Sicily Holidays & Hotels
Sicily is the largest and most populated island in the Mediterranean....
Sicily is the largest and most populated island in the Mediterranean. Lying close to the mainland of Italy and just 90 miles from the African coastline, it retains Arab as well as Greek and Roman influences in its architecture and culture. Sicily is dominated by the dramatic landscapes around Mount Etna, Europe's most active volcano and the highest mountain in Italy south of the Alps. An expedition to see it, or even climb it, is an essential part of any visit to Sicily - and a sight to thrill the whole family.
Sicily's towns and cities are each unique: Palermo is a chaotic mix of crumbling villas, ancient churches and buzzing markets selling everything from seafood and fresh mozzarella to vintage clothes and antiques, and where the atmosphere owes much to the souks of North Africa; whilst Cefalų is a bustling seaside resort with a wide sandy beach and meandering cobbled streets with shops selling local crafts. Many visitors, however, spend their time in Taormina and it is easy to see why. It's often called the most beautiful town in Sicily and makes the most of its natural setting that takes in views of Mount Etna and the sparkling Mediterranean.
Exploring the Island
One of the best ways to discover the best of Sicily is by hiring a car...
One of the best ways to discover the best of Sicily is by hiring a car and driving round it yourself. Roads between towns and cities are easy to navigate, and you'll be able to appreciate the island's spectacular scenery along the route. The motorways in Sicily are wide and well-signposted, which makes driving fairly straightforward, although it can get busier once in the towns and cities and we don't recommend driving in Palermo.
For rich Greek history and culture, be sure to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Syracuse. Birthplace of Archimedes, the ancient Greek mathematician, physicist and engineer, the city is home to a plethora of archaeological wonders, including the Roman Amphitheatre and the Greek Theatre, dedicated to the Goddess Athena. One of Sicily's most famous historical sites is the Valley of the Temples, just outside Agrigento. Here you can explore the site's ten temples and visit the archaeological museum which showcases a wide range of exhibits from the area including statues and ceramics.
Be sure to stop off at Taormina and Cefalų, two of Sicily's prettiest coastal towns. Explore Cefalų's medieval district and study the glorious mosaics and twin towers of the duomo. Use Taormina, located on the east coast of Sicily, as a base from which to visit Mount Etna. You should also visit the Teatro Greco, the town's 3rd century BC theatre which is used during the summer months as the venue for international arts and film festivals.
Food & Wine
Sicily's food and wine boasts worldwide fame and once you've visited this verdant Mediterranean island, you'll...
Sicily's food and wine boasts worldwide fame and once you've visited this verdant Mediterranean island, you'll see why it's a well deserved accolade. The island's varied cuisine reflects the different cultures that have shaped Sicily over the centuries resulting in some mouthwatering dishes that make a holiday to Sicily a foodie's dream. As expected on an island, seafood features heavily in the Sicilian diet with the freshly-caught fish being used in many dishes including the popular pasta con le sarde (pasta with sardines). Other popular dishes include Arancini (deep fried rice balls usually filled ragu, mozzarella or vegetables), pasta alla norma (pasta with tomato, fried aubergine and ricotta) and canolli, a desert of fried pastry tubes filled with sweet ricotta and topped with pistachios.
Wine is deeply rooted in Sicily's culture - according to Greek legend, Dionysus was the God who bought pleasure to mankind and wine to Sicily - and the island boasts more vineyards than any other region in Italy. The fertile lands that surround Mount Etna produce award-winning labels including Etna Rosso, Bianco D'Alcamo and the well-known dessert wine, Marsala. There's also an abundance of olive groves in Sicily, producing about 10% of Italy's olive oil, and you can sample the many different varieties by dripping it over freshly-cooked bread as a delicious appetizer.
Sicily's history makes it a unique and fascinating island. Its strategic location in the centre of...
Sicily's history makes it a unique and fascinating island. Its strategic location in the centre of the Mediterranean has made it a melting pot of cultures, each leaving a distinctive imprint which is evident in the almost overwhelming mixture of architectural treasures and classical ruins.
In ancient Roman times, Sicily was known as Manga Greacia, which translates to Greater Greece, and the ancient Greek's influence is still evident today. They introduced vines and olives to this fertile island, some of the best preserved Greek temples in the world can still be found in Agrigento and the ancient Greek Theatre in the centre of Taormina is a must-see for visitors.
Over the years the island has been invaded by a host of nations, including Romans, Arabs and Normans. Even the British Administration briefly invaded in 1806. It's varied history means the Sicily's towns and villages have a unique feel with some interesting sites to explore. Villa Romana del Casale at Piazza Armerina has the world's largest collection of ancient Roman mosaics, which were unearthed in the 19th century, while the Normans fascination with Arab architecture resulted in them expanding, altering and adding to many existing buildings. Fine examples of this can be seen mainly in Sicily's capital, Palermo, such as the Palazzo dei Normanni, originally an Arab Castle to which the Normans added towers, levels and the Capella Palatina, a delightfully ornate chapel that was completed in 1143. Other buildings in Palermo include the churches of San Giovanni degli Eremiti and San Cataldo, which are crowned with a series of red domes mounted on cubic towers - reminiscent of the modern Arab architecture you can see in North Africa today.
Events in Sicily
Ricotta Festival: 25 Apr 15
First held more than 35 years ago, the Sagra della ricotta...
Ricotta Festival: 25 Apr 15
First held more than 35 years ago, the Sagra della ricotta (ricotta festival) is one of the oldest food festivals in Sicily and is considered one of the most important. Visitors will get the chance to buy and taste some of the best ricotta on the island, sampling young, medium or well-aged versions of the cheese. This three day festival takes place every year at the end of April and regularly attracts tens of thousands of visitors to the historic city of Vizzini in the south east of Sicily, who arrive to enjoy the folklore, art, culture and entertainment.
Artichoke Festival: 25 Apr 15
Each year on 25th April, Cerda, a little town between Palermo and Cefalu, hosts the Sagra del Carciofo - the annual artichoke festival. Visitors have the opportunity to taste the local speciality cooked in dozens of different ways as well as lots of other Sicilian produce such as pistachios, pork products, olives and goats cheese, all washed down with some equally delicious local wine. There's also art exhibitions, parades, live music that goes on into the night and even an artichoke sculpture in the town's main square!
Taormina Film Festival: 14-21 Jun 15
Italy's oldest film festival began in 1955 and moved permanently to Taormina in 1971. Celebrities, Journalists and Directors are among the many who head to the Greek Amphitheatre in the heart of Taormina during the one of the most important events of the Italian summer. The beauty of the location and the international significance of the event has lured film lovers and stars such as Robert di Niro, Meg Ryan and Sophia Loren over the years.
CousCous Fest: 25-30 Sep 15
Talented chefs from nations including Morocco, Israel, Turkey and Egypt start arriving in the small town of San Vito Lo Capo, near Trapani on the west side of Sicily, at the end of September. The result is highly competitive cook-offs and an enthusiastic crowd enjoying live music and dancing in a carnival-like atmosphere for one of Sicily's most popular festivals celebrating a dish that is eaten by millions.
Accommodation in Sicily
The magical island of Sicily - so close to the mainland yet so far removed in feel and culture. I love to wander the vibrant old city streets of Palermo with its mix of architectural styles and buy wonderful produce in the bustling markets. I...
The magical island of Sicily - so close to the mainland yet so far removed in feel and culture. I love to wander the vibrant old city streets of Palermo with its mix of architectural styles and buy wonderful produce in the bustling markets. I adore the Aeolian Islands, like jewels glistening in the warm waters of the southern Mediterranean - visit lively Lipari and enjoy their traditional pane caliatu or the smaller picture-perfect Panarea or peaceful off-the-beaten track, Salina, the setting for the film Il Postino. No trip to Sicily would be complete without tasting the wonderful pastries - cannoli, cassata, beautiful marzipan fruits and of course the ice cream.Read More Read Less
From Our Experts
When I was in Taormina, I loved wandering through the Villa Communale (public gardens). They were...
When I was in Taormina, I loved wandering through the Villa Communale (public gardens). They were created in the late 19th century by an English noblewoman and are so unique, with quirky constructions, exotic flowers and breathtaking views over Mount Etna. It's the perfect place for a stroll on a summer's day.
Laura Mason, Product Manager