Sitting off the toe of Italy’s boot, Sicily has long been a melting pot of Mediterranean culture, a ruggedly beautiful island surrounded by sparkling seas.
Sicily’s long history has seen it at the heart of great civilizations and often under foreign rule. Of the ancients, the Greeks loved Sicily most and left a monumental mark on the island, almost as great as the island itself made on classical culture. The great cities of Syracuse, home to Archimedes, Selinunte and Agrigento are still strewn with vast ruins and towering doric temples. The iconic amphitheatre at Taormina overlooks sea and smoking Mount Etna, as impressive a view now as it was two millennia ago.
Next came waves of Romans, Byzantines, Moors, Normans, Spanish and Bourbons, each adding to the identity of Sicily, from golden cathedrals, imposing castles and Baroque palazzos, to the islanders’ generous hospitality and rich cuisine. Even with Italy unified under today’s Republic and a tough twentieth century, Sicily proudly retains its own distinct culture.
When Goethe wrote ‘to have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is not to have seen Italy at all, for Sicily is the clue to everything’, he was not far off the mark, but truly seeing Sicily would take many months. As well as the great Greek ruins, beautifully Baroque Noto, Ragusa and Modica all deserve time to be explored, as does seaside Cefalù and lofty Erice. After re-emerging from years of poverty, Sicily’s two biggest cities can each captivate for days, Palermo as a cultural centre and Catania with a heady nightlife at the foot of Mount Etna.
And that’s before exploring the glorious interior, a hinterland home to sublime mountainscapes and a rural patchwork of gently crumbling villages, sleepy olive groves and basking vineyards. There’s also miles of quiet beaches and dozens of off shore islands.
Sicily has it all; natural reserves, a live volcano and secluded islands for adventurous types, stunning panoramic spots for photographers and romantics, and Greek temples and baroque architecture for history lovers. Plus, everyone agrees on Sicilian cuisine – simply irresistible.
What to do
- Explore the ancient temples at Agrigento
- Get lost wandering through the streets of the impossibly pretty cities of Noto, Ragusa and Syracuse
- Try locally made chocolate in Modica
- Enjoy the frenetic energy of Palermo
- While away your time in the beauriful city of Taormina
- Explore Mount Etna in an incredible off-road adventure
- Sample Sicily's incredible cuisine and enjoying finding your favourite place for cannoli
When to go
The best time to visit Sicily is in the late spring and autumn months. April to June or September to October bring beautiful, mild days. The summer months (July-August) are fine for those seeking high temperatures, but the region can get very busy.