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Italy is a country of outstanding beauty. Offering great culture, plenty of history and food and wine to die for, it’s no wonder it is one the most visited countries in Europe. Sicily is one of Italy‘s most famous islands, sat just off the south coast of Italy’s mainland. Known to many as the home of the Mafia, Sicily has much to offer, seducing its visitors with a wealth of natural wonders and cultural treasures. It is an island abundant in history, with more Greek ruins than Greece itself, a cuisine that waters your mouth just at the thought of it, and a coastline that rivals the Caribbean.
There are many reasons to travel to Sicily and having visited almost every summer for the last 7 years (and with Leo being Sicilian) we have come up with this list to convince you to visit our most favorite island this summer!
Sicily is bordered by three seas, the Mediterranean Sea to the south, the Ionian Sea to the East and the Tyrrhenian Sea to its North & West. This means each region of Sicily offers different beach experiences.
The island is home to some of the best beaches in the world. There are literally hundreds of beaches in Sicily, but our personal favorites are the beaches close to Siracusa in the south and the beaches around Trapani in the north. The pristine warm waters are for many visitors one of the main reasons to travel to Sicily and you’ll find opportunities to swim almost anywhere on its coastline. From secluded sandy inlets and long stretches of pebble beaches to rocky crags and private coves, you’ll find a beach for every day of the year in Sicily.
Incredible Local Food
It doesn’t matter where you go in Sicily or what you order, the food is guaranteed to be amazing! In fact, the food alone is one of the things I start to get excited about weeks before we visit every summer.
Fresh fish and seafood are in abundance and we highly recommend you eat as much as possible when you visit Sicily. Pesce Spada (Swordfish), Vongole (Clams), Gamberi (Shrimps) and Cozze (Muscles) are almost always on the menu as well as Polpo (Octopus) and Calamari (Squid).
Other must try foods in Sicily include:
- Cannoli – Sicily’s most famous dessert. The singular is cannolo meaning “
little tube” and typically they are filled with fresh sheep’s milk ricotta cheese or crema di pasticceria, a sweet thick custard.
- Cassata – Another famous dessert in Sicily. There are many recipes for Cassata depending on the region however typically Cassata consists of round sponge cake moistened with fruit juices or liqueur and layered with ricotta cheese and fruit.
- Arancini – The best snack food in Sicily! Arancino (singular) are deliciously stuffed rice balls which are coated with bread crumbs and then deep fried. They are usually filled with ragù (meat and tomato sauce), mozzarella, and peas. You’ll find them at almost all petrol stations, cafes, bars or restaurants.
Sicily’s hot climate means most of the island’s land is dedicated to agriculture. The island is most commonly associated with lemons, which grow in abundance here, but not many people know that Sicily is also famous for its almonds, dried tomatoes (Pomodori Secchi), Pistachios and olives. They are staple ingredients for many Sicilian dishes including my favorite dish, Pesto Siciliano.
You Can Eat Ice Cream For Breakfast
Ok, it’s not Ice Cream made with milk, rather it’s semi frozen dessert with crushed ice with fresh fruit (like a slushy) called a Granita. This is a typical Sicilian breakfast (especially in the summer). Almost every morning we make a trip to the local bar or beach side cafe and enjoy a deliciously cold Granita served with a freshly baked brioche (warm bread).
Popular flavors are Limone (Lemon), Gelsi (Mulberry or Blackberry depends), Fragola (Strawberry), Caffe (Coffee) or Pistacchio (Pistachio).
Fulfill your Godfather dream
I’m pretty sure everyone knows Sicily is the home of The Godfather. If you didn’t, you’ll be constantly reminded of it in almost every town you visit, with Il Padrino and famous movie quotes on t-shirts adorning every souvenir shop you pass. If the t-shirt isn’t enough, you can visit two film locations in Sicily, Savoca and Forza d’agro, both situated just a short drive from Taormina, one of the top 10 must see places in Sicily.
Savoca is a beautiful hilltop town and a filming location of The Godfather 1. This is where you’ll find Bar Vitelli and the church Michael was married in. The bar is still functioning today, with a small museum dedicated to the movie. Enjoy a cold Granita, take a souvenir picture with a cap and a shot gun before venturing through the town to the top where you’ll find the wedding church of San Nicolò.
Spend your mornings in markets
They say the early bird catches the worm. In Sicily, the early bird goes to the local market and buys the best fish! If you have an opportunity to wake up early during your holiday to Sicily, head to a local market. Sicilian markets are unlike anywhere else on earth; they are in essence a true theatrical performance. Watch as the local tradesmen’s spiel their daily offers at the top of their lungs, as a local fisherman with cigarettes dangling from their mouths hack at a 500 lb swordfish into steak size chunks
Sicilian markets are unlike anywhere else on earth; they are in essence a true theatrical performance. Watch as the local tradesmen’s spiel their daily offers at the top of their lungs or as a local fisherman with cigarettes dangling from their mouths hack at a 500 lb swordfish into steak size chunks. It truly is an experience. Catania or Riposto’s fish markets are being very popular with tourists, as is the morning market in Ortigia in Siracusa.
Visit Europe’s largest and most active volcano
Sicily’s most iconic image (after the Godfather) has to be the magnificent Mount Etna. Standing at 3,350 meters, Mount Etna is Europe’s largest and most active volcano. Located on the eastern coast of Sicily, it makes for an incredibly fun day trip with opportunities to walk around some of its historical craters, as well as a thrilling cable car and 4×4 buses to its observatory at 2,400 meters. Visiting or exploring the summit is not advised without a knowledgeable guide, not only due to Etna’s unpredictability (it is an active volcano after all) but even in the height of summer, it can get very cold and the weather can change very quickly. Stick around long enough in Sicily and you may even get the chance to see Etna in action, a sight you surely won’t forget.
You may also want to take a day trip to the Aeolian Islands off the east coast of Sicily, home to Stromboli and Vulcano, another two active volcanoes. Day trips by boat leave daily from Milazzo.
Cultural events and festivals fill the calendars of Sicilians, with celebrations of Italian Holidays, Saints, local food and wine festivals occurring almost on a weekly basis. Our favorites include the Carnival of Acireale, Calici di Stelle wine festival held in Castiglione di Sicilia every August and the Cous Cous Festival in San Vita Lo Capo. Festivals are not only fantastic opportunities to stuff your face full of delicious food and have a good time but great to try numerous local delicacies and get a deeper understanding of the traditions and people of Sicily.
With its rugged coastline, emerald and turquoise waters and volcanic islands, Sicily offers some of the most dramatic hiking trails in Europe. Whether you’re an avid hiker or a light trekker looking to experience a scenic walk on your vacation, Sicily has numerous trails and paths waiting to be explored. Our favorites include Mount Etna, Riserva Naturale Oasi Faunistica di Vendicari and Riserva Naturale della Zingaro.
Located at the crossroads of the Mediterranean and with a history spanning multi-millennials, Sicily is home to an astounding amount of architectural ruins. These reminders of the island’s past are some of the reasons people visit Sicily.
In fact, Sicily is home to 7 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which includes the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, the Villa Romana del Casale in Piazza Armerina, Mount Etna and the Arab-Norman Cathedrals of Palmero, Cefalù and Monreale. Since many of them are spread out around the island, it can be difficult to visit them all in one trip, but we highly recommend visiting at least one or two.
Both Greece and Croatia have been increasingly popular for those wishing to do a little island hopping on their vacations. But Sicily also offers the opportunity to do a little island hopping with the beautiful Aeolian Islands located off the eastern coast and the less visited Egadi islands off the west coast near Trapani. Discover isolated bays, deserted beaches and some of the finest cuisines and rural landscapes in the whole of Sicily.
Getting to either set of islands is very easy. To get to the Egadi Islands, just hop on one of the frequent hydrofoils from Trapani or Marsala and for the Aeolian Islands, ferries and boats leave from Milazzo.
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Have you been to any of these places? Any other reasons people should visit Sicily? Tell us in the comments below!