In this article you will find out what to see in Sicily. The island is one of Italy’s most fascinating tourist destinations, rich in history, culture, art and, of course, breathtaking beaches. If you are planning a vacation to this wonderful region, you are probably wondering “what to see in Sicily?” Here are some ideas of what not to miss during your visit.
Taormina is the main tourist destination in Sicily and is called the pearl of the Ionian Sea. Already during the Grand Tour period, in the 19th century, it was a popular destination for writers, artists and intellectuals. In the past it was dominated by different civilizations that followed one another, such as Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans and French. The village lies among the hills, about 200 meters from the sea with Mount Etna guarding it.
2. The Greek Temples and the Turkish Staircase.
Valley of the Temples in Agrigento
Welcome to Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples, one of the largest archaeological areas in Europe, with Selinunte holding the record. Surely it is also one of the most beautiful places in the world, capable of making your heart beat faster. We are inside the ancient Greek city of Akragas, in the midst of greenery, among olive trees, almond trees, prickly pears, carob trees and the sea in the background. “The most beautiful city of all that are a hotel for men”, as the Greek poet Pindar defined it.
It was founded in 580 BC by settlers from Gela and Rhodes who protected it with a 12 kilometer long wall. Just think that more than 200,000 inhabitants lived here and the city was accessible from 9 different doorsthe. The city was destroyed by the Carthaginians in 406 BC only to be conquered by the Romans in 210 BC who called it Agrigentum and built new buildings. Over time it was then abandoned and even the temples were used as building material.
Scala dei Turchi
A 20-minute drive from the Valley of the Temples is the beautiful Scala dei Turchi. La Scala dei Turchi in the municipality of Realmonte is truly a spectacle of nature , a magical place with a curious name. The name was given to it due to the continuous pirate raids by the Turks from the 16th to the 17th century . Pirates used to land right here, an ideal place to dock, sheltered from the winds. This also gives rise to the Sicilian expression “Mamma li turchi” to express astonishment and agitation.
The beauty of this stretch of coastline lies mainly in the enormous white cliffs, chalky in nature, that softly overlook the sea. Other nature spots similar to the Scala dei Turchi and equally fascinating are also found in the Agrigento area, such as at Punta Bianca, Eraclea Minoa , and Torre Salsa.
The archaeological park of Selinunte is a place capable of giving you so many emotions . It is reminiscent in some respects of the beautiful Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, but the fact that it overlooks the sea gives it a very special charm. It is very large, so much so that it is the largest in Europe, and to get around it effortlessly it is possible to take a nice little train ride.
In a secluded spot among hills that are sometimes barren and sometimes wooded lies Segesta, whose origins date back to the ancient people of the Elymians, who also founded picturesque Erice. This is another splendid place in Sicily to see Greek temples, along with Selinunte and the Valley of the Temples.
Segesta was in fact conquered by the Greeks and became Selinunte’s bitter rival, so much so that it was later destroyed with the help of the Carthaginians. The city founded by the Elymians had no better fate, however; in fact, it too was destroyed by the Syracusan Agathocles and then revived during Roman colonization and finally faded in the Middle Ages.
3. Baroque towns: Noto, Modica, Scicli and Ragusa Ibla
Noto, what to say about this country, so beautiful that it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is a lot to see in Noto, a historic center that really leaves you speechless, with noble palaces, churches, and convents built after the terrible earthquake of 1693 in the fascinating Sicilian Baroque style.
Perched on a hill, with its old houses and churches all close to each other, illuminated in the evening by the warm light of street lamps, the town with its monuments is a sight not to be missed.
As soon as you arrive in Scicli, you feel like you are going back in time a bit. A very small and characteristic village, a real concentration of beauty. Even Scicli, like other Sicilian Baroque cities, is not located at sea level. In fact, the aristocracy of the time preferred to stay in the hills, enjoy the landscape and find some refreshment from the torrid Sicilian summers.
When you arrive a few hundred meters from Ragusa Ibla (the historic center of Ragusa), already from the road you will have a fantastic view of all these perched houses. As in the case of Scicli and Modica, the journey itself is however already a magnificent experience, among olive trees, carob trees and wooded hills. In fact, this area of Sicily is not very man-made as perhaps other places, here nature has preserved its spaces.
The city was founded by the Greeks in the 8th century BC and they called it Syrakò. Syracuse’s Greek soul can still be felt today, walking through the archaeological park and around Ortiga, the island that guards the city’s historic center. Also born in Syracuse was Archimedes, who contributed his warlike inventions to defeat the Athenians who tried to conquer the city.
The history of Syracuse, however, goes beyond the Greek culture, here different peoples have succeeded, each of which has left its traces: Romans, Arabs, Byzantines, Normans and Spaniards. After the earthquake of 1693, although it did not cause much damage to the city, buildings were built in the splendid Sicilian Baroque style . Baroque that finds its maximum expression in the Piazza Duomo of Ortigia, a square so beautiful that it takes your breath away.
5. San Vito Lo Capo, Zingaro Nature Reserve and Scopello
San Vito Lo Capo
The town is most famous for its beaches and the color of the sea; probably the most beautiful coastlines in Sicily are found here. The town is really small, about 5,000 inhabitants, but very quaint, with many small white houses and ornamental plants of many colors and scents in front of the doors of the houses.
Riserva dello Zingaro
The Riserva dell Zingaro is one of the very few places in Sicily that is not contaminated by the presence of a coastal road. It is a fantastic place, which is located between San Vito Lo Capo and Scopello, which has remained untouched by time where nature rules. But just think that in 1976 the works for the construction of the road had begun, but these works were blocked due to the strong protests of the environmental associations.
When you see Scopello with his sea , the tonnara from the 13th century and stacks , you seem to admire a painting. It is a small seaside village nestled in the Zingaro Nature Reserve.
6. Roman villa of the Casale
The villa is a magnificent testimony of Roman civilization, 3500 square meters to be discovered. Because of its uniqueness, it has been included in the UNESCO list.
The patrician villa should date back to the first half of the 4th century AD and is made up of over 40 rooms, all decorated with mosaics and intended for different purposes. Who was the owner of this beautiful villa? There are various hypotheses, some believe the emperor himself, others the aristocrat Valerius Proculus Populonius, a member of a prestigious family of African descent. This hypothesis seems the most accredited at the moment. The villa is truly stunning, for history lovers it is absolutely a once in a lifetime place to see.
Etna at 3350 meters is the highest active volcano in Europe. If you go to Sicily you cannot miss it. The volcano with its lunar landscape is truly fascinating. But Etna is also famous for its eruptions, which not a few times have unfortunately caused much damage. Historical accounts of 475 BC already mention such events and even during the Middle Ages several villages were destroyed by the lava flows. On this occasion the lava arms even ended in the Mediterranean Sea.
8. Palermo, Monreale and Cefalu´
and you are wondering what to see and eat in Palermo, you are on the right page. Palermo is the capital of Sicily and was founded by the Phoenicians between the 7th and 6th centuries B.C. who gave it the beautiful name “Zyz,” “Flower.” Over time, different cultures, such as Roman, Arab and Norman, succeeded one another, and all these civilizations have gifted Palermo with a not inconsiderable historical-artistic find. There are indeed many things to see in Palermo, and there are 7 monumental complexes that are part of UNESCO.
Monreale is located not far from Palermo, from which it is possible to visit it with buses that leave approximately every hour from Piazza Indipendenza (About 5 Euros round trip). It was founded by i Normans in the eleventh century and their kings spent their free time there, away from the hectic life of Palermo. Legend has it that many monuments found in the country were built following a vision of King William II. In fact, he dreamed of the Madonna indicating to him the place where a great treasure was buried, with which he would have to build a temple dedicated to her. William II interpreted the ‘incident as a real mission to be fulfilled and thus the cathedral was born.
Cefalù is a small town in the province of Palermo. It was founded by the Greeks who called it Kephaloidion (from kefalè, meaning head) and then the Romans changed its name to Chephaloedium. The name comes from the promontory of the Rocca, which overlooks the town and has an unusual head shape. It is one of the most beautiful places in Sicily, a place to visit absolutely.
9. Trapani and Erice
The city of Trapani
Trapani is located in the north-western tip of Sicily and overlooks the beautiful Egadi islands. Sicans were the first to inhabit this place, creating the village of Drapano, from which the town’s present name is derived. Trapani was an important Phoenician center in the 8th century B.C., becoming the focal point of their defensive system.
Beyond Trapani’s historic center, you can’t fail to visit the salt pans and its typical mills, a wonderful place protected by the WWF. They are especially fascinating at sunset because of the play of color with the water.
Erice is a small town near Trapani, about 750 meters above the sea. Once you arrive, it feels like taking a plunge into Norman-medieval times. It really is a fairy-tale place where time seems to stand still. To get there you can take the cable car from Trapani (Price: 9.5 euros round trip) and enjoy breathtaking views of Trapani, the salt pans and the Egadi Islands. Alternatively, you can drive up and park at the beginning of the village.
10. The islands of Sicily
10.1 Aeolian Archipelago
Vulcano is famous for its mud springs and active volcano, which you can climb to admire the breathtaking view. You can also relax in its black sand beach and natural thermal waters, which have healing properties.
Lipari is the largest of the seven Aeolian islands and is the perfect base for exploring the archipelago. Here you can visit the Lipari Castle, the Aeolian Archaeological Museum and the many craft workshops. Lipari also offers a great selection of restaurants, bars and stores, where you can enjoy Sicilian cuisine and buy local products.
Stromboli is famous for its active volcano that regularly erupts lava and ash. You can take a guided hike to climb the volcano and admire the natural spectacle of glowing lava. Stromboli is also known for its black sand beach and lively nightlife.
To reach the islands you can take a ferry from Milazzo or Naples.
10.2 Egadi Archipelago
Favignana, the largest of the Egadi Islands, is known for its beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters. You have the option of renting a bicycle or scooter to explore the island and visit the many secluded coves. One of Favignana’s most famous beaches is Cala Rossa, a bay with white sand and turquoise waters.
Levanzo, on the other hand, is the smallest of the Egadi islands and is famous for its small blue and white houses reminiscent of some places in Greece. Here you can visit the Genovese Cave, a cave with prehistoric paintings dating back more than 10,000 years. To relax, you can take a walk along the coast and admire the beautiful inlets and coves.
Both islands also offer a great selection of restaurants, bars, and stores, where you can enjoy typical Sicilian dishes and buy local products, such as Favignana’s famous tuna.
To reach the islands you can take a ferry from Trapani or Marsala.
10.3 Pelagian Archipelago
It is one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean and a popular tourist destination in Sicily.
One of Lampedusa’s main attractions is its main beach, Rabbit Beach. This beach is considered one of the most beautiful in the world and is part of a protected nature reserve. Here you can enjoy the turquoise waters, white sand and the sea turtles that come to lay their eggs on the beach.
Lampedusa also offers a wide range of activities for adventure lovers, such as scuba diving, boat trips and snorkeling.
The island is also a place rich in culture and history. You can visit the Archaeological Museum, which displays artifacts from the ancient culture of Sicily and the surrounding islands. Also very nice is the Cape Grecale Lighthouse, located on the eastern tip of the island, where you can admire the breathtaking view of the sea.
To reach Lampedusa, you can take a flight from Palermo or Catania airport or a ferry from Porto Empedocle or Agrigento.