Sicily (25,426 km²) is the largest island in the Mediterranean, separated from Calabria (and the continent) by the Strait of Messina, which has a width of only 3 km; it is located at the southern end of the Italian peninsula and in the middle of Mediterranean Sea. The Strait of Sicily, 140 km wide, separates Sicily from Africa.
The region (25,711 km², 5,046,654 inhabitants in 2010) that is, by size, the largest region of Italy, is formed in addition to the main island also by the archipelagos of the Aeolian Islands, Egadi, Pelagie, and the islands Ustica and Pantelleria.
Sicily is a book of art history, a compendium of the greatest civilizations and cultures of all time. But nature is a strong attraction for tourists, the sea and the islands around the main island are among the most popular destinations, the Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe is another unmissable destination.
The island is rich in history: in Sicily are the best preserved Greek temples in the world (Agrigento, Selinunte, Segesta, Syracuse, Taormina); splendid Roman mosaics (Piazza Armerina); cathedrals of the Norman period (Cefalu, Palermo, Monreale); churches, palaces and monuments in Sicilian Baroque (Noto, Scicli, Modica, Ragusa etc.).
In Sicily have met and merged civilization between the largest and most important in human history, the island is a symbol regarding the intersections of architectural monuments, built often following stratification of cultures, eras and arts from various Mediterranean cultures and northern Europe. Being an island, the sea is another strong attraction for tourism, Sicily has often rocky shores and shingle, but there are vast beaches, especially archipelagos that surround it, as the Egadi, the Pelagie islands Aeolian islands have beautiful coastal landscapes and clear blue sea.
Those interested in scenery can choose between the natural reserves of the parks of Etna, Madonie and Nebrodi, the volcanic island of Pantelleria, and the archipelagos of the Pelagie Islands, Aeolian and Egadi.
UNESCO has included six places in Sicily in the list of world heritage sites:
- The archaeological area of Agrigento (1997)
- Late Baroque towns of the Val di Noto (South-Eastern Sicily) (2002).
- The city of Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica (2005).
- The Aeolian Islands (2000).
- The Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina (1997).
- Etna volcano (2013).
While other three locations are expected to be included soon:
- The cathedrals of Palermo and Monreale
- Taormina and Isola Bella
- The island of Mozia and Lilybaeum: the Phoenician-Punic civilization in Italy.
The attractions are many, it is impossible to list them all, but we try to suggest some destinations:
Despite being a very small town, Taormina is one of the most visited tourist destinations throughout Italy. Perched on a hill about 250 meters above sea level, Taormina is located halfway between Messina and Catania, a strategic position to enjoy the fast trips along the east coast of Sicily.
The history of Taormina begins way back in the fourth century and its beauty is represented mainly by the presence of important monuments such as the Greek Theatre, where still now take place many concerts and cultural activities. Among the places to visit in the surrounding area of Taormina, a place of honor is to be dedicated to Giardini Naxos, Isola Bella and Mazzarò.
Syracuse and Ortigia Island
Syracuse is a beautiful city located in the south-east of the island. It can be divided into two different areas: the Isle of Ortigia, which is connected to the mainland by a short walkway, and the main center of Syracuse. It was the most important Greek city and, even today, you can relive its glorious past by visiting its vast archaeological site it consists of several temples, a theater, an amphitheater and a necropolis. Ortigia, also called the Old Town, is the perfect place to take the long walk as much of the charm of the island is contained in its narrow medieval streets.
Lampedusa – Pelagie Islands
Located in the Mediterranean Sea between Malta and Tunisia, Lampedusa is the largest of the Pelagie Islands, a small archipelago which also includes the islands of Linosa and Lampione. Located in the southern part of the island of Lampedusa and inserted into a natural park, there is the famous “Isola dei conigli” (beach of rabbits). In 2013, it was voted the best beach in the world on TripAdvisor. It is characterized by a thin and white sand, crystal clear and shallow waters. In front of the beach you will see the island of the same name, which unfortunately can not be visited: its access is monitored 24/7, in order to protect the turtles laying their eggs on the beach.
Val di Noto
Caltagirone, Militello Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa and Scicli are eight towns in southeastern Sicily that make up the charming Val di Noto. Since 2002 it joined the UNESCO World Heritage Site because it represents an “exceptional example of baroque art and architecture and is the culmination and the last heyday of Baroque art in Europe.” Generally labeled as a “must” among the sights of Sicily, Noto Valley consists of small and beautiful city “in miniature” whose historic centers are almost entirely populated by palaces and churches in Baroque style.
All made of volcanic origin, the seven Aeolian Islands are surrounded by the Tyrrhenian Sea and are located north of Sicily: Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, Stromboli, Filicudi, Alicudi, Panarea and Basiluzzo. The largest island and is more touristy Lipari, while the more daring travelers do not lose the opportunity to climb up to the craters of Vulcano and Stromboli, the two active volcanoes of the archipelago. After sunset, you can enjoy the night sky, thanks to the Council’s decision not to put any light on the islands. The Aeolian Islands were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples
Better known as the city of temples, Agrigento is located on the southern coast of Sicily. Near the sea and just south of the “modern city”, surrounded by olive trees, there are some of the best preserved Greek temples in the world. The Valley of the Temples is a magnificent collection of seven temples dating from the sixth and fifth centuries BC. Agrigento boasts not only fascinating and ancient Greek ruins, but also examples of Baroque architecture, beaches, beautiful islands and clear waters.
Beloved by tourists and by the Sicilians, this beautiful corner of Sicily is the ideal place for a beach holiday and long days that end with romantic sunsets. Cefalu is one of the seaside towns of the northern coast of Sicily, in the province of Palermo. A short walk from the old town and its medieval streets, lined with shops and restaurants, you can reach the golden beach.
On the east coast of Sicily, a short distance from the Strait of Messina, it is Mount Etna, a World Heritage Site. It is one of the main natural attractions of Sicily as well as the highest mountain on the island. Etna is also one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and the most active in Europe. Its altitude changes with each eruption and, despite along the centuries some lava flows have reached the coastline, is one of the main destinations of Sicily, with thousands of visitors each year. Etna offers both skiing holidays in the winter months, as breathtaking hikes in the woods during the summer.
San Vito Lo Capo and the Zingaro Natural Reserve
Nicknamed “the Sicilian Caribbean”, the beautiful beach of San Vito Lo Capo is a bay surrounded by stunning mountains that seem to rise from the sea itself. It is indeed a very popular destination among local climbers and hikers. San Vito Lo Capo is a treasure and, at the same time, a tribute to the Mediterranean: white sand, emerald waters and incredible views of the surrounding Zingaro Nature Reserve. Shaped by nature over the centuries, the Zingaro Nature Reserve was the first protected area of Sicily, created in 1981. It is a real natural paradise thanks to the wide variety of flora and fauna that characterize its 1,600 acres.
And of course do not forget to enjoy the wonderful Sicilian cuisine!