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Known as the ‘Crossroads of the Mediterranean’, sunny Sicily is a delight. Praised by Homer, prized by the Phoenicians and endowed with a fascinating blend of Greek, Roman and Carthaginian cultures, Sicily still retains a unique identity that beckons the traveller back time and time again. There are so many things to do in Sicily that it would take a lifetime to explore them all.
From the island’s glorious beaches to its brooding heart, Mount Etna, cruising the blue waters of its coastline or savouring every mouthful at the best restaurants in Sicily, life here is all about relishing that sense of wonder, enjoyment, and family. Pour yourself a glass of sweet limoncello, sit back, and let us take you on a guide to the top things to do in Sicily.
Let’s start our guide of things to do in Sicily with the one thing everyone wants on a holiday – a beautiful beach. The trouble is that there are so many stunning shorelines and sandy oases on Sicily that it's difficult to narrow it down. However, we’ve tried our best and here are our top five:
Remote, windswept dunes tumble down to an endless expanse of pristine sand, and the only footprints on this beach are your own. Incredibly secluded and surrounded by a nature reserve run by the World Wildlife Fund, this is the beach to go to for glorious solitude. The turn-off for the beach is on the road between Agrigento and Selinunte.
This is, without a doubt, the best beach in Sicily for families. A swoop of soft golden sand, safe, clean waters, and a historic town (full of gelato sellers) a few steps away make this beach a hit with parents and little ones alike.
This is an explorer's beach: lined with coves, grottos and caves. It's well off the beaten track, so don't expect a host of facilities other than a long, zig-zagging path that leads down to one of the most beautiful and wild beaches on the island.
Take the ten-minute cable car trip from the town of Taormina down to Isola Bella, a crescent-shaped bay that boasts some of the best swimming and snorkelling in Sicily.
Tucked away near Noto, this is a favourite with the locals. Sugar-soft sand shelves gently into warm, shallow water. You’re just a few minutes' stroll from the Vendicari nature reserve and a ten-minute drive from the Planeta Buonivini vineyard, ideal if all that sunbathing leaves you thirsty for a glass of wine or two.
While the beaches may call to you, there are plenty of other things to do in Sicily. This is a big island with many attractions, from the towering Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo to the beautiful UNESCO Heritage town of Modica, home to Sicily’s best chocolate. Here are some of the more unusual and unique things to do in Sicily.
In Syracuse, you’ll find a cathedral-like rock formation that’s been altered by some very clever ancient stonemasons. No matter where you stand in this cavernous space and how quietly you speak, your whispered words can be heard echoing throughout the chamber. Known as the Ear of Dionysius, it’s an awe-inspiring place. Just up the road in Syracuse itself is the church of Santa Lucia alla Badia, in Piazza Duomo. This is an excellent spot for art lovers, as it's home to the magnificent Burial of Saint Lucia by Italian master Caravaggio.
Yes, you read that right. In the heart of the island and one of the ultimate things to see in Sicily, sits the towering cone of Mount Etna, one of Europe's most active volcanoes. During the winter, its slopes are covered in snow, not lava. And while it may not have all the facilities of your average alpine resort, who wouldn’t want to say that they’ve skied down the slopes of an active volcano? Guided tours will take you up the volcano and lead you back down again, making this one of those ultimate bucket list things to do in Sicily.
If you want jaw-dropping, stop-you-in-your-tracks scenery, it doesn’t come much more dramatic or unique than the white cliffs of Scala dei Turchi. Translating as ‘Stairs of the Turks’, these dazzlingly white cliffs were once the haunt of Moorish and Turk pirates. On a sunny day, the cliffs are so white that you genuinely need to wear sunglasses to look at them. And if that wasn’t enough, there are a couple of delightful beaches at the foot of the cliffs, where you can cool down and paddle in warm, tranquil waters.
Shortly after the Spanish came across America, they brought back the secrets of one of our most beloved and indulgent treats – chocolate. In Modica, they’ve left the whole silky-smooth version to the Swiss and stuck with the original Aztec recipe for creating chocolate delicacies. The result is grainy yet utterly delicious chocolate that can also be flavoured with anything from sea salt or ginger to hot chilli peppers.
In all the major cities and towns across the island, you'll find a uniquely Sicilian form of entertainment – Opera dei Pupi. Telling the tales of the island’s history, these puppet theatres re-enact poems and tales using exquisitely made wooden puppets. It’s a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the folk tales of the island, a part of the Sicilian culture that’s incredibly important to the local people.
Although Sicily is technically part of Italy, its cuisine is very different. You won’t find as much cream or butter in Sicilian dishes, but you will find a lot more use of aromatic herbs and spices, a nod to the island’s multi-cultural influences from Africa and Arabia. Even Sicilian olives are different from the mainland version.
In Sicily's restaurants, you'll find everything from local specialities like pasta alla Norma, or the flavourful Caponata, to classic Italian food cooked with an unmistakable Sicilian flourish. High-quality restaurants are plentiful on the island, so it’s hard to know which to pick. To help you out, we’ve listed our favourite three below.
Its reputation as one of the best restaurants in Sicily and its unique location in a medieval castle make Ristorante Regina Lucia truly special. Local produce is crafted into sumptuous dishes, accompanied by Sicilian wine and an extra helping of atmosphere - it's an unforgettable spot for a celebratory meal.
With two Michelin stars and a location in a former monastery, Principe Cerami showcases fusion food that takes the finest elements of Sicilian cuisine and gives them a new twist. The Mediterranean red mullet is superb. To get a real flavour of Sicily, the restaurant offers tasting menus that will excite even the most refined palate.
With a focus on sustainable cuisine and with two Michelin stars, La Madia in Licata takes Sicilian cooking to the next level. Chef Pino Cuttaia and his team are passionate about Sicilian ingredients and capture the true taste of the island, with minimal food miles and maximum flavour. Tradition is at the heart of their menu, which includes signature dishes such as Nebrodi black pig.
Here at onefinestay, our mission is to transport you to some of the most exquisite destinations in the world, where you can experience new cultures, see the world’s best attractions, laze on the most beautiful beaches, and stay in the most elegant villas. While you’re discovering the best places in Sicily, we’re busy organising everything behind the scenes. Our concierges are here to organise your car rental, book babysitting services, arrange for a personal chef to cook that special meal, or order a delivery of local produce and wine to fill your villa refrigerator.
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