Best of Sicily - Ten things you mustn’t miss when
visiting the largest island in the Mediterranean
Taormina is the perfect microcosm of Sicily’s rich
cultural history and extraordinary wealth of classical treasures.
Its fine medieval buildings, narrow picturesque streets and
ornately decorated palazzi prepare you for perhaps the most
heart-stopping vista of them all - the view from the Greco-Roman
theatre. Hewn from the hillside, the theatre’s setting is pure
drama with its spectacular backdrop of glistening sea, jutting
coastline, rolling hills and the smouldering Mount Etna.
Mount Etna dominates eastern Sicily. Ride on the
Circumetnea Railway to appreciate fully the mountain’s grandeur.
The circular route from Catania to Riposto passes fragrant citrus
and olive groves, orchards, nut plantations, medieval Randazzo and
the fine castles of Paterno and Andrano. If feeling energetic,
hire a guide and climb to one of the summit craters. The view on a
clear day extends across all Sicily. In winter try skiing on Etna
with views of the sparkling Mediterranean far below. After all,
how many people can claim to have skied on a live volcano?
Like many capitals, Palermo is a city of stark contrasts.
Forlorn, sultry and decayed it might be in parts, but here lies the
soul of brooding Sicily. It’s also one of Italy’s most underrated
cities, endowed almost to the point of artistic overkill with medieval
palaces, Baroque churches, Arab cupolas and Byzantine street markets.
Explore Palermo’s markets (Vucciria market is the best) to find the
tastiest traditional snacks.
Cooking Like Mama’s
The fusion of Greek, Roman, Arab, Norman and Spanish
cultures, year-long sunshine and fertile volcanic soil creates a
grand, exuberant and intensely-flavoured cuisine. Essential
Sicilian dishes to try include involtini (thin strips of seasoned
meat rolled onto a skewer, coated with breadcrumbs and grilled
over a wood fire), vegetables “alla Norma” (fried aubergine,
tomato, ricotta cheese and herbs) and pane con sato (ciabatta
bread moistened with olive oil and filled sparingly with
finely-chopped onions, tomato, herbs and anchovies). For idyllic
rural dining, visit one of the remote agri-tourism farmhouses such
as La Palma and Azienda Casabianca.
Land of the Gods
Marvel at the Valley of The Temples, a stunning series of
Greek temples and tombs just outside Agrigento. These substantial
remains have been described as “Athens with improvements” and
the Tempio della Concordia is one of the best preserved Greek
temples anywhere. It’s worth a trip at night to see these
monuments lit up in their full glory.
Mount Etna is Europe’s largest active volcano and
provides regular fireworks displays. Stromboli in the Aeolian
Islands is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and its
pyrotechnics are possibly even more spectacular. Take a night-time
boat trip to Sciara del Fuoco and experience close-up the
rumblings, bellowings and glow of incandescent lava from
Stromboli’s mysterious cone.
Walk the beautiful and secluded, tree-lined cobbled path
that winds down from Acireale to the small, picturesque fishing
village of Santa Maria La Scala. Huddled around its 17th century
church, Santa Maria La Scala is a charming hideaway and boasts
several fine restaurants. After you have feasted your eyes on the
stunning panoramas of the Ionian Sea, feast your taste buds on the
shaded, seaview terrace of Ristorante Al Morino.
Take the ferry from Milazzo and watch the romantic and
other-worldly Aeolian Islands slowly emerge from the mists above
the clear blue Tyrrhenian Sea. Walk the winding coastal circuit of
Lipari, the largest of the Aeolians, and discover craggy
shorelines, sleepy villages, pumice slopes and beaches of volcanic
sand. Luxuriate on the small but perfectly-formed Panarea, the
most exclusive. Indulge in a therapeutic hot sea-spring bath on
Hidden behind a fountain in one corner of Catania’s
Piazza Duomo lies the city’s bustling fish market (la pescheria).
From the hectic central area, red-canopied stalls sprawl through
the adjoining labyrinth of narrow medieval streets and shadowy
alleys. Vendors peddle all varieties of translucently-fresh
seafood, meat, fruit, vegetables, cheese and nuts. Souk-like
haggling is expected, if not required. Afterwards you may need to
refresh yourself with an ice-cold granita from a café in the
Syracuse was once the supreme power in Europe. The island
of Ortigia, the city’s ancient hub, remains charged with
historical resonance. Witness the staggering diversity of
monuments from the Greek, early Christian, medieval, Renaissance
and Baroque eras. Then cross the Ponte Nuovo to the mainland and
visit Neapolis with its sprawling archaeological park and one of
the greatest Greek theatres. You might find yourself sitting in
the same place Plato or Archimedes once sat for a night out on the
is a freelance travel and lifestyles writer based in London. Born in Hong
Kong, his family moved to London when he was three. After graduating from
Cambridge University with a degree in physics, Martin worked initially in
high level positions in
financial services and capital markets. Martin has published a
number of books and articles and his topics frequent include his parchment for
hideaways destinations, adventure trips, and sports travel. (More
about this author).