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Sicily Travel Guide

Author: Charlotte Boswell

Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, is one of the 20 regions in Italy situated just off the ‘toe’ of the country’s boot. A melting pot of culture, history, food and art along with its breathtaking scenery makes Sicily a fascinating destination.

Why visit Sicily?

Perfectly placed in the heart of the Mediterranean, Sicily’s succession of ancient civilisations and colonisers has left a wealth of historic sites including crumbling Greek temples, lavish Roman villas and medieval forts. Along with the island’s beautiful beaches, picturesque villages and volcanic landscapes, Sicily is one of Italy’s most interesting and spectacular destinations. With so much to see and do, we would recommend 10-14 days to explore the history, culture and natural beauty of this fascinating island.

sicily ancient greek theater messina
Ancient Theatre of Taormina
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Beach in Cefalù

Things to see and do in Sicily

Enjoy wine tasting on the slopes of Mount Etna

Europe’s largest volcano, Mount Etna, dominates the skyline of eastern Sicily. Standing at 3326m high, Etna is very active where small eruptions occur frequently. That said, the activity is monitored very closely and is occasionally closed to visitors. One of the most memorable ways to enjoy Mount Etna is to take a cable car for a guided walk around the crater where you will be inspired by the breathtaking views. After working up a thirst, finish your visit at a winery located on the slopes of this iconic volcano. Here you may sample the local tipple before enjoying a three-course lunch with a wine pairing.

Explore the island’s famed historical sites

Due to Sicily’s rich historic past of conquerors and colonisers, it is home a wealth of historic sites. One of the island’s best-known landmark is the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. Founded in 582 BC by Greek settlers, the temple is one of the most outstanding pieces of Greek architecture. Taormina’s Ancient Theatre is another must-see; explore the crumbling pillars and impressive amphitheatre that gazes over the glistening seas below. Other historical highlights include Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina which houses the world’s largest collection of Roman mosaics, Palermo’s gothic-style cathedral and the Duomo di San Giorgio in Ragusa which features baroque paintings and stained-glass windows.

Discover the picturesque island of Ortigia

The small and beautiful island of Ortigia located in the historic centre of Siracusa is one of Sicily’s many UNESCO World Heritage sites. Inhabited for over 3000 years, Ortigia is known for its grandiose Renaissance and Baroque buildings, elegant squares and outdoor trattorias all surrounded by emerald waters. During a trip to Ortigia you may want to visit one of the many historical sites including the Siracusa Cathedral or Palazzo Borgia del Casale, or maybe take a trip to the local market filled with colourful fruit, fragrant spices and fresh seafood. There are also many hole-in-the-wall restaurants offering wonderfully oversized arancini, savoury pies and pizza.

sicily cefalu palermo
City in Cefalù
sicily palermo cathedral
Palermo Cathedral
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Sample Sicily’s world-famous street food

Sicily is a melting pot of history, culture, outstanding beauty and of course, food. Traditional Sicilian cuisine is all about providing cheap, hearty meals to locals, usually in the form of street food which is world renowned in Palermo. During a trip to the island’s capital, we would recommend a street food tour with a local guide where you can sample numerous delicacies. Palermo’s bustling food markets are filled with fresh and vibrant produce, local vendors and a rich array of sounds, smells, sights and tastes. Feast on snacks such as arancini, deep-fried rice balls, sfincioni, Sicilian style pizza, panelle, chickpea fritters, fried fish and the famous Sicilian cannoli – fried pastry tubes filled with a sweet and creamy ricotta filling.

Experience the turquoise water and cobbled streets of Cefalú

Situated on Sicily’s north coast, Cefalú is a picturesque medieval town that is home to one of the island’s best beaches as well as some architectural masterpieces. Along with the pretty cobbled streets, bustling piazzas and dramatic mountain backdrop, it is no wonder why Cefalú is one of Sicily’s most sought after destinations. The city is most famous for its 12th century Norman cathedral - a fortress like structure that features Byzantine mosaics and impressive twin towers. Other attractions include the Mandralisca Museum which houses archaeological exhibits, the pretty beaches of Settefrati and Mazzaforno and the historical Piazza del Duomo.

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Scopello beach
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Piazza Pretoria in Palermo

Our favourite Sicily itinerary 

To experience the very best of Sicily, our Sicily in Depth itinerary covers the main sites as well as several less-visited locations and incorporates history, culture, architecture, food and relaxation. As a specialist tour operator, please note that our itineraries are suggestions which can be completely tailored to create a unique and individual itinerary.

Sicily in Depth

This exclusive 11-day itinerary using private drivers and guides visits Sicily’s main highlights including the architectural jewel of Palmero, the wonderful Valley of the Temples of Agrigento and beautiful coastal towns of Cefalù and Siracusa. Explore the island’s hidden gems and get to know Sicily’s culture in depth; stay in a farmhouse run by a multigenerational family in the countryside, discover little-visited Sutera and enjoy a private cookery class in the Baroque town of Ragusa. The trip will finish in the elegant hilltop town of Taormina with a trip to Mount Etna.

For a detailed itinerary see Sicily in Depth

sicily cefalu narrow streets
Backstreets of Cefalù
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Waterfront at Taormina
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Useful travel information for Sicily

Our comprehensive Italy travel advice contains lots of useful information on the country, however, below are answers to common questions directly related to Sicily that we are frequently asked.

When is the best time to visit Sicily?

The best time to visit Sicily is either between April and late June or September and October where the temperatures are warm and comfortable making it ideal for hiking, temple exploring and relaxing on the beautiful beaches. July and August can be very hot and dry whereas November to March brings a cold climate and rain.

What are my flight options for Sicily from the UK?

British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair and TUI all fly to either Palermo or Catania, or both, in Sicily. Palermo airport serves the island’s capital as well as the north and west coast, whereas Catania airport is best for the east and south coast. Flight time between the UK and Sicily is around three hours.

Do I need a visa to travel to Sicily from the UK?

If you are travelling as a tourist, you will not need a visa to visit Sicily for stays up to 90 days within a 180-day period. You must ensure that your passport is less than 10 years old (even if it has 6 months or more left) and it also needs to have at least 6 months validity remaining.

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