Travel to Sicily and its islands
Looking for travel tips for a trip to Sicily? The island of Sicily consistently ranks at the top of Italy's vacation destinations with its capital, Palermo, the Temple Valley near Agrigento, the Baroque city of Noto, Syracuse, Cefalu, Taormina, and the Aeolian Islands, just to name a few of the many highlights. A melting pot of cultures where influences from Africa, Greece, Normans, the Middle East, and of course the Romans, French, and Spaniards can be found. Not only in culture and architecture, but perhaps especially in Sicilian cuisine.
The weather in Sicily
Sicily: What you should know about this destination
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and a melting pot of cultures. You might ask: who hasn't been here over the centuries? Of course, the Greeks, but also the Normans, Charlemagne, North Africans, French, Spaniards, and the list goes on. Sicily is often seen as an ideal round-trip destination, and in two weeks, you can visit the main tourist attractions with some time left over for a few leisurely days on the beach or maybe to explore the many markets Palermo has to offer.
Palermo has become one of the coolest cities in Italy. Over the past 10 years, much has changed in this once dilapidated city. Naturally, as in every major city, there are certain districts not advisable for tourists to visit, but the center, the port, the hill town of Monreale, the magnificent cathedral, and the chic resort of Mondello are all must-see tourist destinations. The city is also cosmopolitan, with an exciting nightlife (certainly better than Rome) and a young trendy audience. But not only Palermo has become an interesting destination; Catania is also on this list, and even though the city of Syracuse is a bit dull on itself, the island of Ortigia is an unmissable part of your Sicily adventure with its unique character and cozy colorful streets.
Those who love the sea or the beach in Sicily have so much choice. The most beautiful sandy beaches are to be found from Agrigento along the southwest coast to San Vito Lo Capo. The most stunning azure blue coves can be found on islands like Favignana (Egadi Islands), the mystical island Pantelleria with its Dammusi, in the Zingaro National Park and on the East Coast around Taormina. One of the most captivating beaches can certainly be found near the beautiful resort of Cefalù. Thermal springs and mud baths make the Lipari Islands, like Vulcano, a tourist pick and don't forget, now one of the most exclusive holiday destinations in Italy, the small island of Panarea opposite the volcanic island Stromboli.
Inland, there's plenty to do, especially if you are interested in the beauty but also the power of nature. The Etna remains one of the most popular destinations for hikers, and the surrounding area consists of fertile land with vineyards and fruit trees as far as you can see. Thanks to the efforts of various young wineries, Sicily is quickly becoming one of the top wine destinations in Italy. A whole new branch of tourism is blossoming with numerous initiatives from local winemakers aiming to gain recognition and fame for Sicilian quality wines.
The history of the island of Sicily?
The Sicani and Siculi tribes inhabited the island in prehistoric times. Subsequently, the Phoenicians, originating from what is now Lebanon, came to stay, followed by the Greeks, Carthaginians (Tunisia), Romans, Byzantines, Moors from North Africa, Saracens from the Middle East (Iraq), and finally, the Normans. It took the latter about ten years to oust the Moors and Saracens. The first King of Sicily was a Norman known as Roger II, after his father had forcefully evicted the Muslims from the island.
The Saracens founded the city of Palermo, then known as Panormus, which was said to rival Baghdad in beauty and wealth. Then came the Normans. Over time, the Goths, Vandals, even the Germans from Hohenstaufen, and the Spaniards from Aragon have ruled over Sicily. Due to its strategic location in the Mediterranean, the island was an ideal base for merchants from around the world, with excellent ports and a favorable climate. It mainly served as a transit hub, much like Rotterdam today.
The people shifted their allegiances with every passing wind and successively worshipped, on command, gods and goddesses of various kinds, sometimes simultaneously if it was convenient. If you are allowed only one trip in your lifetime and still want to experience the history and culture of the entire Western world: go to Sicily! You will find Greek temples and amphitheaters, Roman settlements, villas with the most beautiful mosaics, unique churches built in a mixed Norman-Arabic style, palaces with Moorish and Byzantine elements, Greek-Orthodox churches, Gothic cathedrals and medieval castles, Spanish-Catalan/Gothic palaces, baroque villas, and even a neoclassical Chinese villa from the 19th century. Beneath some Roman villas, foundations of the Phoenicians were discovered.
Browse through our travel tips about Sicily
You don't have to travel to North Africa to get your fill of couscous - in southern Italy, especially Sicily, it is quite a common dish, largely due to the Arabic influence on the island since ancient times. In fact, Sicily even plays host to an annual international couscous festival, where chefs compete to concoct the best couscous dish around. So while it may have originated as a humble wheat dish in the Maghreb, leave it to the Italians to go one better.