Sicilia (Sicily)

map of the Sicily Region in Italy Major Cities:

Palermo
Messina
Taormina
Catania
Agrigento

A large island that is just a stone’s throw from Italy’s toe, Sicily often seems worlds away from the culture of the mainland, very much immersed in its own arts, music, architecture, cuisine, and rich heritage. Separated from the mainland region of Calabria by the Strait of Messina, Sicily is a largely agricultural area, known for its abundant orange and lemon orchards, but is also a favorite tourist attraction for international visitors who want to take in the region’s architecture, arts offerings, archaeological remains, and often breathtakingly beautiful landscapes.

The triangular shaped island is quite mountainous and this volcanic destination is home to Mt. Etna, located in Taormina and one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The Aeolian Islands, just off the coast of Sicily, are also volcanic and include the active Stromboli volcano.

Sicily, home to more than a dozen rivers, boasts a Mediterranean climate, which means that its summers are hot and dry and winters warm and mild, making the months of December through February a great time to visit for those who’d prefer to avoid the heat though the bulk of tourists show up in the summer.

Sicily is reached by ferry from the mainland but many visitors come to the island via cruise ship. Indeed, it’s a popular port of call on many European cruises and the island has prospered much thanks to the cruise industry. Plans have been in progress for nearly 150 years to connect Sicily to the mainland via a bridge and those plans were only recently reinvigorated, making it easier for future generations to visit.

In the meantime, most visitors enjoy their first view of Sicily from a boat, eager to explore all that Sicily offers including a collection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Any Italy vacation should list these on the itinerary. These include the Valle dei Templi in Agrigento, a main Sicilian attraction and one of the finest remaining examples of Magna Graecia (Greater Greece) architecture left in the world. There are seven temples there, each built in the Doric style.

Another UNESCO site is the Villa Romana del Casale, a 4th century Roman villa near the town of Piazza Armerina. It contains the world’s largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics and is simply a breathtaking sight.

Of course, the capital city of Palermo is a must-see on any Italy vacation. This richly historic city is mostly noted for its Norman-era buildings including the Church of St. John of the Hermits, San Cataldo, and the Church of the Holy Trinity. Also of note is the Palermo Cathedral, characterized by a number of different architectural styles. Travelers should visit Palermo’s palaces, the opera house, and the Capuchin Catacombs.

For a quieter, slower-paced attraction, check out Noto, often dubbed one of the most beautifully-built towns in Europe. Here, visitors will find treasures of the Sicilian Baroque (early 18th century) including the town hall, dozens of churches and cathedrals, and the Astuto Palace. Equally as charming is Enna, a pretty inland town, and Cefalu, a lovely village on the northern coast on the Tyrrhenian Sea. A popular beach destination with a lively nightlife scene, Cefalu also boasts a beautiful Norman cathedral, ancient Roman baths, and several palazzi.

www.regione.sicilia.it