GMT +1 hour
Discover this stunning island's natural beauty and historic sights
The beautiful island of Sicily is an intriguing blend of European style, history and exotic flare. Located between mainland Italy and Tunisia, Italy's largest island is blessed with a beautiful climate, breathtaking scenery and incredible sights that chronicle Mediterranean history and culture over the centuries.
Sicily's unique culture is complemented by stunning natural beauty - rolling valleys swathed in olive trees and vineyards, spectacular views of Mount Etna, and over 1000 miles of pristine coastline surrounded by exotic islands. Hiring a car is a great way to explore this beautiful island at your own pace. Spend time discovering fascinating ruins, charming towns and some of Italy's finest cuisine.
Best time to visit
From March to October for bright, sunny days. Touring and sightseeing are best done in the quiter period from November to February, but beaches and outdoor swimming pools are shut at this time.
Picturesque Taormina is perched high on Mount Tauro in sight of Mount Etna. This historical town is buzzing with intimate piazzas, chic boutiques, jewellery and antique shops, street cafés and restaurants plus a fine Greco-Roman amphitheatre. Believed by many to date back to the 3rd Century BC, this incredible site offers visitors the chance to take a step back in time and enjoy the incredible views. Regular events take place at the theatre during the summer months, including concerts, a film festival, operas and ballet performances.
The town's bustling main street, Corso Umberto, is lined with souvenir shops, restaurants and boutiques. At the western end of this traffic-free road is the Porto Catania – one of the two remaining city gates – which sits adjacent to the one of the town's most exquisite palaces, the Palazzo Duca di Santo Stefano. Taormina's other attractions include the iconic 17th-Century fountain located in the main cathedral square, the cathedral itself – an eye-catching example of medieval-baroque architecture – and the delightful gardens at Villa Comunale.
Sitting in the shadow of Taormina is the charming village of Taormina Mare which sits on the water's edge and boasts picturesque pebble beaches, coves and rocky inlets. Guests staying at one of our handpicked beachside resorts can easily reach the centre of Taormina by taking a three minute funicular ride.
Perched high above Taormina and at the foot of the ruins of a striking Norman castle sits the enchanting hamlet of Castelmola which boasts an authentic old world charm. Whether staying at our featured Castelmola hotel or in Taormina, visitors can take time to explore the narrow and winding cobbled lanes and enjoy 360° views that encompass the Sicilian coast, the glistening Ionian Sea and the slopes of Mount Etna.
Situated on Sicily's east coast, the lively beachside resort of Giardini Naxos was once just a small fishing village. The seafront of this sweeping bay is lined with a number of restaurants, bars and hotels.
Known as Thermae Selinuntinas to the Romans, Sciaccia is situated close to the natural thermal baths of Monte Kronio, which dominates this charming fishing village – once an important trading port between Sicily and North Africa. Throughout the village a mixture of architectural styles and influences – from Arabic to Norman – can be witnessed. Just as it has been for centuries, fishing is Sciacca's main industry and a visit to the port as the morning's catch is landed is not to be missed.
The attractive city of Syracuse lies on the southeast coast and is steeped in history. In the 5th Century BC, Syracuse fought off an attack from the Athenians and a wealth of remnants stand testimony to its classical past. Admire the city's famous baroque architecture and visit the Parco Archeologico della Neapolis to discover the remains of a 5th-Century Greek theatre and a Roman amphitheatre where gladiators once fought to the death. Cross the bridge to the tiny island of Ortygia and follow a maze of alleys, discover ancient monuments and temples, a beautiful square, 13th-Century castle and the 7th-Century Duomo di Ortigia – the oldest church in Europe which was built upon the Great Temple of Athena.
The city of Cefalù offers an alluring combination of sandy beaches, fantastic shops, fine seafood restaurants and lively bars along with an array of historic treasures. The 12th-Century cathedral is dominated by two Norman towers and the city's winding medieval streets are a joy to explore. Climb La Rocca, a limestone cliff for spectacular sweeping views over Cefalù.
Imperial Palermo is built around a splendid natural harbour and boasts fantastic restaurants and shops, fascinating churches and beautiful Norman monuments. A mixture of cultures meet here with evidence of Spanish, Arabic, French and Norman architecture interspersed throughout the city. Visitors can leave the crowds behind and explore the gardens of Real Tenuta della Favorita, a former hunting ground, or visit the colourful and extensive botanic gardens, with exotic plants from all corners of the earth.
The island of Sicily boasts incredible examples of ancient Greek architecture around its idyllic shores, particularly at the archaeological parks of Agrigento and Selinunte. Majestic Agrigento is home to the Valley of Temples which boasts some of the finest Greek Doric temples outside of Greece. This great Greek city, which was known as Akragas, is thought to have been built between 510 and 430 BC and was once one of the most important Greek settlements in the Mediterranean. Set on Sicily's southwest coast, on a high plain overlooking the sea, is the imposing archaeological park of Selinunte which boasts the remains of one of five original temples that were built around a central acropolis.
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Sicily is a tourist box of chocolates and as the island is so large I would recommend considering a multi centre holiday and hiring a car. Taormina is a great place to start with its fascinating warren of small lanes boasting a formidable variety of shops, bars and restaurants.
As you wander around you see enticing glimpses of the stunning coastline far below. Mt Etna is an excursion not to be missed. A trip to Bar Vitelli in Savoca, used in The Godfather film is a must – it feels just like stepping straight into the film set. Take a circular day drive around the coast to picturesque Cefalu and then back through the mountainous countryside. You will not fail to be amazed by the views around every corner and may be lucky enough like us to be invited to join in a village Sunday lunch. The southern part of the island is different again with some historic cities and towns. And the food – well as you expect in Italy it never disappoints.