An autonomous region of Italy, the island of Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s also a melting pot of different cultures, including Greeks, Arabs, Spaniards, and, of course, Italians. The island is known for its incredible architecture, iconic temples and theaters, gorgeous beaches, and some of the best food known to man. It’s still a part of Italy, you know?
Because of this, it’s not hard to see why millions of people visit the island each year. If Italy has been on your travel bucket list, visiting Sicily is an absolute must. Here are the top 10 things to do and see in Sicily!
Explore the History of Sicily’s Capital City, Palermo
If and when you decide to visit Sicily, you have to go to Palermo, the island’s capital. This vibrant city is perfect for those visiting for the first time because there is something there for everyone. If you love to eat and drink, you’ll enjoy the city’s range of bars and restaurants. If you’re into arts and culture, you can visit Teatro Massimo, one of the world’s greatest opera houses.
Every nook and cranny of this city is filled with something to do. The city is home to some of the most breathtaking architecture and catacombs that you will ever see, including the Palermo Cathedral, the Palatine Chapel, and Catacombe dei Cappuccini. And when you’re done taking in the city, kick back at the local beach, the stunning Spiaggia di Mondello.
Tap Into Your Adventurous Side at Mount Etna
If you are feeling adventurous, you should journey to Mount Etna. It is the second most active volcano in the world. It’s not unusual to see smoke and sparks of lava! Even though it’s active, it’s still a popular place for visitors to hike to the summit craters during the summer months. In the winter, visitors can even ski down its peaks.
All visitors must have a qualified guide or volcanologist who knows Etna. Climbs to the main crater are prohibited. Tourists also enjoy visiting certain areas around the mountain by cable car. The views are incredible!
Tour the Greek Theatre of Syracuse
The Teatro Greco, or Greek Theatre of Syracuse, is a huge theater built around 470 B.C. and expanded in 220 B.C. In its prime, the theatre held 15,000 spectators, and the arena was revered for its performances and plays.
The theatre was also used as a place of worship and public trials. It also was the stage for circus and variety performances in the Roman era. Today, actors give classical theatre performances in this legendary arena during the spring and summer months.
Celebrate the Culture of Sicily With Carnevale di Acireale
Carnevale di Acireale is considered the most famous and beautiful carnival in Sicily. Each year from February to March the streets fill with colorful, flower-filled floats, masks, costumes, and bands. This carnival has been around since 1594. It was a joyous time where citizens joked about the clerical class, like Monsignor Michelangelo Bonadie, Abbot-Bishop of Catania.
Today, the carnival still makes fun of powerful figures in Italy but also celebrates the festive city of Sicily and all that it has to offer. If you travel to Sicily between February and March, participating in the carnival is a must (and frankly, you’d probably find it pretty hard to visit the city and not get swept up in the festivities, whether you meant to or not).
Explore Ancient Ruins in the Valley of the Temples
If you are a history buff, you will enjoy visiting the Valley of the Temples. This archaeological site is the largest one in the world at 3,212 acres. Valley of the Temples has the remains of eight temples that were built sometime between the fifth and sixth centuries B.C.
One of the best-preserved temples on the grounds is the Tempio di Concordia. And if you’re more into mythology than history, you’ll find that the Temple of Olympian Zeus is another powerful sight. Though it is in ruins, the temple still stands at 130 feet, making it the largest temple here.
Splash Around at One of Sicily’s Many White-Sand Beaches
While Sicily is undoubtedly known for its history, culture, and adventure, some people want to just relax on the island. Sicily has gorgeous white-sand beaches where the sun vividly shines on the bright blue water. Who wouldn’t want to lay out in the sun and swim on an Italian holiday?
Residents and tourists travel to Sicily’s beaches all year round. The island has decent weather even in the winter, making the beaches a nice place to walk. Some of the most popular beaches are Cefalu, Mondello, Sampieri, and San Vito Lo Capo.
Hike Around the Zingaro Nature Reserve
If you love hiking in nature, you will enjoy exploring the Zingaro Nature Reserve. Here, the busyness of Sicily comes to a standstill. The area was established as a nature reserve in 1981 and is the first protected area of the island.
Previously, Zingaro was a land of farming villages. Smugglers and traffickers also used the reserve’s coves to hide goods. Now, tourists come to hike, swim in the reserve’s natural coves, and see the stunning views over the sea.
Visit “The Pearl of Sicily,” Taormina
The town of Taormina is a must-see city when you visit Sicily. It gives a fantastic view of Catania, Etna, and Isola Bella, another small island nearby. Because it is so popular, we suggest you go during the off-season (around November through February).
One of the must-see sights in Taormina is the Madonna della Rocca Church, which is often described as having been “built on the rock.” Set on a mountain, you have to climb 300 steps to get to the church. The quaint church, founded by Abbot Francesco Raineri around 1640, offers a fantastic bird’s-eye view of the town.
Have a Family Day With the Opera dei Pupi
The Opera dei Pupi, or puppet theatre, began in Sicily at the beginning of the 19th century. Puppeteers would use these stringed puppets to share medieval tales of Italian poems. The stories would often center around justice, freedom, and good morals, and were popular with working class audiences.
Puppet theatre has declined in recent years as puppeteers sought more lucrative careers. However, there are still a few puppet theatre shows available in Sicily. Kids and adults alike are sure to enjoy a show if you can find one.
Don’t Forget to Try Delicious Italian Desserts
You can’t visit Sicily without trying out some local cuisine, especially given that the fare you’ll find in Sicily is distinct from what you’re likely to sample on the mainland. The island has many nuts and fruits which are used in different desserts. For example, cassata siciliana is a tasty sponge cake made with rum, ricotta cheese, and candied fruits.
Many people are familiar with the Italian dessert cannoli, fried shells filled with a sweetened ricotta filling, and candied fruits or chocolate. But did you know that this is a Sicilian dessert? You should get one or ten while you’re visiting; there’s nothing like a cannoli right from its homeland! Other treats found in Sicily include homemade almond milk and the treat granita, authentic Italian shaved ice made with fruit or almonds.