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This triangular island just off the toe of Italy’s boot is constantly winning travel award accolades. The largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily was voted as ‘The World’s Favourite Island’ by Conde Nast Traveller readers in 2009. Thousands of tourists per year flock to Sicily to enjoy its quiet beaches, fantastic food and wine and soak up its rich history and culture. Delve deeper and it is very easy to understand why this slice of Italy has clocked up so many fans over the years.
Small, but perfectly formed Sicily is full of villages dating from Medieval times, ancient Greek and Roman ruins and stunning landscapes of lemon trees, vineyards, and olive groves all in the shadow of the volcanic Mount Etna. The smouldering giant is the tallest volcano in Europe and, at 3319 metres (10,890 feet), it looms over the towns and cities below.
Taormina is postcard Italy. Its cream-coloured houses are concealed by vines and other greenery that spills from balconies. At its centre, is one of the most celebrated ruins in Sicily – the ‘Teatro Greco’ – a Greek amphitheatre that overlooks the beach. A short distance from Taormina is resort town and family-favourite Giardini Naxos. Cefalu is also extremely popular for Sicily holidays with its labyrinth of backstreets and collection of ancient Greek ruins, the most famous of which is the Temple of Diana.
Sicily is a truly year-round destination due to its typically Mediterranean climate meaning mild and wet winters and hot, dry summers. Sicily’s summer climate alternates between hot and very hot. Temperatures begin to climb in April and from May to September; it tends to range from 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) to 34 degrees Celsius (93 Fahrenheit). However on any average summer day, temperatures in Sicily may rise to a sweltering 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit).
To walking around Sicily’s capital can feel like you are flicking through a history book. The church San Giovanni degli Eremiti (St John of the Hermits) is one of the city’s must-sees. First built in the 6th century its Moorish arches and mosque-like domed roof are no accident after the Islamic conquest of Sicily, it was converted into a mosque. Equally impressive is Palermo Cathedral, which features a mix of a wide variety of architectural styles. The closest holiday resort is Cefalu about an hour’s drive away.
This fishing port on the north coast of Sicily is sleepy for most of the year. In summer it’s a different story, the population swells as scores of holidaymakers descend on the town to take full advantage of the huge sandy beach stroll the Medieval Old Town and quant fishermen’s quarter and explore the Greek ruins of La Rocca while taking in fantastic views of the town and harbour on their holidays in Sicily.
Situated on Sicily’s eastern coast, 5 kilometers (3 miles) to the south of the medieval town of Taormina, you’ll find Giardini Naxos. Once a sleepy fishing village, the town has grown into a bustling resort. That’s all thanks to its spectacular location, on the edge of a sweeping bay in the shadow of Mount Etna.
It has been dubbed the Monte Carlo of Sicily and Hollywood legends Greta Garbo and Cary Grant were once frequent visitors to Taormina, on the east coast of Sicily. Even now this charming resort still draws the rich and famous alongside more ordinary people to its pretty piazzas, medieval old quarter, and amazing views of Mount Etna. There’s also the well-maintained ‘Teatro Greco’ Greek amphitheatre, designer shops to indulge in a little spending in and the opportunity to eat some of the best pasta on the whole island. Taormina Mare, the name given to the bays below the cliff-top Taormina town is a short cable car ride away. Here you’ll find both sandy and pebbly beaches, and beachfront promenades lined with restaurants and bars, where you can taste a range of delicious meals on your Sicily holidays.
Situated on Mount Etna’s south-eastern slopes, is the laid-back town of Santa Venerina surrounded by woodland and terraced vineyards. Known as one of the Cities of Wine the town’s distillery produces varieties such as limoncello and grappa. The town is also home to some of the east coast’s best beaches and is tantalizingly close to the smoldering peaks of Mt Etna.
In the Madonie Mountains in the north of Sicily you’ll find a villager with almost deserted squares, laundry flapping in the breeze on balconies, and elderly citizens sitting on front porches exchanging gossip – conjure an image up in your mind of a provincial village in Sicily and that image is likely to look like Lascari. For the same reason Lascari was the set for the Oscar-winning 1988 movie Cinema Paradiso.
It you are looking for a little peace and quiet for your holidays to Sicily the compact town of Letojanni is perfect. The pace of life makes here makes it a haven for Italian and international tourist alike. It’s more about relaxing and soaking up the atmosphere hitting the nightclubs here. It is also very close to swanky Taormina.
Surf, sand and sun are Sicily’s primary attractions, but if you want to take a break from the beaches or you’re travelling to the island outside of summer, there is a wealth of other things to do on holidays in Sicily.
Book a tour to hike up the black slopes of Mount Etna. You can stop half way up at the Sapienza Refuge tourist hub for refreshments, then travel to the summit via cable car.
Take a day trip to the picturesque seaside town of Sciacca on your Sicily holidays. Watch the world go by from a pavement cafe as you soak up the atmosphere around the port and then enjoy the great views from its promenade.
Just outside Agrigento is the ancient Valle dei Templi or Valley of the Temples. One of Sicily’s most famous historical attractions and the largest archeological park in the world, this UNESCO-listed archaeological park contains the remains of a number of temples and is one of the greatest examples of Greater Greece art and architecture.
The food in Sicily is unique to the island, and an always delicious mix of Mediterranean flavours with Greek influences. The seafood in particularly is good, Italian classics such as pizza and pasta are also plentiful. One Sicilian favourite arancini di riso, fried rice balls filled with cheese or meat.
For nightlife, head to the bigger resort towns like Cafalu which have a good choice of bars and clubs, and in Palermo, there are a multitude of alfresco bars and restaurants which are great places to kick back and relax on a warm evening during your holidays to Sicily.