When I was studying abroad in Italy, way up north in Ferrara, the program directors organized a group trip to Sicily. From the first breath of fresh, salty, sultry and seductive Sicilian air, I was hooked. Now, I go to Sicily almost every month (it helps having a Sicilian boyfriend). It is a region not to be missed on a trip to Italy, for it’s history, beauty, and wonderful people. You can rent a fabulous house for the whole family for not much money, as it is one of the more affordable Italian regions as well. However, I recommend you check out some villas in Sicily online much before your trip, as the good ones tend to get booked fast. Once people go, they want to come back every year (or even every month, like me!). While an ambitious driver can make it around the whole island in one day, I recommend renting a villa in each town and staying for a few days. It gives you a better taste for the local culture, and by day three you’ll have made lifelong friends and maybe even have been adopted by a Sicilian family!
Here are my favorite Sicilian spots, in no particular order:
Palermo – I’m putting Palermo first because it was where I first stepped foot on the island. You gotta hit the open markets like il Capo, Vucciria, Borgo Vecchio and Ballarò for a real taste of this city. You’ll find everything from ancient pottery to fresh vegetables to various street food delicacies, and the street scenes are a spectacle in themselves. Enjoy a stroll down the medieval passageways and take it all in.
Etna – Mount Etna, on Sicily’s eastern coast, is the tallest active volcano on the European continent. You can rent a place in Messina or Catania and explore the eastern part of the island from here. Home to spectacular beaches, the ancient Greek theater at Taormina, and some of the best red wines in the world (Etna Rosso), this area is sure to satisfy all kinds of travelers. If you are a volcano lover you can plan more volcano tours and an Etna Excursion online.
Siracusa – This south-eastern city was founded by the Greeks in 734 BC. You can still see the Greek influence in the central Catholic cathedral, which is in fact an ancient Greek temple. It is known for it’s stunning white stone architecture, and is also the birthplace of Archimedes.
Aeolian Islands – This is a volcanic island chain off the north eastern coast. It is made up of seven stunning islands which boast rugged coastlines, thermal spa resorts, fishing, tons of water sports, splendid panoramic views and of course: gorgeous white-sand beaches. Very accessible in the summer months via frequent ferries.
San Vito Lo Capo – San Vito is famous for two main things: couscous and white sand. The sand is the whitest here on the whole island, making the water a pristine turquoise blue. In September it is home to the largest couscous festival in Europe. Try a seafood couscous from San Vito and nothing will ever compare!