Discover Sicily, the complete guide

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It boasts a population of almost 5 million inhabitants, its capital is Palermo and is also known as the island of Sicily and Trinacria. With an area of 25 426 km² it is the seventh largest island in Europe, the second largest in the European Union and the 45th in the world. And at least once in your life you should definitely visit it. We immediately see 10 unforgettable places to visit.


The 10 most beautiful places to see in Sicily 

Making a selection of the most beautiful places to visit throughout Sicily is almost impossible: between culture, art, architecture, nature and history it is really difficult to mention some places at the expense of others. However, anyone who decides to choose the island as the next destination for their holidays, should definitely take note of these 10 places to say the least wonderful:  

  1. San Vito Lo Capo, Zingaro Reserve and Scopello 

Among the main attractions of Sicily is undoubtedly its sea; all its beaches, in fact, are extraordinary, but one in particular stands out over the others: the beach of San Vito Lo Capo. It is a famous seaside resort that, in most cases, does not need much introduction: for many – including Sicilians – it consists of a Sicily in its own right, characterized by order, organization and a large number of efficient services.  

On its territory there is, then, the Zingaro Reserve, an oasis of peace totally untouched made of beautiful coves and backdrops, hiking trails and spontaneous vegetation. A few kilometers from the reserve, then, is Scopello, a fraction of Castellammare del Golfo famous for its trap and its stacks.


Taormina and Isola Bella 

Refined and prestigious pearl of eastern Sicily, Taormina is a city loved and appreciated especially for its archaeological wealth: the Ancient Theatre, the Naumachie, the Odeon and the Castle of Monte Tauro, The Duomo and Palazzo Corvaja are just some of the historical monuments that you can admire within its walls.  

But not only, because Taormina also offers wonderful beaches and coves, such as the Bay of Sirens and the extraordinary Isola Bella; the latter, known – in fact – as “the pearl of the Mediterranean”, consists of an islet connected to the coast by an isthmus passable only at low tide.


Palermo, Monreale and Cefalù 

To discover Sicily all the way you can not miss a visit to its capital, Palermo: historical, artistic and cultural landmark of the whole island, contains precious treasures such as the Cathedral, the Four Songs, the Teatro Massimo, the Politeama, the Martorana Church, the Palatine Chapel, the Norman Palace, the Zisa and the Chiaramonte-Steri Palace.  

Immediately after Palermo, other obligatory stops are in Cefalù and Monreale, whose cathedrals are among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And if there is still time, it is recommended to visit Mondello and Sferracavallo.


Etna Park and Alcantara Gorges 

At any time of the year you can visit the Etna Park, which offers high altitude trips, hiking, hiking and breathtaking views. The ideal would be to start from Catania, visit Etna and then move towards the Alcantara Gorges, another simply breathtaking natural attraction.  

Upon returning to the city, you can easily move to the nearby seaside resorts of Acireale, Aci Trezza and Aci Castello to enjoy a good ice cream. For dinner, however, you can enjoy excellent dishes in the main villages at the foot of Etna, such as Bronte, Zafferana and Nicolosi.


Lampedusa and the Rabbit Beach 

Among the destinations not to be missed in Sicily is, of course, the island of Lampedusa, an ideal place for all lovers of the sea. Inside there is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world: the Beach of Rabbits, from which you can start a boat tour to discover the main coves.  

In addition, during the day you can take part in various organized excursions to Lampione Island and Linosa Island.


Syracuse, Ortigia and Cavagrande del Cassibile 

Syracuse is among the Sicilian cities that enjoys a large number of attractions: the Greek Amphitheater, the Ear of Dionysus, the Fonte Aretusa, the Baroque Cathedral and the Castle of Maniace are just a few; not to mention, Ortigia, the so-called “island in the island”! 

The hinterland of Syracuse, then, makes available to visitors other naturalistic places of great thickness, such as the Necropolis of Pantalica and the Cavagrande del Cassibile Reserve, inside which there are the lakes of ancient Avola. Other three places not to be missed are Noto, Avola and the beach of Fontane Bianche.


Staircase of the Turks and Valley of the Temples of Agrigento 

Agrigento also deserves a special mention in this list of Sicilian places not to be missed, especially for the Scala dei Turchi and the Valley of the Temples: the first is so majestic and imposing to say the least while the second releases history and culture from every pebble that composes it.  

Agrigento, in fact, is one of the best preserved archaeological parks in the world and, at the same time, one of the most important testimonies of the Hellenic civilization in Sicily.


Val di Noto 

The Val di Noto, which extends between the province of Catania and Syracuse, contains 8 wonderful baroque cities, all UNESCO World Heritage: Catania, Ragusa, Caltagirone, Noto, Modica, Militello, Scicli and Palazzolo Acreide.  

A few kilometers away you can visit unique natural sites such as Cavagrande del Cassibile, the Vendicari Wildlife Oasis and the Plemmirio Marine Reserve, as well as sites of archaeological interest such as Palazzolo Acreide, Pantalica and the Neapolis of Syracuse.


Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo 

The selection of the most beautiful places to visit in Sicily can not but include the Egadi Islands and, in particular, Favignana: characterized by white house with green or blue windows and surrounded by crystal clear waters, offers one of the most beautiful scenery of Italy (if not the world).  

Levanzo, an ancient fishing village that welcomes visitors in an atmosphere of peace and serenity, and Marettimo, both can be reached, as well as all the Egadi Islands, from the ports of Trapani and Marsala.


Lipari, Volcano and Stromboli 

To finish in beauty, can not miss the Aeolian Islands, a popular tourist destination and loved at any time of the year! The archipelago includes 8 islands of volcanic origin, one more beautiful than the other and each with unique characteristics; in particular, Lipari and Vulcano have always been the most “tourist”, but also Stromboli is not far behind, since with its active volcano offers exciting shows all year round.  

To reach the Aeolian Islands just book a ferry departing from Milazzo, Taormina or Tropea.


Brief history of Sicily  

The first human settlements in Sicily date back to about 20,000 B.C. from that moment on, the peoples who passed from the island were very numerous: among the first we can remember the Sicans, the Sicels and the Elymians who, around the eighth century B.C. have given way to Greeks and Phoenicians.  

The following centuries were marked by the dominance of Syracuse, led by the tyrants Gerone I and Dionysius; the latter, in particular, has unified under its control – in a kind of monarchy – the whole area east of the river Salso. Only the western part remained to the Carthaginians. 

During this important historical period, Sicily was the scene of the epic Greco-Punic wars, followed by the Roman-Punic battles; after which, the island was subdued by the Roman Republic becoming an integral part of the empire until its fall, occurred in the fifth century AD. 

Sicily, therefore, can be defined a land of conquest, especially during the Early Middle Ages, during which it passed into the hands of Vandals, Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Arabs and Normans. They were responsible for the foundation of the Kingdom of Sicily, which retained power from 1130 to 1826. After a short period that led her to become first a viceroyalty of Spain and then Austrian territory, in 1816 she joined – together with Naples – the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.  

Sicily became an autonomous region in 1946, while in 1947 the Sicilian Regional Assembly (ARS) was founded.

What to eat in Sicily: typical dishes and wines 

Anyone who has been in Sicily on holiday will certainly have tasted the many typical dishes of the island, accompanied with glasses of excellent wine. Sicilian food and wine culture is deeply rooted and differs from city to city, giving each its unique and inimitable culinary imprint.  

Here are the 10 typical dishes that you absolutely must taste:

  1. cannolo siciliano: the undisputed king of Sicilian pastry, the cannolo of fried dough rolled and crunchy that contains inside fresh and velvety ricotta is simply sublime;  
  2. Sicilian cassata: after the king, here is the queen of the Sicilian pastry, made with fresh ricotta sheep, royal pasta, sponge cake, sugar icing and white fruit decorations. An elegant dessert, pastel colors and super greedy;  
  3. Granita with brioche: in Sicily there is always a good time to fill your stomach with granita and croissants, especially in the eastern area. Available in various flavors, ranging from traditional almond to the most sought after mulberry, granita is accompanied by the classic “brioche with tuppo”, made of egg leavened dough;  
  4. arancino or arancina: the diatribe on the real name of this must of the Sicilian rotisserie will remain lit and open forever, but one thing is certain: the arancino/ a is nothing short of indescribable! The classic recipe includes a filling of meat sauce and butter, but you can also find pistachio, the norm, squid ink and, why not, also Nutella! 
  5. pasta alla norma: excellent dish of Catania, it is prepared with macaroni or other short pasta seasoned, then, with fresh tomato, fried eggplant, basil and an abundant sprinkling of salted ricotta;  
  6. caponata: another unmissable dish, often served as a side dish or as an appetizer. Made with poor ingredients, such as eggplant, celery, onion, salt, tomatoes, capers, vinegar, olives and sugar, it is always a treat for the palate;  
  7. bread, panelle and crocché: they are the three protagonists of the Palermo street food. The panelle are prepared with chickpea flour, water, parsley and salt; after being fried and cut into squares, they are inserted in the sesame sandwich together with the croquettes – that is, the croquettes of potatoes, pepper and parsley;  
  8. cous cous: typical of the city of Trapani, has Maghreb origins and arrived in Sicily during the Arab domination. Unlike the traditional one based on vegetables, the cous cous from Trapani is seasoned with fish boiled in broth;  
  9. Beccafico sardines: served as an appetizer or second course, they are prepared by peeling and eviscerating the sardines, rolling them up and stuffing them with breadcrumbs, sugar, garlic, raisins, parsley and pine nuts (typical recipe from Palermo); 
  10. stigghiole: another example of Sicilian street food, stigghiola is a poor recovery dish made of lamb intestines, sheep and/ or kid wrapped on stems of spring onions and parsley to roast on the grill.   


And what better way to accompany these extraordinary typical dishes than with a glass of excellent Sicilian wine? Among the best, exported all over the world, there are undoubtedly Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese and Frappato among the reds, while among the whites stand out Cataratto, Grillo, Inzolia, Grecanico, Malvasia delle Lipari and Moscato d’Alessandria.

Copertina: nivarata

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