Sicily, regarded as being quite foreign to Italy, is the largest island of the Mediterranean and boasts a unique and fascinating past. Invasions by Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans and Arabs have created a fantastic collision of cultures with notable contributions to the arts, music, literature, cuisine, viniculture, architecture and language. With such a stunning setting, holidays in Sicily make for the perfect luxury getaway.
The landscape of Sicily is of long, wide coastal plains edged by secluded coves with sandy and pebbled beaches, backed by charming inland valleys and high mountains, with Mount Etna forming a stunning backdrop to the eastern coast. This varied terrain alongside the crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea offers guests on Sicily holidays plenty of things to do, both inland and on the shore.
The island is dotted with remnants of its past: a classical temple and Greek amphitheatre here, an Arabic old town and Norman cathedral there and mosaic filled churches and ornate piazzas embellished with a Sicilian Baroque style everywhere.
Palermo, the capital, lies on the northern coast, this buzzing city is full of life, energy and a fantastic place to explore and find hidden gems on Sicily holidays. However, on the eastern coast where the most rewarding collection of cities and towns are to be found, amongst them, Messina, Catania, Siracusa and our featured resorts of Taormina, Castelmola and Acireale. With these cities far less travelled than the likes of Rome, Venice and Florence there is plenty to discover on holidays to Sicily.
Europe's largest active volcano, Mount Etna dominates the coastal landscape of eastern Sicily. Billowing smoke is always visible from the volcano's crater which for much of the year is snow-capped. Buses take you to 2,000m and, for those who don't wish to trek up the hot lava; jeeps will take you onward and upward. On a cloudless day the curvature of the earth is clearly visible from the higher slopes.
The spectacular city of Catania lies in the shadow of Mount Etna and is the second largest city on the island, home to some of the top things to do in Sicily. After Mount Etna’s eruption in the late 17th century and the earthquake that shook the city to ruins a couple of decades later, the entire old part of the town was rebuilt in an impressive Baroque style, mostly out of the lava that was left behind. As well as its impressive architecture the city boasts museums and churches as well as an abundance of restaurants and bars. The best way to start your visit is in the fabulous main square Piazza Duomo.
Syracuse & Ortigia
One of the most important cities of the classical world, Syracuse (Siracusa), is made up of three parts: the original Greek and Roman city that played prominent role in the ancient world, a modern town of broad avenues and seaside promenades, and the cultural island of Ortigia filled with classical monuments and Baroque churches. Syracuse is a magnificent city of outstanding natural beauty, where the audiences at the rock-face carved Helenistic theatre would originally have witnessed premieres by Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles, whilst centuries later, the fine Roman amphitheatre became the venue for gory gladiatorial fights.
Perched above the sea is the fantastic medieval town of Taomina. As one of the islands most popular tourist destinations for the past hundreds of years, it is perfect for those looking for things to do in Sicily. With its winding streets lined with shops, restaurants, bars and the beaches and bays located below, it is a fantastic holiday location.
Beautifully situated beside the Gulf of Palermo in the Conca d'Oro Valley, Palermo is a busy cosmopolitan capital with an old city filled with narrow streets and hidden alleyways. There are Norman palaces, Baroque churches, mosaic covered chapels, outdoor markets overflowing with olives and oranges, and quaint puppet theatres in the bustling friendly streets; most of the sights are close to the busy junction of Quattro Canti with the most notable attactions being the Cattedrale which was started in 1185 and finally completed in 1801, and the Palazzo dei Normanni or Palazzo Reale, built by Sicily's Arab rulers in the 9th century.
Messina, also known as the gateway to Sicily with its fame in literature such as The Odyssey and the setting of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, is a worth a visit for those looking for things to do in Sicily. With its gorgeous beaches and azure Mediterranean waters it is a fabulous place to visit.
Named after Aeolus, God of Wind, and lying to the north of Sicily, are nine volcanic islands. Lipari is the largest island and is home to an impressive Spanish castle whose fortifications date back to 1300BC. Volcanic eruptions occur daily on Stromboli, and less frequently on Vulcano which also boasts active thermal springs where visitors can enjoy a therapeutic and revitalising soak.
Valley of the Temples
Sicily’s rich history has left it with a plethora of monuments and there are many impressive UNESCO World Heritage sites including Sicily's grandest archaeological site, the Valley of the Temples at Argigento, home to the most complete set of temples outside Greece.