10 stunning reasons to visit captivating Sicily

Mount Etna from the Taormina amphitheatre

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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. If you’re looking for things to do in Sicily then prepare for a barrage of choices.

Sicily is where natural beauty meets humanity in an incredible melting pot of culture, landscapes and cuisine. You’ll find a smouldering volcano, ancient ruins, a vibrant culture and towns where time stands still .

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. We hope it provides inspiration for your own travels.

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Top 10 ideas for what to do in Sicily

what to see in sicily

Lonely planet sicily
DK eyewitness Sicily
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Rick Steves Sicily

1 | Discover ancient monuments

Top 10 things to see in Sicily - 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.

You can visit the Valley of the Temples on a day trip from Catania or you can also take a tour from Palermo.

2 | Enjoy the unique and spectacular coastline

What to see in Sicily - 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.

Read: 50 beautiful small towns in Italy

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.

READ:   A feast! Savouring the authentic tastes of Venice

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.

This region is one of my favourite places to go in Sicily.

Read: 35 of the best cities to visit in Italy 

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 - Sicily what to do

Your vacation 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.

READ:   The missing bite .. a discovery of tastes in Italy

8 | Cycle through fragrant lemon groves

Lemon groves in Sicily - best places to visit 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 the beautiful groves dripping with fruit.

This property near Avola in the south of Sicily also had a fantastic restaurant, wine bar and pool. 

Click for more information about the farm stay in the lemon groves

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

Mount Etna - what to see in Sicily

Etna dominates Sicily. Even when you can’t see the volcano you can feel its presence. And Etna made her presence felt in 2017 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.

A bonus Sicily highlight: Ortigia, Syracusa

Scenes from Ortigia Syracusa - sicily italy travel

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.

Even more things to do in Sicily


Sicily ceramic symbol - Sicily highlights

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. (You can read our tips for driving in Italy here)

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 and these other hidden secrets of this special region of Italy.

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

In fact, I’m almost tempted to write a Sicily travel blog!

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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47 thoughts on “10 stunning reasons to visit captivating Sicily

  1. Phoebe | Lou Messugo says:

    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 says:

    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. California Globetrotter says:

    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. Erin Gustafson (@oregongirlworld) says:

    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

  5. differentshoresblog says:

    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…

  6. Clare Thomson says:

    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

  7. Amanda Afield says:

    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!

    • Katy says:

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

  8. fifi + hop says:

    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

  9. afamilydayout says:

    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

  10. Kat says:

    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

  11. Wherejogoes says:

    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

  12. MummyTravels says:

    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

  13. Juliette | Snorkels To Snow says:

    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

  14. mymeenalife says:

    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

  15. Hilary says:

    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

  16. CatherineRose says:

    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?)

  17. Kat says:

    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

  18. Nancy says:

    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 ?

    • Katy says:

      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

  19. Annabel Kirk says:

    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!

  20. daisythebus says:

    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

    • Katy says:

      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!

  21. My Little Italian Kitchen says:

    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!

    • Katy says:

      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

  22. Ali May says:

    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

  23. Four Acorns says:

    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.

    • Katy says:

      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

  24. Charysse says:

    WOW! Looks amazing. Do you have the name of the agriturismo in #8 with the lemon groves. Looks amazing! Going to Sicily next May.

  25. Vicki says:

    Looks beautiful! We are going in August, very excited!
    What is the name of the farm stay where you cycled through the lemon groves to get to the beach?
    Sounds perfect!

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