10 stunning reasons to visit captivating Sicily

10 stunning reasons to visit captivating Sicily

Make no mistake. Sicily gets under your skin. The largest island in the Mediterranean is, of course, part of Italy but it has a unique character of its own.

Sicily is where natural beauty meets humanity in an incredible melting pot of cultures, landscapes and cuisine. We spent a week on the island and found so many exciting things to do in Sicily. A week was not nearly enough.

Read on to discover the highlights of a trip to Sicily.

Top 10 highlights of Sicily

1 | Discover ancient monuments

Temple of Concordia and fallen Icarus at Valle dei Templi Agrigento Sicily

Over the centuries Sicily was occupied by many civilisations and regimes. The Ancient Greeks absolutely left their mark. At Valle dei Templi near Agrigento and Taormina, we walked through the ruins of temples and an amphitheatre that have stood the test of time and numerous natural disasters.

What secrets do these stones hold? Some we will never know, but I wonder whether the structures we build today will last as long.

2 | Enjoy the unique and spectacular coastline

Scala dei Turchei Sicily coastline

The diversity of Sicily’s coastline is a large part of its natural charm. From the white stone formations of the Scala dei Turchei near Agrigento to the rocky shoreline near Taormina and beaches of the south coast, whatever your coastal preference you will find it in Sicily.

3 | Wander charming fishing villages

Marzamemi fishing village

If you like meandering along sea walls and checking out the catch of the day, there is a pretty seaside fishing village for you in Sicily.

We visited Marzememi on the island’s south-east coast and loved its pretty square lined with cafes and boutiques. Cats lounged in the sun and looked for fish in crystal clear waters of the tiny harbour.

4 | Eat the freshest seafood

Seafood platter from seafront restaurant in Avola

Straight off the boat and onto your plate. Seafood doesn’t get fresher or tastier than that. The variety and quality of seafood on offer in Sicily is incredible.

This huge platter of local delicacies cost us €10 and was one of the food highlights of our trip.

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5 | Explore elaborate Baroque towns

Bartoque towns of the Val di Noto

Sicily’s Val di Noto is the world’s largest UNESCO world heritage listed area. The cities of this region including Noto, Modica, and Ragusa were destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 1693.

They were rebuilt after this trauma in ornate Baroque style and are the perfect destinations for wandering and ducking in and out of churches and small streets. Of course stopping off in cafes to enjoy the passing foot traffic is a must.

6 | Discover ancient traditions

Messina Easter procession Sicily

If you visit Sicily at Easter time you are in for a treat. Even if, like me, you are in no way religious, you will be in awe of the annual Good Friday processions that take place across the island.

In Messina we watched groups of men haul huge and extremely heavy wooden floats representing the Easter story on their shoulders through the streets of the city.

7 | Try delicious sweet treats

Eat cannoli in Sicily

Your holiday in Sicily would not be complete without tasting at least some of the island’s sweet treats. These cannoli were the best I have ever eaten and were actually not too sweet. The cream in the middle is made with whipped ricotta.

Each town seems to have their own specialty, including many different types of granite – the Sicilian version of gelato.

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8 | Cycle through fragrant lemon groves

Lemon groves in Sicily

The scent of lemon hangs in the air in Sicily. Lemon groves are found all over the countryside. We stayed in an agriturismo or farm stay property that was part of a lemon farming business and enjoyed riding bikes to the beach through these beautiful groves dripping with fruit.

9 | Enjoy colourful Sicilian ceramics

Colourful Sicilian ceramics

Throughout Sicily, you notice the colourful Maiolica or Majolica Italian tin-glazed pottery everywhere. On church floors, as shop signs and as colourful heads. There is quite a gory story or legend about the heads with the moral being to never slight a Sicilian girl.

Today artisans continue the tradition of Maiolica and you can find many exotic and creative pieces in shops across the island.

10 | Marvel at an active volcano

Mount Etna -Things to do in Sicily

Etna dominates Sicily. Even when you can’t see the volcano you can feel its presence. And Etna made her presence felt earlier this year when she erupted sending lava and ash into the air.

Volcanic activity has shaped the island and its history over the centuries so its no surprise that the volcano has been revered by the civilisations that have inhabited Sicily over many centuries.

Perhaps the most spectacular views of the volcano are through the frame of the amphitheatre in Taormina. The Greeks who built it certainly had a sense of drama.

Ortigia, Syracusa

Scenes from Ortigia Syracusa

We spent half a day in Ortigia, the old town of Syracuse and were utterly entranced.

Looking back at the photos and reflecting on our experience I think it is because Ortigia encapsulates all the elements I described before.

Syracuse was an important Greek city so there are ancient ruins to explore. In the maritime city we found the freshest fish and juicy lemons at the bustling market. The Mediterranean Sea glistens against its rocky shores and is a few short steps from elegant piazzas and soaring Baroque architecture.

It might have been all those things but it was also in Ortigia where I had my first amazing Sicilian cannoli.


Sicily ceramic symbol

Sicily gets under your skin. It is Italy condensed into a heady mix of sun, natural beauty and ancient history but with its own flavour and rhythm.

This soul and passion belong to its citizens. The Sicilian people we met were warm, generous, spirited and helpful – especially after a few mishaps with our hire car. 

Our time in southern Sicily left us wanting to explore so much more. On the list: Palermo, Cefalu, Catania, climb Etna, the northern coast and Trapani. And of course, a return trip to Ortigia.

Until next time beautiful island in the Mediterranean. You stole my heart


Dreaming of  Italy? Don’t forget to check my guide to planning your dream trip to Italy and wish list of top Italian travel experiences.


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Sicily Italy - travel guide and highlights - Valle dei Templi, Baroque towns of the Val di Noto, Taormina, Ortigia and the coastline
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43 Comments

  1. 26th April 2017 / 2:52 PM

    Sounds amazing Katy, I’ve only been to Palermo for a day but adored that little glimpse into Sicilian life. My parents who were in Sicily at the same time as you and just got back last night, and have travelled more than anyone else I know (dad has been to over 90 countries…) were, in their words, “bowled over” by the island. I think they travelled all over…I have yet to hear the details. Your top 10 highlights have inspired me even more to get back there and explore properly.

  2. Ellie Cleary
    26th April 2017 / 6:38 PM

    Looks like you had an amazing time Katy, your pictures are beautiful. Thanks for sharing this with us – and for making me desperate for cannoli…. ;-). Val di Noto looks incredible – I’ve visited Sicily a couple of times but have never made it here – it’s such a big place for an island. I’ll be sharing your post around! Ellie

  3. 27th April 2017 / 9:13 AM

    I reaaaally want to go to Sicily!!! Your post has pushed it up even more as everything looks that much more exciting!! I especially wouldn’t mind seeing the volcano! Especially from that view point! #FarawayFiles

  4. 27th April 2017 / 9:42 AM

    cannoli are so yummy! I’ve never been to Sicily but I tried them in Naples:) #farawayfiles

  5. 27th April 2017 / 10:30 AM

    I would return to Sicily just for amazing food. But yeah, everything else mentioned in your post makes it even more exciting destination to visit. 🙂 #FarawayFiles

  6. 27th April 2017 / 12:02 PM

    So beautiful. I love that white coastline – so unique. And the food! That seafood and cannoli. I would love to see a traditional Catholic Easter procession and celebration as well. Thanks for sharing – definitely saving for later! Cheers, Erin #FarawayFiles

  7. 27th April 2017 / 12:20 PM

    What a great piece. I did a road trip of Sicily in pre-digital days, it was amazing. It really is ‘heady’. My best meal ever was pesto trapanese, I ordered two plates of it. Had huge tuna steaks in Catania and some weird experiences in Palermo, I love the place and must go back. Love your images: I want that 3-legged woman thing for my garden…

  8. Clare Thomson
    27th April 2017 / 12:40 PM

    Great to read more about your trip. I’d love to go back to Sicily. We spent our time there in Taormina, Cefalu and the incredible Aeolian Islands so I’d like to explore some of the south of the country too. That plate of seafood treats looks amazing! #FarawayFiles

  9. 27th April 2017 / 12:55 PM

    Sicily sounds amazing! It is definitely on my list of places to go in Europe. #FarawayFiles

  10. 27th April 2017 / 1:23 PM

    You had me at cannoli! Seriously though, those photos are gorgeous, and it seems like an amazing place to visit! Hearing about the food only makes me want to go more!

  11. jphowze
    27th April 2017 / 2:28 PM

    I’m sold! The coastline in particular looks fantastic! #FarawayFiles

  12. 27th April 2017 / 3:37 PM

    Sicily looks amazing and I’m so fascinated by the volcano! Do they offer hiking trips there or is that too dangerous?

    • 1st May 2017 / 6:07 PM

      Yes there are hikes up to the crater but we felt our crazy little 3-year-olds were a little bit young and impulsive!

  13. 27th April 2017 / 3:43 PM

    So many great reasons to go to Sicily! Sounds like you had the perfect vacation, Katy (minus the car getting stuck). Italy has captured my heart too..clearly I need to find a way to Sicily now. Love this post. #farawayfiles

  14. afamilydayout
    27th April 2017 / 3:48 PM

    I’d love to visit Sicily primarily for the mountain walking which I’ve heard is excellent. You can never go wrong with a holiday in Italy, it’s one of my favourite countries. #Farawayfiles

  15. 27th April 2017 / 4:19 PM

    Gosh! I’ve never even considered Sicily as a holiday destination- but this has made me think again. How glorious it looks! Lemon groves and sweet treats sound like a perfect combination. #farawayfiles

  16. 27th April 2017 / 4:52 PM

    Every time I visited Malta I tried to take the Catamaran over to Sicily and every time the sea was really choppy so it was either cancelled or my aunty didn’t want to go. I’m so sad that I missed out though, it looks gorgeous! Reminds me a little bit of Malta as well. #FarawayFiles

    • 1st May 2017 / 6:09 PM

      Honestly you could spend a few weeks there so you’re going to have to make a special trip 🙂

  17. Wherejogoes
    27th April 2017 / 7:26 PM

    Stunning! The fresh sea food, the lemon groves, the fishing villages – what an evocative description of a wonderful place. The weather looks fantastic too. I must visit Sicily I can see why you say it gets under your skin. #FarawayFiles

  18. 27th April 2017 / 7:55 PM

    This sounds amazing, I’ve always been tempted by Sicily but hadn’t realised quite how much there is on the island. History, volcano, beach and fabulous food ticks all my travel boxes! #farawayfiles

  19. 27th April 2017 / 8:01 PM

    I’ve got as far as buying the guide book but not the plane tickets, time to take the next step! #farawayfiles

    • 1st May 2017 / 6:06 PM

      Just do it! As they say… it’s such a wonderful place. I could spend weeks there

  20. 28th April 2017 / 3:50 AM

    All of these are brilliant reasons to visit Sicily! I’m not sure what would be first on my list. I think obviously the scenery and fresh seafood are pretty awesome, but I’d love to see Etna in all its glory (when its not erupting!), and definitely the architecture. I think it would be incredible to witness the Good Friday procession too. And as for all the ancient monuments – wow, Sicily has it all! #farawayfiles

  21. mymeenalife
    28th April 2017 / 4:07 PM

    You’ve painted such a dreamy picture of Sicily. I had no idea about the lemon groves! The coastline and Baroque style towns really caught my eye, too. Great post! #Farawayfiles

  22. 29th April 2017 / 5:48 AM

    Honestly, I had no real idea of what Sicily had to offer, but based on these photos and your post, I’ve obviously been missing out! Everything looks amazing! I look forward to reading more about your adventures! #farawayfiles

  23. 29th April 2017 / 6:13 AM

    Wow, it’s absolutely beautiful! I love the idea of cycling through lemon groves. And those tiles, the views!!!! Did you find that there was a language barrier? (Or maybe you speak Italian – although the Sicilian dialect is quite different, isn’t it?)

  24. 29th April 2017 / 12:35 PM

    You have convinced me with this post…that’s it, I’m adding Sicily to the list! My sister has travelled to Sicily but I never got the chance to see her photos (she’s not very “social” on social media, lol!). The thought of having fresh seafood, visiting Baroque churches and the countryside, and admiring the beautiful ceramics got me excited already! Looking forward to read more about your Sicily trip 🙂 #farawayfiles

  25. 29th April 2017 / 5:49 PM

    I went to Sicily by accident (long story). We arrived late on Good Friday and came across a nighttime procession on the way to Taormina – it was a really powerful and moving experience. I’d love to go back – lots of inspiration here 🙂

    • 1st May 2017 / 3:27 PM

      I’d love to hear that long story Nancy! What a fabulous accident. The procession we saw was quite special too. I love these traditions that have spanned centuries and still continue today

  26. 30th April 2017 / 8:43 AM

    GORGEOUS. I was under the impression that Sicily was really expensive, but based on your post maybe not? Looks amazing. Did you rent a car?

  27. 30th April 2017 / 10:40 AM

    Sounds like you had a great time, lovely photos! We visited Sicily over Easter too, I was bowled over by the amount of free and child-friendly places and activities we discovered!

  28. 1st May 2017 / 4:15 AM

    Yet another reason to revisit Italy! I’d love to visit Valle dei Templi, and your photo of Etna is gorgeous!

  29. 1st May 2017 / 5:37 AM

    I have always wanted to visit Sicily, but never have 🙁 That coastline at Scala dei Turchei looks bizarre (and wonderful!). And I have made the big mistake of reading about cannoli before breakfast – absolutely ravenous now! Thanks for a great summary of what seems to be a unique and fascinating destination. #FarawayFiles

    • 3rd May 2017 / 10:16 AM

      There are so many natural wonders in Sicily and I am pretty sure the locals keep the best information all to themselves. Next time we go back I will build in some time for some Daisy the Bus style rambling as I have no doubt treasures will be unearthed!

  30. 2nd May 2017 / 7:48 PM

    I am crazy about Sicily, I cannot even describe in words how beautiful it is. And all those smells of oranges and lemons… those fabulous almond cakes.. mmm… I cannot wait to visit again. Thank you for this fabulous post!

    • 3rd May 2017 / 10:15 AM

      I agree – I’m so completely smitten with Sicily. There’s so much to explore. I’m sure you need a lifetime. Thanks so much for your lovely comment

  31. 3rd May 2017 / 1:06 PM

    I can see why it has stolen your heart! Sicily has something beautiful, tasty, historical or just simply amazing around every corner you turn (it seems). The food pics have made me drool, but the scenery looks incredible. I would LOVE to visit this place with my son (who is totally obsessed with lava and volcanoes). #Farawayfiles

    • 7th May 2017 / 10:04 AM

      Honestly Ali, Sicily has it all in one island dream package. Miss it!!

  32. 3rd May 2017 / 5:00 PM

    You had me at seafood (#4)! Sicily has long been on my travel list, and it would be great to explore the island with my crew, especially Mount Etna.
    #FarawayFiles

    • 7th May 2017 / 10:03 AM

      There’s so much natural beauty and a lot of undiscovered spots in Southern Italy in the national parks. I just know you would unearth some treasures

  33. 7th May 2017 / 4:56 PM

    Just come across this post again! Very very keen to re-visit! Loved Taormina tho i think it might be a bit more touristy these days. Which was your favourite town?

    • 8th May 2017 / 9:11 PM

      Thanks Nancy – I loved Ortigia in Syracuse. Just magical!

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