Part of Italy yet distinctively different, Sicily embodies the temperament and color of southern Italy blended with the exotic flairs of northern Africa and the Orient. The island was historically a crossroads that bridged the cultures of Greece, Europe, Byzantine and North Africa. The mix is intense and sensual with a rich cultural legacy and a beguiling history.
Named for the ancient Siculi people who emigrated there from Lazio, its history stretches back to the Phoenicians, but it was the Greeks who made a decisive mark on Sicily building cities in the 6th and 5th centuries BC. The ruins of their great temples and theatres continue to amaze visitors many millennia later.
The Arabs brought trade, farming and mining to the island, the Normans imbued it with artistic and architectural splendor, and the Spanish brought a unique version of the Baroque style. In short, Sicily is unique. It retains an Arabic-tinged dialect, uses spices, almonds and raisins in its dishes, similar to Moroccan meals, and basks in its sunny setting like the wealthy ancient Romans who were drawn here.
The landscape is just as varied – craggy coastlines, sandy beaches, rolling hills and high mountains are all found here. Almonds, pistachios, citrus and vineyards flourish in the fertile, volcanic soil. This is where Marsala wine comes from, along with other heritage vintages.
Its pinnacle is Mt. Etna, Europe’s highest and most active volcano that is still prone to bouts of activity. The resort of Taormina has attracted tourists since ancient times; today’s sandy beaches and swanky restaurants still draw crowds, as do the incredible historic ruins it is famous for. Cities like Catania and Palermo pulse with energy, while smaller towns exude a slice of island life. There are rural hamlets, national parks and vineyard-line hills to enjoy, too.
Sicily is famous for its seafood and its sweets. Enjoy a cannoli (or three!), the fruit-spiked cassata cake, or a granita; gelato is a must – it was born here!
The island is lapped by three seas, is dotted with a string of islands, and is home to five UNESCO World Heritage Sites. With so much to see, taste, bask in and enjoy, it’s no wonder that Sicily is considered to be the pearl of Italy!
On Sicily's north coast, Cefalù is a city of soft sand beaches, ancient ruins, and modern vitality.
The city of Siracusa was the most important city Magna Grecia for a period and declared by Cicero to be it's most beautiful, as well.
Taormina embraces its Greco history while sitting on the sandy beaches of the Mediterranean Sea.
High in the hills of south-central Sicily, Chiaramonte Gulfi is called a "balcony" for its sweeping views of the valleys, mountains and sea.
Ragusa looks fascinating, its stone buildings peeking up from streets that wrap themselves around the hilltop.
On Sicily's north coast, this seaside resort is more than just a beach, it is also a great base for exploring the mountains and nearby Cefalu'.
In the Palermo province near the city but away from the traffic and bustle, Casteldaccia is near the beautiful cape known as Capo Zafferano.
On the Sicilian coast, you'll find golden sand beaches interspersed with reefs at CAva d'Aliga.
Located on the southern Sicilian coast and linked to its beautiful older city of Ragusa inland, the Marina di Ragusa is a hip beach resort.
Sitting in the hills, Montemaggiore has a beautiful setting among mountains and rivers, as its name implies.
The town of Nicolosi is at the base of Mount Etna and is the gateway for excursions to the famous volcano.
At the southern end of Sicily, the Pachino promontory is washed by both the Ionian and Mediterranean Seas.
At the southernmost point in Sicily, Portopalo di Capo Passero is a pleasant old fishing village.
An enchanting spot near Ragusa, Sicily, Punta Secca offers lovely landscapes and clear seas.
Built on a cape on Sicily's north coast, San Vito Lo Capo is a renowned summer destination.
A lovely town located near the sea, Santa Croce Camerina offers a nice atmosphere amidst flowering fields.
This tiny town is officially part of the city of Ispica, but is set apart on a long stretch of seacoast.
The North African-influenced town of Sciacca lies north of the spectacular Greek ruins of Agrigento.
This beautiful Baroque town sits in a gorge in southern Sicily just a few miles from the Mediterranean Sea.
A still active fishing village combines with beach resort in a charming combination on Sicily's south coast.
Lying in the hills of southern Sicily, minutes to the beaches but in its own world surrounded by vineyards, Vittoria offers city amenities and small town hospitality.
At about 500 meters above sea level, Zafferana Etnea provides a cooler climate during the oppressive heat of summer.
Been there? Done that? Share your experience and tips!
Haven't visited yet? Have questions about Sicily? Ask them here!