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Things to do in Sicily

Things to do in  Sicily

Welcome to Sicily

Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean, is full of the beauty and history that gives Italy its reputation as a top-tier destination. Separated from the mainland by the narrow Strait of Messina, across which ferries travel regularly, the island boasts a strategic location in the Mediterranean, making it a desirable prize for many a conquering culture—that may help explain Sicily’s dizzying variety of architectural and culinary styles. Food is a serious pastime here, and a food tour (which often also includes wine) of cities such as Taormina, Syracuse, Palermo, or Catania will acquaint you to regional delicacies, as will a cooking class. To make sense of the busy, regional capital of Palermo—which boasts historic churches and the gilded mosaics of Monreale—take a guided walking or bike tour. Taormina, by contrast, has been a popular seaside resort for centuries—there's even an ancient Roman theater overlooking the town center, to which some guided tours provide skip-the-line tickets. Near Taormina, the massive volcano of Mount Etna looms over the landscape and makes the soil perfect for growing wine grapes—see for yourself on a tasting tour. The oldest part of Syracuse is the small island of Ortygia, on Sicily's eastern coast, that's designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the southern part of Sicily, the ancient Greek ruins in the Valley of the Temples near Agrigento are also UNESCO listed. The island is ringed by beaches, making Sicily a beloved summer vacation destination for Italians and visitors alike.

Top 15 attractions in Sicily

Isola Bella

The Italian name of Isola Bella contains both a truth and a misnomer: though worthy of being called beautiful, this tiny rocky outcrop along Sicily’s coast near Taormina is not actually an island. Located off the Lido Mazzaro beach on the Mediterranean Sea, Isola Bella is connected to the mainland by a narrow strip of sand that is often covered with water at high tide. The picturesque point was gifted to Taormina in 1806 by the King of Sicily and later purchased by the Scottish Lady Florence Trevelyan—her villa still sits on the highest point—until being taken over by the region of Sicily and made a nature reserve in 1990.More

Massimo Opera House (Teatro Massimo)

The largest opera house in Italy, Palermo’s handsome 19th-century Massimo Opera House (Teatro Massimo is one of the city’s crown jewels. From its elegant neoclassical exterior honoring Sicily’s ancient temples to the lavish gold-and-velvet interiors with impeccable acoustics, this landmark theater dazzles with more than just music.More

Palermo Cathedral (Cattedrale di Palermo)

Over the centuries, Sicily was ruled by successive waves of conquerors, each one leaving their mark on the island’s architecture, culture, and cuisine. A perfect example of this blend of cultures is the Palermo Cathedral (Cattedrale di Palermo), a fascinating patchwork of Norman, Arabic, Gothic, Baroque, and Neoclassical architectural styles.More

Mt. Etna (Monte Etna)

Set on the eastern coast of Sicily, Mt. Etna (Monte Etna) is among Europe’s tallest (and the world’s most active) volcanoes. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2013, the volcano has shaped Sicilian history and continues to impact life on the island today. Visitors can explore the mountain’s smoldering volcanic craters and lava fields.More

Taormina Piazza Duomo

Taormina is best known for its 2nd-century Greek Theatre, but this Sicilian city perched high above the eastern coastline of Sicily has a number of impressive historic attractions. One of the most important is the Cathedral (Duomo), set on a pretty square of the same name (Piazza del Duomo) along the main Corso Umberto I thoroughfare.More

Trapani and Paceco Salt Pans Natural Reserve (Riserva Naturale Integrale Saline di Trapani e Paceco)

One of the most unique destinations along Sicily’s western coast, the Trapani and Paceco Salt Pans Natural Reserve combines the fascinating history of traditional sea salt harvesting with the spectacular beauty of the over 150 species of bird that use this protected area as a haven for nesting and migration.More

Taormina Greek Theatre (Teatro Greco)

One of Taormina’s most spectacular sights is its 2nd-century Greek Theatre (Teatro Greco), which, despite its name, is actually an ancient Roman amphitheater built in the Greek style. Sitting high above the coast, the theater has beautiful views over Taormina, the Sicilian coastline, and Mount Etna.More

Ortygia (Ortigia)

The captivating former Greek and Roman city of Syracuse wasn’t actually founded on Sicily, but on a tiny island just offshore called Ortygia. Connected by two bridges to the mainland and modern expanse of the city, Ortygia is where you’ll find Old Town highlights such as the Duomo, Temple of Apollo, and Fountain of Arethusa.More

Massimo Bellini Opera House (Teatro Massimo Bellini)

Considered one of Italy’s most magnificent opera houses, the grand Teatro Massimo Bellini dazzles with its imposing Sicilian baroque-style façade and opulent interiors. Admire its fin de siècle beauty during an opera or concert in the evening, or join a tour during the day to see its ornate marble foyer and 19th-century boxes.More

Fountain of Neptune (Fontana di Nettuno)

Lording over busy Via Giuseppe Garibaldi where it runs into Piazza dell’Unità, the monumental Fountain of Neptune (Fontana del Nettuno is one of Messina’s most eye-catching public fountains. Built in 1557 by Giovanni Angelo Montorsoli—a collaborator of Michelangelo—the fountain symbolises the city’s power over the hostile sea.   More

Gambino Winery (Vini Gambino)

Set at the foot of Mt. Etna, the lush vineyards of the Gambino Winery are testament to the fertile volcanic soil this rumbling peak has created over millennia. The mountain’s unique terroir comes through in the area’s wines, and you can sample a variety at the winery while admiring the sweeping views across the Sicilian countryside.More

Corso Umberto I

Get a feel for the Sicilian town of Taormina by strolling down its main street, Corso Umberto I, which is crowded with locals shopping and socializing. Begin at the medieval Porta Messina city gate, stop to take in the view over the water from Piazza IX Aprile, and end in Piazza Duomo, home to the city’s historic cathedral and fountain.More

Piazza Duomo

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Piazza Duomo is both a jewel of the Sicilian baroque and the vibrant heart of Catania. Home to some of the city’s most sumptuous architectural treasures, including Palazzo degli Elefanti, the Cathedral di Sant’Agata (Duomo), and the Fontana dell’Elefante, this square is a highlight of Catania city tours.More

Valley of the Temples (Valle dei Templi)

Italy is rich with ancient Roman ruins, but Sicily’s Valley of the Temples (Valle dei Templi) is unique. Here, some of the some of the best-preserved ancient Greek ruins on earth dot the hillside outside of what was once the Greek city of Akragas, dating from when this area was part of Magna Graecia in the fifth century BC.More

Capo Market (Mercato di Capo)

Take a deep and delicious dive into Palermo’s culture and cuisine with a visit to Capo Market (Mercato di Capo), thick with stalls selling a wide variety of local produce, fresh fish, and other specialties.The atmosphere of this bustling market is testimony to the strong Arab influence in the port city, one of the hallmarks of its unique history.More

Trip ideas

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How to Spend 1 Week in Sicily

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Recent reviews from experiences in Sicily

True history of the Mafia
Michael_S, Sep 2022
The Godfather, Origins of Mafia: Corleone, Portella della Ginestra from Palermo
His English was great and he explained the history and origins of the mafia in Sicily .
Brilliant! Remarkable! Unforgettable!💜
Elena_D, Sep 2022
I Briganti by night by jeep
Besides being a breathtaking area to visit, Emanuele, our guide, made the place, the people and the foods of Sicily come to life!
Paul_M, Sep 2022
Villa Romana Del Casale in Piazza Armerina and Valley Of Temples in Agrigento
This was a great day out to see one of the most notable historical sites in Sicily.
Amazing tour, amazing guide, delicious food!
Nathan_F, Jan 2023
Palermo Walking Tour and Street Food
He took care to explain in detail the history and culture of Sicily and Palermo, and related it to each of our activities/tastings.
Great tour to experience the food and history of Palermo
Susan_L, Dec 2022
Palermo Walking Tour and Street Food
Fabrizio is an excellent guide and speaks very good English.
Mount Etna Volcano Tour with Mauricio
Elaine_O, Dec 2022
Private Tour of Etna Volcano with optional Food and Wine Tasting at Etna Winery
His English was spot on and very easy to understand.
Michael Makes Sicily The Best
Manny_M, Nov 2022
The Godfather Movie Tour from Messina
Great English.
Fabulous day trip
Fiona_S, Oct 2022
The best of the West Segesta, Erice, Trapani Saline, Full-Day Tour from Palermo
It was great to see a bit more of Sicily and not just the city.
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All about Sicily

When to visit

Sicily is a year-round destination. In May, June, September, and October, crowds thin and the water is comfortably warm. Peak season, July–August, is a magnet for Europe’s sun-worshippers—and with near-perfect beaches come high prices and sweltering heat reaching 111˚F (44˚C). Winter is for visiting museums and historic buildings or for heading to the interior for some of Italy’s most affordable skiing—you can even try the slopes of Mount Etna.

Getting around

There are multiple transportation options in Sicily. On main routes along the north and east coasts, between Palermo and Syracuse, trains are fast, affordable, and (mostly) reliable. Slower, limited regional trains connect some remaining parts of the island. Between smaller cities and interior towns, buses can be faster than trains and are sometimes the only public transportation available. Rental cars are ideal for exploring the countryside or taking island road trips. Ferries connect Sicily with Mediterranean ports and offshore islands.

Traveler tips

​​Sicily has some of the Mediterranean’s best beaches, but many become packed elbow-to-elbow when the weather is nice. To find more secluded spots, try visiting the island’s coastal nature reserves. There’s the Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro in the northwest, the Reserve of the Lakes of Marinello in the northeast, and the Vendicari Nature Reserve near Noto in the southeast. Admission is cheap, and you’ll be far more likely to find unspoiled, waterside beauty.

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People Also Ask

What is Sicily best known for?

Sicily is known as the crossroads of the Mediterranean. The island’s varied architectural heritage runs from Palermo’s Moorish Zisa to the Greek ruins at the Valle dei Templi. Other symbols of Sicilia include Mount Etna’s smoldering volcano, scimitar-shaped beaches, and cannoli, divine pastries brimming with sweet ricotta cheese.

What can you do in Sicily for a day?

Sicily is too large to be seen in one day. However, you can visit Palermo’s historic center; catch an evening performance at Taormina’s ancient, open-air theater; explore Catania’s fish market; or take a plunge in Piscina di Venere, a natural pool at the tip of Capo Milazzo near Messina.

How many days do you need in Sicily?

Sicily is too large to be seen in one day. However, you can visit Palermo’s historic center; catch an evening performance at Taormina’s ancient, open-air theater; explore Catania’s fish market; or take a plunge in Piscina di Venere, a natural pool at the tip of Capo Milazzo near Messina.

What should I not miss in Sicily?

Beaches and ruins are top attractions. No visit to Sicily is complete without swimming near Cefalu, Mondello (in Palermo), or San Vito Lo Capo. The Valle dei Templi has some of the best-preserved Greek temples in the world; while the Villa Romana del Casale holds a collection of Roman floor mosaics.

Which part of Sicily is most beautiful?

Where to go for beauty depends on your interests. Mount Etna looms over the east coast, home to seaside gems Taormina and Ortigia. The southeast has baroque Noto and the Vendicari, a coastal nature preserve with migrating flamingos. Beaches ring the island, but the sleepy northwest coast ones are especially nice.

Is Sicily dangerous for tourists?

No. Sicily is generally a safe destination for tourists. The Sicilian Mafia, known as Cosa Nostra among its members, operates out-of-sight and doesn’t typically commit violence against foreigners. Petty crime and theft is more common. Take normal safety precautions in the cities, especially in Palermo near the port.


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