Sicilian holidays are a melting pot of history, culture, nature and good old fashioned Italian hospitality. They offer the Italian experience in a island setting that is nothing short of an extravaganza.
Sicilian holidays are like no other. Mount Etna’s constant smouldering presence that is felt everywhere. No visit to the island of Sicily would be complete without a visit. Take the cable car up to the heights of the ‘big Mamma’ of volcanoes for jaw-dropping views and then walk the black lava moonscape if you dare! You’ll feel the heat at your feet, hear the hiss of belching steam and marvel at the sight of the contrasting green-cloaked mountains and blue waters far below.
Overlooking volcano and sea, Taormina is the most dramatic resort for a Sicilian holiday, perched high upon cliffs with a beautifully preserved medieval heart. The setting ticks all the boxes. Here you will find the Teatro Greco, an impressive amphitheatre originally designed for 3rd century BC Greek theatre but on arrival of the Romans was swiftly transformed into an arena for gladiatorial entertainment.
These day’s classical and pop music concerts take place there providing a magical evening under the stars in full view of active Mount Etna. A cobbled pedestrianised route winds through the heart of Taormina with delightful little side alleys providing glimpses of the deep blue sea and the cable car that will take you down to the lovely bays of sandy and small stony beaches.
Sicily’s beautiful Siracusa was one of the Ancient World’s most important cities. The picturesque heart is the island of Ortygia where ancient Greek and 18th century Baroque architectural styles vie for your attention. Stroll along the waterfront and treat yourself to the signature scoppularicchi – a crunchy mixture of fried squid and tiny cuttlefish. Watch the ducks as they quack their way around the papyrus in the Fonte Aretusa (Arethusa’s spring), the symbol of Ortygia.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Nearby are the UNESCO World Heritage sites that are a must-see during holidays to Sicily. The Baroque, honey-coloured stone towns of Ragusa, Modica and Noto are high in the list of things to see, rebuilt after the devastating earthquake of 1693 and restored to glory, their voluptuous architectural style is matched by the quality of restaurants and hotels whose new brigades of young chefs and hoteliers are transforming this ‘golden triangle’ into an earthly paradise of delights to enjoy.
Go west during your Sicialan holidays to discover the edgy, colourful capital, Palermo. This is a tantalising city and treasure trove of Baroque palazzi and museums and nowhere else has such a splendid collection of Arab-Norman buildings. Be blown away by the glittering Byzantine mosaics encrusting the Cappella Palatina, Palermo’s greatest architectural jewel. Make an appointment with death, Sicilian style, in the Catacombe dei Cappuccini where the mummified bodies of 8,000 Palermitans are propped up in their Sunday best.
Discover your favourite Greek temple while exploring these ancient civilizations during your holidays. In Sicily the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento is perhaps the most famous, but Selinunte and Segesta are spectacularly set on flower-strewn hills overlooking the sea. To see the Tempio di Segesta – one of the most perfect Doric temples ever built – glow pink at sunrise or sunset is one of the most achingly romantic visions possible.
Islands off the Mainland
Off the Sicilian ‘mainland’ islands such as the Pantelleria ‘Black Pearl’ and chic Panarea on the Aeolian Islands are the choice for celebrities. But the most dramatic of all displays are the nightly pyrotechnics from Strómboli, one of the world’s most active volcanoes whose crater seethes and fumes constantly just off of the main island of Sicily.
Sicilian holidays are made even more special if you’re lucky enough to witness Stromboli’s explosions. Huge outbursts of lava ejected high into the air. Your holiday to Sicily will certainly be unforgettable if you have a chance to see the rare sight of the glowing red-hot lava as it snakes down the Sciara del Fuoco (Slope of Fire) and hear the hiss as it meets the sea.
Whilst visiting Noto with its baroque architecture, make the "compulsory" stop at the Bar Sicilia for some of the best gelato.
Tips from Essential Italy
Be sure to eat at Cutilisci in Catania for the best Sicilian cuisine while on your holidays. In Sicily the fish cous cous is fabulous.
Tips from Essential Italy
Once you've visited the newly cleaned mosaics at Piazza Armerina take the old road to Aidone and stop off at Al Fogher for lunch in Enna.
Tips from Italian Country Cottages
If you can get Mille e una Notte 2001 by Donna Fugata then grab it. It's one of the great recent wines from the island.
Get the best view of Modica from the baroque cathedral.
Wild unspoilt beaches are not hard to find in Sicily. Holidays near the beautiful Carratois beach, ,only 7km from Portopalo at the most southerly tip of the island, are said to be among the best beach holidays. There is a little bar to celebrate being so far removed from civilization as you watch the sun dip.
Merging culinary tastes of two continents, the Mazara del Vallo Restaurant at Antico Borgo Marinaro, Marmoreo, Mazara del Vallo is a must.
Tips from Sarah of Essential Italy
Buried under mud for hundreds of years, excavations began in 1950 to reveal the Villa Romana del Casale's Roman mosaics of stunning quality and colour. Famously depicting the world's first bikinis (long before Coco Chanel's invention in the 1950s) - the villa and its treasures are Sicily's most important Roman site.
Holidays in Sicily must absolutely include the colourful La Vucciria market in Palermo!