More than 200 years later, his words still ring true to anyone who’s had the chance to visit this mesmerizing island. Whether you’ re looking for an adventure-packed vacation or one that is slowly savoured pool-side at a luxurious Sicily villa rentals, the island is designed to meet just about everyone’s preferences. Alluring and mysterious, the femme fatale essence of Sicily will have you returning over and over again. But a first trip can easily be planned around our top 5 favourites.
The Aeolian Islands
Especially attractive in the warmer months, these seven UNESCO-protected islands that form the archipelago are located just off the northeastern shore of Sicily. They’re easily reachable by ferry or hydrofoil from several parts of Sicily and they make squeezing in a few days of island magic quite simple. Vulcano, Lipari, Salina, Filicudi, Alicudi, Stromboli and Panarea all have their distinct charm and will attract visitors for different reasons.
Lipari, which is the largest and most animated with plenty of lodging options and restaurants, is the perfect base from which to explore the others. For the more adventurous types, dramatic Stromboli tops the list. Famous for its permanently active volcano, an evening hike up this fiery beast is sure to offer an unforgettable spectacle of smoke, reds and oranges. The island of Vulcano is known for its rumbling main crater, mud baths (fanghi), hot springs and black sand beaches. For lovers of lush green landscapes, there is Salina. Here you’ll find the renowned Malvasia, a white wine only made in Salina, as well as what many agree to be the best capers in the world! Of the seven islands, Panarea is not only the smallest but also the trendiest and most expensive. And finally, Filicudi and Alicudi are especially adored by those who prefer to veer off the beaten path and experience the true meaning of peace and quiet.
Perhaps the most popular Sicilian destination, Taormina is the definition of picture-perfect. This quaint town has no shortage of charming streets that offer the ideal opportunity to take photographs. Given its location, perched atop a cliff on the eastern coast of Sicily, Taormina offers breathtaking views over Mount Etna. Sample mouth-watering local cuisine at the many top-rated restaurants. For typical Sicilian souvenirs, head to the charming shops run by the artisans themselves. Taormina’s most important attraction is undoubtedly the Ancient Theatre (or Teatro Greco), home to most of the city’s large-scale events. With a ravishing view over the Bay of Naxos and Mount Etna, the Ancient Theatre is truly the star of Taormina.
Valle dei Templi, Agrigento
Agrigento: the Valley of the Temples
Given Sicily’s rich and tumultuous history, fascinating archaeological sites dot the entire island. But Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, is the largest in the world. And of course, it’s an important testimony to Ancient Greece’s architecture. Dating back as far as the 5th century BC, seven Doric temples make up this impressive archaelogical park. Each is dedicated to a different deity, including Concordia, Zeus and Heracles. The site’s best preserved temple is the one attributed to the goddess Concordia. Indeed, with its majestic columns, the structure seems to have been untouched by time. A walk through the Valle dei Templi is sure to be an unforgettable experience.
Duomo di Palermo
Sicily’s exuberant and mysterious capital leaves no one indifferent. At first glance, it may almost be a little difficult to fathom just why so many return to Palermo over and over again. But after getting accustomed to it, the down-to-earth vibe mixed in with culture and history, make it impossible not to want to explore it further. Unlike many other Italian touristic destinations, spoken English is not as widespread and restaurant menus are rarely translated. This is precisely why the authenticity of the place is almost palpable wherever you walk. The myriad churches, museums, squares and palazzos will keep monument-hoppers busy for days. But no visit to Palermo is quite complete without sampling the exquisite street food found at any one of the city’s loud and chaotic food markets. A mandatory staple are the mighty arancini (heavenly fried rice balls.
Just an hour drive from Palermo, Cefalù may be a small town but it offers something for just about everyone. In fact, during the warmer months, holidaymakers from all corners of Europe head to the many resort hotels to enjoy a relaxing Sicilian holiday. Cefalù offers the best of both worlds: wonderful sandy beaches, as well as little photogenic medieval streets. Picky palates are sure to find their fix at one of the town’s many delicious restaurants; fresh fish is often on the menu. Cefalù’s most iconic landmark is its glorious Norman cathedral. Splendidly decorated with elements of Arab, Roman, Byzantine and Norman architecture, Cefalù’s Duomo is absolutely worth the detour.