When I started thinking about my summer holiday, Sicily definitely wasn’t forefront in my mind. In all honesty, it wasn’t there at all. I was looking into travelling Italy by car. During my research I ended up on forums that talked a lot about money, Italian drivers, and scary fines in the popular cities. It was then, that Sicily first came into the equation. People had mentioned if you wanted to see Italy on a budget, Sicily was a great place to start.
I flew out to Catania with my boyfriend, Mike, at the end of June 2016. We hired a cute little Fiat 500 and set out exploring an island I knew relatively little about. Sicily is actually immense in its own history and culture, separate from Italy. In its lifetime, it has been not only Italian, but Greek, Ottoman and Norman. Here are 10 reasons why Sicily should be on your bucketlist.
1) Mount Etna
Mount Etna is the second most active volcano in the world! It is prominent in the Sicily skyline, towering above everything at 3,350m tall, and can be seen emitting gas throughout the whole day. We went on an excursion that took us up the volcano, where we saw old lava flows that had buried towns and caused devastation. We walked through old craters and caves created by lava, tried wine specific to the grapes grown on Etna and took home some pieces of the volcano for ourselves!
2) Alcantara River
Just north of Etna is the freezing cold Alcantara River. Many years ago, the lava met the water here and some amazing rock formations were created. Make sure you take your swimsuit as you can walk through the river and enjoy the cool on a swelteringly hot day!
A hilltop town North of Catania with fantastic views of Etna, Taormina is one of the most popular places in Sicily and is a great place to grab Granite (a Sicilian ‘slush’ that was formerly made from snow off Etna’s peak) and some souvenirs. While you visit Taormina, make sure you visit the amphitheater built while the Greeks ruled Sicily. It has the most stunning backdrop of Etna and the Sicilian East coast.
Lying just above Taormina, Castelmola has fantastic views of Etna and Italy’s mainland. However, its main attraction is ‘Bar Turrisi‘ – a cafe dedicated entirely to the “Penis”! It may sound gross but it was a great place to visit for a laugh, and they sell their own wines which are absolutely delicious!
5) Isola Bella
Close to Taormina is the beach of Isola Bella. With two separate tides clashing into one another, forming a shallow path to a secret island, this is the perfect picturesque place to relax with some Granite!
6) Syracuse and Ortigia
An ancient city known to be popular with Plato, Syracuse and Ortigia have stunning architecture that will be popular with any history nerd (like me!) Make sure to take a boat trip round the island of Ortigia too and enjoy the cities limestone caves just off the coast. If you’re up for it, take a swimsuit and enjoy a snorkel!
7) Laghetti D’Avola
Laghetti D’Avola is a hidden gem! In a valley of huge mountains lies this freshwater beauty of gloriously clear lakes, perfect to relax and enjoy a swim in. It isn’t very well known, so it isn’t too crowded or spoiled. Make sure you enjoy this one while you can!
8) Valley of the Temples
On the South coast lies Agrigento, another popular Greek city. Just outside of Agrigento the Greek history can truly be seen, with numerous old Greek temples in excellent condition. Zeus’ temple is the largest of all and has excellent views over Sicily’s south coast.
9) Aci Trezza / Aci Castillo
Lying in between Catania and Taormina are the beautiful sea towns of Aci Trezza and Aci Castillo. With volcanic rock formations out on the sea and a beautiful Norman castle, you can see the amazing Sicilian history for yourself! There’s plenty of boat tours for the adventurous, and loads of restaurants for the foodies. If you like sea food this place is a must see!
10) La Timpa Nature Reserve
Not far from Aci Trezza / Aci Castello is a gorgeous reserve we discovered towards the end of our trip, La Timpa. Beautifully picturesque, it is a wonderful place to snorkel or enjoy live music by the sea front.
This is my top 10 places to visit in Sicily. This island, in my opinion, remains largely untouched and undiscovered by tourists. Some of the places we found largely by accident! I will definitely be visiting Sicily again in the future!
If you would like to see more, check out our YouTube compilation of this fantastic destination:
Have you been to Sicily? Please share your experience in the comments below!