Steaming craters, scorching countryside, ancient ruins and clear blue waters – Sicily holidays are all about history, heat and hideaway hotels
One moment you’ll be in the hot hills of a mountain village among dancing lizards and the sound of sheep bells, the next a mere speck on the horizon as you scale the slopes of iconic Mount Etna. Far from volcanic scenery, perfect bronze beaches lead out to the clearest blue waters and historic trails serpentine through ancient worlds of Greek and Roman ruins.
Sicily holidays are for those with a penchant for landscapes scattered with olive trees and vineyards, sun drenched beaches, medieval towns and a taste of some of the best food in the Med. This is no faraway deserted island and its sheer size can be overwhelming, but always in the most beautiful sense. There’s that thoroughly romantic drive through orange and lemon groves past velvety hills and farmsteads as the scent of rosemary and sage lingers. Then there’s the handsome beaches of Isola Bella and San Vito lo Capo, the ice cream parlours and independent shops that jam tiny Old Towns and the fanciful decorations in grand cathedrals and decadent restaurants.
We’ve seen the breathtaking sandstone city of Modica, lazed on the hot stones of pretty pebble beaches, travelled by train along Mount Etna’s base and dined al fresco under a brilliant sun. We’ve become attached to the blushing gold stone centre of Syracuse, to the sidewalk cafes where icy granita and sweet brioche are served and to vineyards producing sensational Sicilian wines. We can tell you the best places to go on holidays to Sicily whether you want to run your hands along the famous ‘Bikini Girls’ mosaic at Villa Romana del Casale, see the spell-binding white cliffs of Scala dei Turchi or cool off in bracing lagoons inside the Alcantara Gorges.
Whether you want an award-winning spa hotel on the south west coast or a luxury boutique hotel in the heart of historic Taormina, our Italy experts are on hand to create your Sicilian island escape.
Best time to visit Sicily
• The best time to visit is from March to October, when days are brighter and sunny,
• For touring and visiting the magnificent sights of the region, the quieter period of the year (November to February) is more relaxing and enjoyable.
• From November to March, beaches and outdoor swimming pools are not always open.
Sicily holiday highlights
Visit the gorgeous beaches of Isola Bella and San Vito lo Capo, head to the countryside for a taste of unique wines in sprawling vineyards, detour to Piazza Armenia for extraordinary Roman mosaics at Villa Romana del Casale and day trip to the archaeological parks of Agrigento and Selinunte for UNESCO World Heritage Site Valley of Temples and the crumbling ruins of an ancient Greek city.
The elegant town of Taormina is perched high above the Ionian Sea and in sight of Mount Etna buzzes with intimate piazzas, chic boutiques, street cafés and restaurants. It historic centre has a beautiful open-air Greco-Roman amphitheatre with events taking place throughout the summer months. Sitting in its shadow is the charming water’s edge village of Taormina Mare home to picturesque pebble beaches, coves and rocky inlets. It’s a bit of a trek between the two but thankfully there’s a funicular to whisk you up or down the hillside.
The city of Syracuse, on the southeast coast, is steeped in history dating back nearly 3,000 years. Admire the city's famous baroque architecture, visit the Parco Archeologico della Neapolis for remains of a 5th-Century Greek theatre and a Roman amphitheatre, and cross the bridge to the tiny island of Ortigia following a maze of alleys to ancient monuments and temples, a 13th-century castle and the 7th-Century Duomo di Ortigia – the oldest church in Europe.
Experience seaside charm and mouth watering Sicilian food in Cefalù where an alluring combination of sandy beaches, fantastic shops, fine seafood restaurants and historic treasures await. 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.
Where is Sicily
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, separated from the ‘toe’ of mainland Italy by a strait that’s just 1.9 miles wide.
Hiring a car is the best option for exploring the length and breadth of this beautiful island, giving you the option to discover beaches, countryside, ancient ruins and spectacular coastline on your own schedule. The train and bus networks on Sicily are not as easy to navigate as they are on mainland Italy, but it is still possible to travel from town to village with a little research. The major bus lines are SAIS, Interbus and AST, but bear in mind that on this laidback island they don’t always run to time. Blue buses run between cities and orange buses provide a local service.
Food & drink
Expect arancini and timballini pasta street food style on-the-go, catch-of-the-day grilled on the barbecue at beachside cafés, aperitivo in elegant piazzas and decadent fine dining in lavish restaurants. There are Greek, Arab and Spanish influences everywhere you go from a fertile land of countryside produce and fresh from the sea delights. The seafood is stupendous – red shrimp, tuna, swordfish and anchovies – and pastas are seasoned with garlic, herbs, capers and seeds. The wine scene is on the rise with innovative delights producing fantastic whites and bold reds. Try granita e brioche for breakfast, pasta allo scoglio for lunch and cassata for dessert. There’s also a wealth of fine dining as creative chefs take over the island – we recommend a trip to the town of Noto for a true Sicilian culinary adventure.
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