Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and is just off the toe of Italy’s boot. Its stunning natural beauty and location at a cultural crossroads has seen it attract invaders from all sides over the centuries, leaving it with a rich and multi-layered history. Warm all year round, Sicily is a vibrant island that represents the most characteristic parts of Italian culture in microcosm. Any trip to Sicily is a wonderful opportunity to combine admiring its well-preserved ancient monuments, soaking up its wonderful landscape, getting to know its lively locals, and, of course, sampling some of the most delicious cuisine anywhere in Europe. If you’re planning an all-inclusive vacation in Sicily, you will be spoilt for choice!
Palermo is Sicily’s capital and an assault on the senses. Enclosed by a fertile plane known as the Conca d’Oro or Golden Shell, Palermo is nestled between azure blue seas and rocky mountain outcrops. The capital’s history hits you around every corner, from Baroque façades to Byzantine mosaics, relics of the Norman invasion and Arabic domes. Having said that, Palermo is also a modern city, with a contemporary art scene, elegant shopping, and beautiful beach resorts within reach of downtown.
The city’s main draw is the glistening Capella Palatina, famous for its 12th-century gold mosaics of biblical scenes. Palermo is also home to one of Italy’s largest theaters, the Teatro Massimo, the steps of which were the setting for scenes from The Godfather Part III. Despite recent changes in outlook, the specter of organized crime still hangs over the city— take a No Mafia walking tour or visit the No Mafia Memorial and museum to find out more. Street food walking tours are another great way to get under the surface of Palermo and explore its culinary heritage by visiting the famous Vucciria market and trying such local delicacies as pani ca meusa or spleen sandwich.
When the heat of the city gets too much, escape to nearby Mondello, a charming beach resort with a long sandy beach and plenty of restaurants to sample the local seafood.
Across the island, on Sicily’s east coast, the city of Siracusa was once of the most important in the Ancient Greek world, with a population of 300,000! Nowadays, most visitors focus on the archeological site in the northwest of the town, including its Greek theater dating from the 5th century BCE, and the preserved island of Ortigia, packed with buildings in a range of architectural styles. Ortigia is the beating heart of Siracusa and is home to countless bars, restaurants, and trattorie. The best spot in town is along the western side of the island, where you can sip an aperitivo as the sun sets into the Mediterranean, casting a warm shadow on the honey-colored architecture.
When planning a trip to Sicily, Taormina ranks highly on most peoples’ lists. Smaller than Sicily’s main cities and gifted a magical hillside location above stunning beaches and with jaw-dropping views of Mount Etna, Taormina has been attracting visitors for centuries. Although busy in parts and in high season, Taormina offers plenty of more secluded and exclusive spots, as well as designer boutiques in its center. It is home to the enchanting gardens of the Villa Comunale, an oasis of peace when the town is crowded. Taormina is connected to the beautiful beaches below by cable car, making it possible to combine a day at the beach with dinner in one of the town’s Michelin-starred restaurants off its main street.
Among Europe’s most impressive archaeological sites, the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento offers the best-preserved evidence of Sicily’s Ancient Greek heritage. Covering 8 square miles, the archaeological site encompasses the ruined ancient city of Akragas, with the Tempio della Concordia at its center. The model for UNESCO’s logo, this incredible building has been standing almost entirely intact for almost 2500 years! In addition to its archaeological treasures, Agrigento is also a vibrant modern Sicilian town that boasts plenty of spots to sample such local delicacies as almond milk, pistachio gelato and, of course, cannoli!