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If you are like me, among those who love Italy, and you have not yet been to Sicily, you must plan a trip here as soon as possible, because you will fall in love with this place and you will not want to leave.

Sicilia tawern, Sicily Italia

If for various reasons, you have avoided this country so far, I say it's time to give it a try and start right from the south, where the food is good and the scenery is… WOW!

So, what are the places you have to put on the must-see list if you visit Sicily? The next nine are on my favorites list!

Sicily's tourist attractions are spread all over the island. They can be seen either through a complete circuit of at least ten days with accommodation in different areas of tourist interest, or permanent accommodation in a specific place, for example in Catania. From Catania, you can make day trips to Palermo, Monreale, Mount Etna and Taormina, Malta, Agrigento, Caltagirone and Ragusa, Siracusa, etc.

In general, the main areas of tourist interest are Palermo, Taormina, Siracusa, and Agrigento, but also the Aeolian Islands, especially in summer.

Catania, the city blackened by time and volcanic rock

Catania, Sicilia, Italy

It stretches at the foot of Mount Etna, and if anything will catch your attention from the plane as you approach Sicily, is the majestic Etna, the neighboring shore, and the city spread at its base.

Mount Etna smokes permanently through a few craters, and can be seen in the background from any point of the city, it looks like a valiant guard of the area, but it is not so at all, because when it erupts, it destroys.

It has two underground rivers whose waters have been diverted below the city: Amenano and Longane that cross unseen, however, Amenano comes to the surface near the Duomo Square, feeding the fountain that bears its name, and then next to the fish market to descend deep, continuing his way to the sea. Of course, the history of Catania largely overlaps with that of Sicily, so it is understood that it is a very old city, founded by the Greeks who colonized the entire eastern part of the island and had already laid the foundations of the settlements of Naxos and Syracuse around 730 BC. Catania was founded five years later under the name Katane, in Greek Κατάνι.

The heart of the city, where life pulsates every second, is Piazza Duomo, a very wide opening that reveals from any point you look at. Unique buildings and monuments that border it with remarkable architectural beauty: the Cathedral of Sant'Agata (the spiritual patron of the city), Palazzo dei Cherici, Diocesan Museum, and Palazzo degli Elefante just to name a few.

In the middle of the square sits the symbol of the city: Liotru or Fontana dell'Elefante which has in the center the Elephant Statue assembled by the architect Vaccarini, which is due to the existence of many beautiful buildings. The elephant, made of volcanic lava, is much older, it is believed from prehistoric times, the architect attaching an Egyptian obelisk placed on a white marble pedestal. The other fountain located on one side of the square is the one on the river Amenano, behind it takes place the famous fish market La Pescheria, a real show of sales, sounds, and images that we talked about in other articles, which after 15.00 o'clock it is washed and cleaned daily, then transformed, like the ashtray in the story, into the place which on the evening the most beautiful terraces with live music are organized ad-hoc. Hard to believe, but true!

Etna - the guardian of Catania, fully worth a visit!

Etna volcano, Sicily

Etna is without a doubt the maximum attraction for those who spend their holidays in Catania. There is no point in going to Sicily if you do not intend to visit Mount Etna.

Climbing Mount Etna is a unique experience because it is unlike any other mountain climbing. A green mountain offers air and relaxation, beautiful landscapes, and proximity to the sky. On the black mountain, the air is vitiated by gases, the landscapes are sinister and you have the feeling - even if you are high - that you are approaching hell.

But when you get to the top, it's worth it. Advice for beginners, to equip yourself properly because it is cold up there. Once you reach the top, a healthy shopping session awaits you. It's a shame not to buy souvenirs.

How to get there:

  • with the train
  • with the bus, there are 2 companies in the center of Catania, which offer a bus tour to get there:

Price: 35 euros/person, you receive a bonus and a walk with the puppet in Catania.

The first stop is the commercial one, at the traditional house-museum in Nicolosi. You can admire the way the Sicilians lived some time ago, you see the tools used for some kind of activities and finally shopping at some inflated prices at the adjacent store.

The next stop brings you to 1900 meters, at Refugio Sapienza, where you have over 3 hours of free time.

Here you have 2 options: see the craters near the refuge (Silvestri and the one from 2001) or take the cable car to an altitude of 2500 m. The area is full of restaurants and commercial spaces, has spacious parking, if you have less time it is an option to see a crater and adjacent lava.

Taormina, one of the most famous holiday destinations

Taormina Sicily, Italia

You should know that a stay in Taormina means only on the second place beach to the Ionian Sea and that you should expect less sand, more rocks (which is why you need beach slippers), as well as cold water. Instead, you will enjoy the sun and the Mediterranean clear blue sky, as well as the incredibly clear and salty water.

However, Taormina impresses with its incomparable charm, of a medieval town frozen in time, with narrow streets flanked by buildings with one or at maximum two floors. The main street - Umberto I - starts at the Messina Gate and ends at the Catania Gate. Is always crossed by tourists and every hour the landscape seems different, just fascinating.

Taormina is full of places with beautiful views like Isola Bella, Cape Sant Andrea, or Cape Taormina, to which could be added the Greek Theater, which must be visited.

You should also know that Taormina is an expensive resort and that a meal for two at a restaurant costs quite a lot, but you can embed something with what you find at the only supermarket in town with decent prices, which you find as soon as you exit at Catania Gate, and from the intersection take a left uphill, about 150 m.

Siracusa - a real pearl of the Sicilian Baroque

Siracusa Italia, Sicily

At 60 km on the southeast coast of Sicily, is the city where the famous "scientist" Archimede was born and lived a long time ago.

Siracusa, an ancient Greek settlement, impresses you with its architectural elements. It was not in vain that it was a city much loved by Archimedes and Plato.

By car you can enter the center of the old town (small car because the streets are very narrow) and then walk on foot, the sights being in a small area, but the archaeological park is outside the city.

Unfortunately, one day is not enough to visit everything and I recommend you to take a map with the objectives because there are many to see.

Archimedes was the most enlightened mind of antiquity, discovering the laws of physics and building a series of weapons, including the catapult with which the fortress Greek colony defended itself against the Romans.

Siracusa is still a dynamic city where ancient testimonies are preserved everywhere. It is dominated by the dome built in the 7th century and is connected to the island of Ortigia wherein the heart of the city are the ruins of the temple of Apollo.

In the Neapolis district, there is the archeological park where you can visit the Greek theater, very well preserved and built in the 5th century.

Palermo, the queen of Sicily

Sicily enchants you from the first step through its unique personality, conquers you with landscapes, some arid, others drowned in greenery, with olive and orange orchards, quiet hills and the sea shining in the scorching sun, with ancient remains and baroque churches, with so many and so many treasures. The most eloquent example of its natural beauty and spiritual richness is Palermo and you should not miss it if you travel to Sicily.

Palermo is located in the northwestern part of Sicily and stretches along the Conca d'Oro basin, formed by three rivers, the Orieto being the only one not covered by buildings. A swampy area but rehabilitated in the name of urbanism, the edifying example in this regard being the summer resort Mondello, located only 15 km from the city center.

Surprisingly, at least in appearance, it is not the capital of the island that attracts tourists in the first place. Most visitors prefer the eastern shore, perhaps because of Etna or Taormina or because the beach at Giardini Naxos has been given more publicity.

Palermo is a harbor on the Tyrrhenian Sea, a port for passengers (over 2 million annually), but also for goods, with an area reserved for pleasure boats ("Marina"). From here there are ferries to Cagliari, Genoa, Livorno, or Tunis, as well as to the Aeolian Islands.

And if the seascapes do not attract you, the capital of Sicily raises with another irresistible offer, the mountain one. It is practically surrounded by three-quarters of mountains that over time have made it almost unconquerable. The highest peak is La Pizzuta (1,333 m), but the best known. Especially due to the views that open from its peaks, remains Pellegrino, separated from the rest of the mountain range by a plain.

If you want to visit the city leisurely, with stops in the countless tourist attractions, avoid the summer months. On the other hand, beach lovers can opt not only for July-August but also for the end of September-beginning of October, when they can have the chance of pleasant temperatures both in the air and in the sea.

Palermo, located at the intersection of trade routes between Europe and Africa, between East and West, the economic and cultural center of Sicily, is an amalgam of peoples and civilizations and a city of contrasts.

It has cobbled streets for centuries, real traps for tourists, dilapidated houses, many immigrants, crashed cars, and motorcyclists driving like crazy, but also Normand palaces and Baroque churches, wide arteries, elegant squares, palm trees, picturesque markets, full of fresh vegetables and fruits, nice bars where you can enjoy an espresso-like at his mother's house and showcases from which you can see dozens of assortments of gelato.

The old port-capital of the island, an ancient citadel in the Mediterranean, joins the views and aromas of ancient Sicily with a modern and hectic lifestyle.

This overall image seems chaotic at first glance, but two things cannot be denied: personality and joy. It may be due to the mild climate or who knows for what other reasons, but this joy of living, specific to southern Europe, creates a feeling of permanent vacation!

Aeolian Islands - Lipari and Vulcano

The Aeolian Islands in the Unesco World Heritage are one of the main objectives that you should not miss when you reach the northern coast of Sicily. The archipelago comprises 7 main islands, all volcanic and all different.

Sometimes you can meet them under the name of Lipari Islands, taking their name from the largest and most populated island, Lipari. These Islands are part of the most active volcanoes in Europe that stretches from Mount Vesuvius in the north, near Naples to the south at Etna, on the east coast of the island.

The current appearance of the islands is the result of volcanic activity over a period of over 250,000 years; currently, the archipelago comprises two active volcanoes: Vulcano and Stromboli, the second being the most active volcano in Europe (some say in the world), it smokes almost constantly.

I highly recommend the islands of Lipari and Vulcano. I am convinced that the others are worth visiting too.

The Islands are a real volcanic paradise that is a shame not to explore if you visit Sicily.

The famous catacombs of the Capuchins

the catacombs of capuchins palermo

The Catacombs of the Capuchins (Catacombs dei Cappuccini) are underground tombs, a historical record, and a rather macabre tourist attraction. The catacombs were dug under the Capuchin Monastery because there was no space in the original cemetery next to it.

They noticed how well inanimate bodies are kept here, and that's probably how the idea of ​​embalming came to them. The first method of preservation consisted of hanging ceramic pipes underground for eight months, for dehydration, followed by washing with vinegar and exposure to the outdoors.

The catacombs were closed to tourists in 1880 (only the families of the dead could enter here at certain times). Currently, there are over 8000 mummies hanging on the wall, placed in niches or coffins. It is believed that there were several more, but some corridors collapsed and were blocked during the bombings of World War II.

The catacombs are divided into 7 areas, corresponding to different categories: Women, Men, Children, Virgins, Monks, Priests, Professionals. The mummies are better or less preserved, depending on the embalming method used.

Catacombs were reopened to the public but metal grilles were installed to prevent the mummies being touched. Until a few years ago, Sicilians were still allowed to change the clothes of long-dead relatives and hold their hands, praying for their souls.

Preserving the dead is common (or has been) in many cultures but nowhere like in Sicily. So many cultures have mingled here that it is not known exactly how this idea was born. It is supposed to be a pre-Christian ritual. Maybe it was a desperate cry from those who did not accept the death of a loved one and his physical disappearance and hoped that, through this process, they would still have them close. Or, perhaps, these catacombs are a symbol of vanity, an ambition above all the ambitions of some people who wanted to show the dead that, even if it is inevitable, some can survive over it.

However, you will have unique and deep feelings if you go there. If you do not have a weak heart, visit them on your next visit to Sicily.

The jewel of Monreale

Monreal cathedral, Sicily

"Whoever arrives in Palermo and does not see Monreale goes ox and returns cow." (Sicilian proverb)

What makes this city so special that over a million people step on its doorstep every year?

Monreale owes its fame to the cathedral, considered to be the most eloquent example of Normand architecture in Sicily, a model of syncretism that sums up Arab, Northern European (Normand), and Byzantine elements, an artistic wonder inscribed in the UNESCO Cultural Heritage along with the seven monuments from Palermo and the cathedral of Cefalù.

With so many magnificent buildings and with the declaration of the area as a royal hunting ground, many nobles from Palermo built rest houses here, transforming the small village into a chic town.

However, the cathedral remains, indisputably, the main attraction in Monreale and one of the most important in Sicily. Its dimensions (102 x 40 m) are impressive, but the visitors' attention is mainly directed towards the interior, and especially towards the Byzantine mosaics.

The building is in the shape of a Latin cross, with three naves delimited by 18 granite columns with Corinthian capitals, except for one made of marble. The huge central nave is not crowned by a dome supported on vaults, but by a lantern above the intersection of the arches, flanked, at a lower level, by roofs on two slopes. The apses have woven arches supported by small polychrome columns.

Going to Monreale, don't be surprised if you see at some point 2 signs to Monreale, but pointing in different directions, as if they were put to the amusement of the locals. Both will take you to Monreale and if you decide to go to the right, you will be able to see a beautiful panorama. In Monreale, you will see an unusual cathedral with Arabic, Byzantine elements in gold leaf, and its architecture abundantly reflects the tumultuous past of Sicily.

The city of the gods, Selinunte

Silinunte Sicily, Italia Sicilia

Probably for the ordinary visitor, non-specialist in history, the first impact - overwhelming - with the archeological park is given both by the immensity of the space it occupies and by the superb settlement between the rivers Cottone and Modione, on a plateau with sea views and beautiful panoramas to the beach in Marinella.

The site includes several temples, eight of which have been completely excavated, as well as fortified walls, other shrines, and four necropolises.

In the southern part, closest to the sea, is the Acropolis, with its five temples (A, B, C, D, and O). To the north, the residential area, built according to the Hippodamian plan, continues with two necropolises (Galera-Bagliazzo and Manuzza). To the east are three temples (E, F, and G) and a third necropolis (Buffa), while to the west are the oldest buildings: the Sanctuary of Malophoros or Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and fertility, and the archaic necropolis.

The construction materials used to erect the monuments and other buildings in the fortress were excavated from the stone quarries at Cusa, located about 13 km from Selinunte.

For tourists, the most interesting is, without doubt, the temples, dedicated according to the inscriptions discovered, to mythological gods and heroes, but cataloged by archaeologists in letters. Dating from different periods, they exemplify the evolution of architectural styles.

The largest building in the archeological park and also one of the most imposing in the whole ancient Greek world is the Temple G, dedicated to Zeus: 113.34x54.05x30 m, with peristyle columns 16 m high and 3.41 m in diameter. It was started in 530 BC., however, could not be completed due to armed conflict.

Conclusion:

Sicily is a poorer area of ​​Italy, but it is still Italy. This means cities that have old centers with medieval architecture and vestiges of Greek and Roman history, the best ice cream in the world, chic people, with personality and good taste, markets with delicious food.

Catania is a controversial city, you might like it if you came here for the above, and you would call it dirty and uninteresting if you are still looking for the great.

Taormina, the No. 1 resort in Sicily, is a nice town with spectacular views, 100% medieval, but access to the beaches is quite difficult. One of the beaches is small and a bit crowded, and the other wider, but with stones.

Siracusa has Ortigia, the old, medieval area, and an Archaeological Park with vestiges of the ancient Greek world. It is said that in ancient times it competed with Athens.

If you haven't visited Italy at all, start with Rome or the northern area, Toscana, Venice, Florence, medieval cities like Siena or San Gimignano. If you have seen them and appreciated the Italian air, Sicily could be suitable for a holiday.



I am born to explore the world. I don’t know where I’m going, but still, I’m on my way. Travel as much as you can, wherever you can, and as long as you can. Life is too short to be lived in one place.

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