing drink, and soak in the atmosphere of this cinematic setting. The locals in Savoca are known for their warm hospitality, ready to welcome visitors with open arms and share stories about the filming experience.
While the Godfather connection adds an exciting element to your visit, Savoca has much more to offer beyond its cinematic fame. Admire the breathtaking views from the Church of Santa Lucia, perched on a hilltop overlooking the town and the surrounding countryside. Explore the medieval ruins of the Castello degli Schiavi, a fortified castle that adds a touch of historical intrigue to your journey.
Savoca's authenticity and tranquility make it a delightful escape from the bustling crowds of other tourist destinations. The town's relaxed pace of life invites you to slow down and savor the simple pleasures. Find a cozy trattoria and indulge in traditional Sicilian cuisine, accompanied by a glass of local wine.
The Aeolian Islands,
7 islands and a few outcrops, set in waters of the brightest blue and sun-kissed with Europe's brightest sunshine.
The Aeolian Islands lie scattered like precious gems across the turquoise waters of Sicily, a true marvel of nature, these enchanting islands deserve a place on your travel bucket list.
Lipari is the largest of the Aeolian Islands.
The vibrant colors of its bustling harbor will instantly captivate you, as fishermen unload their catch and locals go about their daily routines. Lose yourself in the maze-like streets of the old town, where ancient churches and charming boutiques await your discovery. The island today is peaceful and lovely - truly idyllic. It wasn't always so.
In the 16th century most of the population was taken away as slave - mothers and fathers torn from their own children. A painful story few know about and which we wrote about in this article.
If you seek tranquility and natural beauty, Salina is your oasis.
This lush island, adorned with vineyards and citrus groves, exudes a serene ambiance that instantly soothes the soul. Take a leisurely stroll through its picturesque villages, savoring the sweet scent of orange blossoms in the air. And don't forget to indulge in the island's renowned Malvasia wine, a true delight for the senses.
For those seeking adventure, Stromboli beckons with its fiery temperament.
This active volcano casts an awe-inspiring glow against the night sky, as it periodically erupts, reminding us of the raw power of nature. Hike up its rugged slopes to witness the breathtaking views and experience a sense of exhilaration like no other.
And let's not forget the island of Vulcano,
famous for its therapeutic mud baths and natural hot springs. Immerse yourself in the rejuvenating warmth of the waters, allowing the mineral-rich mud to work its magic on your skin.
For beaches in Sicily, try these.
It's about as far south as you can go in Sicily; a picture-perfect village of fishermen's cottages and picturesque squares. In the evening, fairy lights lend a golden glow to many of the cottages, and dining outside in the warm, balmy Sicilian evening air is delightful.
Come in July for the Cinema di Frontiera Film Festival, and you'll think you're in the movie Cinema Paradiso: films flicker on the walls of the houses surrounding the piazza, little bambini run around, and adults watch, lost in another world, another time.
There are often wonderful deals on houses in Sicily, and yes, those 1 Euro houses do exist. There are even free houses!
They come with a lot of caveats and conditions, though, so you would do well to read this article before you even consider buying one of them. The article also has a lot of useful information on buying a fixer-upper in Italy.
Have a look too at our article on what the buying process in Italy entails.
Once you've bought, you'll find that the cost of living in Sicily is really low. Your money goes so much further here than just about anywhere else in Western Europe, and your heating bills drop dramatically too. ;-)