Sicily is located off the southern coast of Italy’s toe. Though it’s technically part of Italy it feels like a different country with its own unique charm.
The island is a one-stop destination perfect for travelers looking to visit Sicily for a diverse mix of activities. You can experience vibrant cities, enjoy long walks in the countryside, relax on a sandy beach, snake through cobblestone alleyways of charming hilltop or coastal villages.
Whether you’re a solo-traveler renting an AirB&B, honeymooners who prefer a luxury resort or a large group looking for villa rentals in Sicily, here are five reasons to visit.
1. Sicily has a diverse history
Sicily’s history is a long, turbulent and fascinating one. At one point in time, Sicily has been ruled by the Greeks, Romans, Normans, Byzantines, Arabs, French, Spanish, British, and now, the Italians. This makes for an incredible melting pot of cultures that you just won’t find anywhere else in Italy.
And that doesn’t even include the stories about the mafia?
2. Sicily has amazing Greek ruins
Speaking of history, if you love Greek ruins – you’ll definitely want to visit Sicily! The island was originally ruled by Greece, so it just happens to be littered with some of the best and oldest collections of Greek ruins. Many rival what you can find in Greece. Some notable sites:
- Temple of Apollo, Syracuse
- A Valley of Temples, Agrigento
- Greek Theater, Taormina
- Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica, Syracuse
Roman ruins, archeological sites and museums are also abundant throughout the island. It’s home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
3. Sicily has Mount Etna
Not many destinations can boast the highest, most active volcano as one of its major draws, but Sicily can! And there’s always the chance of an eruption while you’re visiting, which may either be fascinating or downright terrifying.
Etna has erupted for about 500,000 years, the last episode was just this spring. This has a dramatic impact on the fertile soil of vineyards, olive groves, orchards and other produce grown in the area.
Mount Etna is located in Catania, on Sicily’s east coast. You can tour it, hike it, taste wine near it and even take a helicopter ride over it. Or you can just appreciate it popping up majestically in the landscape of many points on the island and snap vacation photos of it, like most visitors do.
4. Sicily has delicious food and wine
I know, I know. Shocking that I would mention food and wine as reasons to visit Sicily! But, since I offer tours and foodie adventures, you would expect to see them mentioned right? And that’s because each region has its own food specialties and uniquely produced wines; Sicily is no exception.
Like Puglia, the island is known for its seafood, like (octopus), sea urchin and sardines. Agriculture is also big, so eggplant, almonds, tomatoes and artichokes are grown and you’ll find them in many dishes. Sicily is also home to many olive groves, which translates to olives and olive oil.
Some popular dishes include:
- Caponata – Sicily’s answer to Ratatouille
- Arancini – (fried rice filled balls) are a popular street food
- Pasta alla Norma -pasta with eggplant, tomatoes and ricotta salata
- Pasta con Sarda – pasta with sardines
- Cannoli – the original dessert pastry was born in Sicily
Many of the amazing wines you’ll taste when you visit Sicily have a unique terroir, thanks to the very fertile soil the grapes are grown in. (Hint: the lava from Mount Etna has a huge influence).
Some of the red wine grapes indigenous to the island include Frappato, Etna Rosso and Nerello Mascalese. Red’s tend to be bold and fruity due to the hot climate and strong sun. Whites like Grillo, Catarratto and Inzolia if grown near the sea are crisp and can have lemony or briny flavors that pair nicely with the island’s seafood.
5. Sicily has amazing beaches
As the largest Mediterranean island, with over 1200 km of coastline, Sicily has some spectacular and diverse beaches. Sand or pebbles – check. Flat ground or craggy cliffs- check. Popular or hidden gems – check. Beaches in the north tend to have more white sand, while the Southern beaches are more rugged and remote.
The best of the best are labeled ‘Blue Flag‘ beaches and in 2017 Sicily has eight. They include:
- Marina di Ragusa
- Two in Menfi
- Two in Pozzallo
- Two in Ispica
- Spaggia Marini in Tusa
Though they don’t bear the prestigious ‘ blue flag’ title, other beaches worth considering include the Lungomare in Cefalú, which is within easy walking distance of the pretty town and Isola Bella in Taormina. Calamoche and San Vito Lo Capo are good for those who want something more low-key and unspoiled.
Most Americans visit Sicily by flying from mainland Italy into one of its International airports – Catania, Palermo or Trapani. Unfortunately, you can’t drive there just yet, but taking a ferry across (even a car ferry) is another good option. The Calabria to Messina route is both frequent and fast.