Sicily Regional Overview
Welcome to Sicily!
Bright yellow lemon groves, ink-blue sea, rugged black lava coasts, pink almond blossoms, mountains, beaches, lush green and lunar landscapes, gorgeous architecture, ancient sites and more than 2500 hours of sunshine per year - Sicily is the sunniest and largest island of the Mediterranean Sea, and the most fascinating example of the manifold landscapes in Southern Europe. It is a miniature continent guarded for eternity by Europe’s highest active volcano Mount Etna.
Usually you would have to travel to Egypt, Rome, England, France, Turkey and Greece when you want to see Norman churches, Greek temples, Roman settlements, Byzantine mosaics or Arabic bathhouses. An interesting alternative is Sicily where you find the full diversity of these cultures in one place.
"I do not envy the paradise of God, because I am happy to live in Sicily"
Frederick II. of Hohenstaufen, King of Sicily & Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (1194-1250)
We fully agree with good old Freddy, even if we have to admit that his paradise has suffered somewhat over the years (but only a little bit).
So let's talk paradise, let's talk Sicily!
Sicily is cultural!
More than five thousand years of history, the best preserved Greek temples in the world in Agrigento and Segesta, Byzantine architecture and Norman cathedrals in Palermo, Monreale and Cefalù, Roman mosaics in Piazza Armerina, Baroque splendor in Ragusa, Modica, and Noto, ancient amphitheatres in Taormina and Syracuse, picturesque places like Catania and Ortygia, Medieval castles, cave tombs in Pantàlica, Europe’s biggest archaeological site in Selinunte, Carthaginian ruins in Mozia, and the remains of a Bronze Age village on the island of Panarea.
Sicily is natural!
77 Natural Parks and Nature Reserves, white sandy beaches, craggy coasts, sun-glowing plains, green hills and lush vegetation, lunar landscapes on Mount Etna and white limestone rocks in the Hyblaean Mountains, silvery olive groves and pink almond trees, crystal clear rivers and deep canyons in Cava d’Ispica, Alcantara Valley and Pantàlica, a colourful underwater world in the crystalline waters of Pantelleria, Ustica, Lampedusa and the Aeolian Islands. What about hiking on Mount Etna and botanizing in the Zingaro park, bird watching in Vendicari, Madonie and Nebrodi, and walking blossoming orchards?
Sicily is exciting!
Sicily is partying in bars, discos and on beaches. It is events in hotels and ancient sites. It is going to the opera, it is the evening passeggiata, when stylish youngsters, elegant ladies and well dressed gentlemen populate the streets and squares, always cutting a “bella figura” like all Italians. Very exciting are a helicopter flight over Mount Etna and an evening boat excursion to the “fire slide” of Stromboli. The Madonie Adventure Park e.g. is an exciting places for our little travellers, same as the children’s town in Palermo, and archaeological sites.
Sicily is sporty!
You are not the type of traveller who likes hanging out at the beach? Then go biking and cycling on Mount Etna, Vulcano and Stromboli, in the Madonie and Nebrodi mountains, swimming and snorkelling, go rafting and canyoning in the Alcantara Gorges, horse riding, play tennis and golf, kite and windsurf. Divers will find underwater paradises in Ustica, which is famous for diving in the whole of Italy. Also the island of Panarea boasts some of the most stunning diving spots in Sicily. And last but not least you can go skiing and cross-country skiing on Mount Etna and Piano Battaglia in winter.
Sicily is hot!
Sicily offers more than 2,500 hours of sunshine per year. The good weather is a reason for many travellers to come back again and again. Therefore: if you are visiting to an archaeological site or Mount Etna, or are going on a boat excursion - don’t forget to wear a hat! Even if this unmasks you as a tourist, it is certainly better than getting a sunstroke. Oh yes, save time and do not look in high season for any deserted beaches. Make the best out of it and throw yourself into the Sicilian beach life - people, music, fun.
And then there are the hottest Europeans ever: Her Majesty Lady Etna and her little brother Stromboli!
Sicily is cool!
“Cool Sicily” is dipping into the ice cold river at the Alcantara gorges.
It is swimming in the crystal clear turquoise and deep blue waters.
It is eating things like ice cream, granita, sorbet and semifreddo.
Sicily is tasty!
The Sicilian cuisine is both Mediterranean and North African, inspired by all the peoples who settled on the island and left their footprints not only in the architecture, but also in Sicilian kitchens. Especially in the west the cuisine is very Arabian, as you can see many variations on the couscous. Much has ancient Roman origins, for example the delicious honey and vinegar sauces. The French refined candies and desserts, and the Spaniards brought the art of chocolate-making to Sicily. Wherever and whatever you eat, it is always delicious, wether you go for fine dining, pizza or street food.
Sicily is wine blessed!
Wineriewsand vineyards are spread all over Sicily. The island is divided into three main regions: the West with the prestigious Marsala wines and the sophisticated white wines from the area of Trapani, the North-East with the full-bodied Etna wines, and the South-East, where mainly in the region around Ragusa excellent red wines are vinified. The island offers ideal conditions for many grape varieties by the diversity of soils and the warm sunny weather. Sicily has a very long wine tradition. According to legend it was Dionysus, the God of Wine, who planted dancing the first: grapevine in Giardini-Naxos.
Sicily is eventful!
There is always something going on in Sicily. "Mandorlo in Fiore" in Agrigento, “I Giganti” in Messina, carnival, Easter processions in Trapani and Enna, the “Dance of the Devils” in Prizzi, the “Infiorata” in Noto, the “Palio dei Normanni” in Piazza Armerina, concerts, opera, theatre and dance in Syracuse and Taormina, beach parties and jazz festivals, “Teatro del Fuoco” in Lipari, and the Cous Cous Fest in San Vito Lo Capo. Sicilians just love to celebrate, every reason will do, even bread. And if there is nothing special in the culinary sector at their village they celebrate their patron saint, which is in doubt San Giuseppe.
Sicily is traditional!
Since Sicily is rather non-industrial, but shaped more technically, you will find potters, tailors, furniture makers, hatters, candle makers and basket weavers everywhere. Best known handicraft are the Sicilian ceramics of Santo Stefano di Camastra, Sciacca and Caltagirone. Another tradition is the Sicilian puppet theatre, the “Opra dei Pupi”, UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. Also traditional are the hundreds of festivals, funfairs and kermises, which you'll find at our always up-to-date Event page, with dancing, music, folklore, fireworks, local specialties, and processions of the colourfully painted Sicilian carts.
Sicily is sleepy!
Where do you want to rest your head? In a historical hotel or country mansion? Palazzo, villa or farmhouse? Do you want to sleep among antique or design furnishings? Farmer’s style or modern? You are spoiled for a choice. The possibilities are endless, Sicily offers accommodation for every taste and every budget. There are hotels of all sizes and categories, from elegant to flourish baroque, from dreamy-romantic over stylish to pompous and hip urban apartments in manors and palazzos. There are campsites, hostels and B&Bs. In the countryside, in the mountains, in the city and by the sea.
Sicily is artistic!
Besides of architectural highlights you will find art galleries and artists' studios everywhere. Sicily's people and landscapes inspired painters, producers and writers to masterpieces. International and national stars, orchestras, dance and theatre companies perform every year in Sicily. Two Sicilian writers received the Nobel Prize for Literature, about forty movies were filmed in Sicily and its islands. Remember "Stromboli” with the unforgettable Ingrid Bergman, “The Godfather” with the great Marlon Brando, and “The Leopard” with an impressive Burt Lancaster? And how about Inspector Montalbano?
Sicily is divine!
Did you know that the Gods of Greek mythology were not Greek but Sicilian? Aeolus lived – surprise! – on the Aeolian Islands. Stromboli, the ancient Aeolia, was his home base. He was the God of Winds, who gave Odysseus a tightly closed bag full of the captured winds, so he could sail easily home to Ithaca. But instead Odysseus men thought that the bag was full of gold, so they opened it and the winds blew their ship back to the Aeolian Islands. By the way: Hephaestus, God of Fire, is still very busy running his forge in Mount Etna. You can see it: he is sending every ten minutes clouds of smoke out of the main crater.
Most of all Sicily is...
wandering picturesque towns, enjoying breathtaking views and our ever so kitschy sunsets, strolling over markets, dining in atmospheric restaurants, sitting in the sun and sipping caffè, indulging in the pastime of all Italians, the daily evening “passeggiata”, trying Sicilian street food, maybe “pani ca' meusa” (only recommended for experimental and brave eaters), and it is people watching, preferably at Piazza IX. Aprile in poshTaormina.
To make it short: take your time and a deep breath, just get into it – all the flavours and colours, faces, voices, gestures, expressions and impressions. Done? There you are: Southern Italy at its best and you’re right in the middle!
Sicily is fragrant & odorous, quirky & cool, noisy & quiet, sunny & snowy, tasty & savoury, multicultural & traditional, bustling & peaceful, colourful & lunar-like, sometimes smelly and a bit dirty - but always lovable.
Sicily is unique!
So, be careful! Not because of the Mafia, but because you could fall for the island's charm…
Sicily in one minute
(Video by courtesy of Todaro Net)
"To have seen Italy without having seen Sicily is to not have seen Italy at all, for in Sicily lies the key to everything"
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Italian Journey