“Going to Sicily is better than going to the moon.” -Gabriel Garcìa Màrquez, Spanish author and playwright
The Region of Sicily, Italy
As you know, I’ve been to Italy a few times and I thought Venice and Sorrento were my favorite cities, but Sicily is it for me!
It reminded me of ancient Greece. There is just something so fascinating about it. Apart from having the most divine seafood, Modica has the absolute best chocolate (and you can never have too much chocolate!).
Sicily is that place that you just cannot help but gush about. The ancient philosopher Plato said that “Siclians build things like they will live forever and eat as if they’ll die tomorrow.”
That quote makes me laugh, but it’s a foretelling of what you can expect in Sicily: stunning buildings and divine food! In fact, Sicily is home to some of the world’s most ancient, historical buildings.
Writers, artists, visitors and thinkers have so much to say about Sicily. Writer Truman Capote declares “Sicily is more beautiful than a woman,” and German poet Goethe says, “Visiting Italy without going to Sicily leaves no image in the spirit. It is Sicily that is the key to everything.”
My words cannot do it justice. It stirs a sort of fascination within you. You’re taken with it in the same way one gets taken with a lover.
Of course, some people aren’t as taken with it because there is a lot of graffiti so maybe it’s like marmite: You either love it or hate it? I embrace its beauty, culture, food and street art. To me, that’s what makes the city so wonderful.
Travel with a Local or Guide and Hire a Car
When traveling to Sicily, I would advise traveling with someone from there or hiring a guide because they speak very little English. I had my translation app but I found that they speak a certain dialect which is different from Italian so certain things weren’t as clear.
The culture is SO rich and they have the best Greek temples in the world. I’ve listed some must-see ones below.
I’d also recommend hiring a car to take into the city.
More Details About Sicily
Sicily is one of the twenty regions that make up Italy and is a large Mediterranean island. The island has 5 million inhabitants and is full of a number of charming cities and quaint towns. It’s home to the largest active volcano in Europe known as Mt. Etna. It’s also home to the largest opera house in Italy.
Many languages are spoken in Sicily including Italian, French, German, Arabic and Romanian.
While a captivating and fascinating place to travel, Sicily has a history that’s been ravaged by war and invasion. Even today, amongst the beauty and charm, there are dark corners that haunt its beauty. One of which is that there are thousand of Romanian, female farm workers who are living in slavery and physical and sexual abuse across farms in the region.
As the events of 2020 have unfolded, our eyes have really been opened to how beauty and destruction often coexist in a place. This is why the more I travel to places and help support their tourism and economy, I’m more intentional about looking into additional organizations and causes I can shine a lot on and support.
For me, travel is a privilege and a pleasure. It’s also an opportunity to make an impact and shine a light on the beauty and bruises of the places I visit. Every country has them; some more than others.
So let’s unpack the remarkable places there are to visit in Sicily—from divine sites to divine dishes. And as you make your plans to travel to your next destination, I challenge you to learn both about the beauty and bruises of a place so you can share your more complete understanding and deeper insight with other adventures and wanderlusters.
What to Do
Visit Historic Buildings in Palermo
Palermo is the capital city of Sicily and is the perfect destination for exploring historic buildings, rich history, and inspiring architecture. A few must-see buildings are:
- Casa Professa—known as “The Church of Jesus,” this baroque is full of striking carvings, paintings and ornate detail. It was once a convent for Basillian monks and early Christian catacombs are also located there.
- The Massimo Theatre—Started in 1875, this is the largest opera house in Italy. Attend an opera, ballet or symphony while in the city and take in this remarkable piece of history
- Palazzo Comitini—A baroque palace, this piece of history is a must-see. They offer free guided tours every 30 minutes for an opportunity to both see the beauty and learn the history.
- Palazzo Sant’Elia—Another baroque mansion, is a hub of art, music and literature. It hosts a number of exhibitions and events which are open to the public.
Explore the Greek Temples in Agrigento, Selinunte, and Segesta
I love learning about ancient Greek history and these temples do not disappoint! I feel Sicily is THE place to go if you want to learn about it.
Segesta is in the Northwestern part of Sicily and you can visit the ancient temple, Sanctuary of the Mango and theatre. The Sanctuary of the Mango is a sanctuary that was excavated outside of the mango district.
Selinunte is on the Southwestern coast of Sicily. This is quite a large excavation with city ruins and here you can see three temples known as E, F, and G. A transport service is available for tourists so you can explore different parts of the site.
Agrigento is also on the Southwestern coast of Sicily. It’s one of the oldest cities in Sicily and was founded in 1851 B.C. by Greek settlers. Here you can visit The Valley of the Temples which is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Partake in the Arab Infusion of Culture and Art at Monreale
Monreale is a hilltown famous for its mosaic cathedral. These mosaics are some of the greatest in Italian history. It’s an infusion of arab culture and art and there’s an old proverb that says “whoever visits Palermo without visiting Monreale arrives a donkey and leaves an (excuse my french, but the quote says it ;-))… ass.”
Fish, Shop, Climb and Explore in Cefalu
Another community within Palermo, Cefalu has streets lined with exquisite shops and restaurants. You can climb La rocca di Cefalu cliff which is a fortified cliff that overlooks the town. On the UNESCO world heritage list is also the Cefalu Cathedral.
Take a Full-Day or Half-Day Excursion to Mt. Etna
Mt. Etna, an active volcano, is one of Sicily’s most popular attractions. It’s also on the UNESCO world heritage list. In the summer, visitors can hike the active craters and in winter, it’s home to many winter sports such as skiing.
Visit 3 UNESCO Heritage Sites: Noto, Modica, and Ragusa
Modica, Noto, and Ragusa are all late baroque towns that are on the UNESCO world heritage sites list. These towns were all rebuilt in 1693 following an earthquake. The towns were rebuilt on or beside towns that existed prior to the catastrophic earthquake and are a great rebuilding achievement. They’re known for their innovative town planning and urban building.
Where to Eat In and Around Sicily
Food, food and food is at the heart of Sicily! Let’s talk about some great places to eat!
Ristorante Hotel Signum
Dine with a sea view, in the lovely garden, or at the bar. This restaurant is open to both hotel guests and the general public, allowing you to savor the culinary delights of Chef Martina Curos. You’ll find decadent dishes that feature local fish, quality meats, garden vegetables and a divine wine menu.
Hostaria San Pietro
Hailed as “genuine Sicilian food at it’s best,” this restaurant and pizzeria is a charming place with a warm atmosphere and divine dishes! They feature a lot of traditional roman cuisine and make their pizza using Roman dough. They serve everything from appetizers to pasta to meat and cheese dishes to fish, pizza, side dishes and more.
Osteria Rosso Divino
A lovely family atmosphere, this charming restaurant is a great spot to drink good wine and savor yummy food. It has a beautiful founding story about three women who had a dream of building something authentic, found the right venue, hand-selected all the furniture and decor, and built this lovely restaurant and inn. The food is always procured from local producers and they are passionate about the best flavors, sustainability and the local economy.
Located in Ragusa, this restaurant is also a bakery and pastry shop so you can delight in it all! And delight you should! This is a must-stop and was given the Michelin plate for good cooking by the globally renowned Michelin Guide. You can also buy pastries and bread to bring back to the hotel for a second, third (or fourth!) treat.
Another Michelin guide restaurant, Ristorante Crocifisso is chic and modern with a fabulous wine list, scrumptious desserts and incredible food. It’s been recommended by so many food guides that it’s an absolute must-try. It’s frequented by locals and often booked so make sure to book in advance.
A stunning beachside restaurant with floor to ceiling windows for a remarkable view, Ristorante Vittorio is known for its seafood. From octopus to deep fried fish to prawns to a selection pasta, you’ll find some of the Mediterranean’s best flavors and delicious wine pairings.
The Pricipe Cerami
Another Michelin star restaurant, The Pricipe Cerami overlooks the ocean for a beautiful view and incredible dining experience. Located in the San Domenico Palace Hotel, it’s a picturesque and charming scene for what one might imagine is a romantic dinner in Sicily. You’ll delight in everything from seared squid with toasted hazelnuts and smoked ewe’s cheese to gnocchi filled with summer black truffle to lamb loin with rosemary sauce to a catch of the day with onion, tomato and bread crumble.
A chic and modern restaurant, reservations are a must at this delightful space. They feature everything from an 8-course tasting menu to fresh mozzarella to seabass, barbecued meat, pizza and more. Reviewers rave about this fine dining experience and the chef’s creative take on traditional Sicilian food.
This restaurant is incredibly quaint and if you visit during summer, you can opt for a meal on the terrace overlooking the ocean. It holds a Michelin star, is featured on many food guides and serves beautifully presented and creative dishes. From fresh tuna caught the same-day to a 6-course tasting menu, you cannot go wrong with a meal here.
I hope you have enjoyed reading our Sicily City Guide! For more information contact Exalt Africa Experiences.
Until next time