- Airports – Catania Fontanarossa Airport (CTA)
- Language – Italian
- Population – 5 million (Sicily)
- Currency – Euro (EUR)
- GDP (Italy) – $2.1 trillion (8th Overall)
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and lies just off the coast of Italy’s boot. With a history that dates back almost 3,000 years, Sicily is full of rich culture, incredible cuisine, and amazing architecture. If you’re planning on traveling to Italy, we highly recommend a stop in Sicily. Below are all of our recommendations for your Sicily travel!
When visiting Sicily, we recommend staying in Taormina, about a half-hour drive from Catania. Taormina is a small town in the mountains, with outstanding views of the Mediterranean, many restaurants, and a location that serves as an ideal base for great day trips. It also sits near Mount Etna, which is an active volcano. At night, you can even see the lava forming at the tip of the volcano!
The best time to visit Sicily is between May and July when the weather is most enjoyable. Taormina is also known for the Teatro Antico di Taormina, which is one of the most famous Ancient Roman Theaters in the world. Dating back to the third century BC, this theater is the second largest of its kind in Sicily.
Where to Stay
The Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is an excellent choice for those looking for a luxurious experience. The views from the hotel are impeccable and some of the most beautiful in the world. From the hotel balcony, you can see amazing views of the Mediterranean. Because the hotel sits on a hill-top, there are also beautiful views of Mt. Etna. When we were in Sicily, Mt. Etna was active and at night, we could see the lava running down the volcano – a view we will never forget as long as we live.
The hotel is located in town, providing easy access to all the restaurants and shops that Taormina has to offer. Everything is within walking distance, which is definitely an advantage of staying there.
The Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo also has a sister hotel, called The Villa Sant’Andrea. Visitors staying at either hotel have access to all of the amenities that each has to offer. Since Villa Sant’Andrea is located on the water, it has a beach and boats for visitors to enjoy. Depending on whether want to be located in the town, or on the water, you cannot go wrong with either hotel!
Explore Mount Etna
Our favorite activity in Sicily was the tour of Mount Etna. This was one of the most memorable days of our lives. The tour consists of a hike up the volcano during which we experienced incredible views. Your tour guide will pick you up at your hotel in a Jeep, and you will drive up to Mt. Etna. Along the way, you will also stop at a few sights to take pictures, and enjoy some local cuisine. At the end of the hike, your tour guide will take you to a vineyard for a wine tasting and a “light” lunch. This lunch was definitely an unforgettable experience.
Visit the Wineries
If you want the full Sicilian experience while visiting Sicily, you must visit at least one of their amazing wineries. Sicily is known for some of the best wine in Italy. No matter which one you chose to visit, you are bound to have one of the most memorable and extraordinary days you have ever experienced.
We went to Planeta Winery, where they gave us six types of wine, and a seven-course meal filled with fresh bread and olive oil made on site, plenty of antipasto, fresh pasta arrabbiata and cookies for dessert. This is an absolute must when in Sicily, and can be added to the end of your Tour of Mt. Etna! There are other wineries that you can visit as well. Some of the other notable ones included Gambino Winery and Benanti.
See an Opera Show
Ancient Greco-Roman theaters are a must-visit spot when in Sicily! The famous theater in Taormina is called the Teatro Antico di Taormina and you can attend many events there today, as it is still in use. There are many shows and operas that visitors and locals attend daily.
Valle Del Templi in Agrigento
While Agrigento is the poorest area in Sicily, don’t let that prevent you from visiting. The temple and statue are both beautiful to see.
There is nothing more exciting than trying a city’s local cuisine. Sicily is best known for the cannoli and arancini balls. A cannoli is an Italian pastry filled with a ricotta cream cheese filling. On any corner you turn, you are bound to find an amazing cannoli. My favorite cannoli was from a little street vendor. It was stuffed with gelato and then dipped in chocolate. Can you say YUM?! I still dream about this cannoli.
Foods to Try
An arancini ball is a stuffed rice ball which is then breaded and fried. Some are stuffed with cheese as well. If you have a sweet tooth, you can find some arancini balls rolled in cinnamon and sugar, and even some stuffed with Nutella. Nothing about this sounds too shabby to me!
Caponata is an eggplant dish consisting of other roasted vegetables including tomatoes and capers, baked in a sweet and sour sauce. It is often served with fresh bread and olive oil.
Pasta alla Norma
Pasta alla norma is a Sicilian pasta dish with tomatoes and eggplant, finished with freshly grated ricotta cheese. It is simple yet delicious. You should go to Osteria Rosso Di Vino if you want to try amazing Pasta alla norma in Sicily. The food, atmosphere, and service were all impeccable.
If you are in the mood for something sweet and light, you have to try some granita. It comes in various fruity flavors and is a hybrid of sorbet and water ice. You can get it at any café or gelato shop. My favorite flavor was the strawberry that they served poolside at my hotel, the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo. It is the perfect treat on a hot summer day!
People have argued whose cannolis are better – those from Sicily or Venice. Try one out and you decide!
Take a Cooking Class
What’s more fun than taking a cooking class on the largest Italian island in the Mediterranean, one of the culinary capitals of the world? Learning from the best of the best, you are sure to come home with some amazing recipes that will definitely impress your family and friends. And don’t forget an unforgettable experience! I would recommend using Experience Taormina to book a class and find some other fun activities as well.
Take a Half-Day Boat Trip
There’s nothing better than exploring by water. If you’re a boat person, you should definitely look into taking a boat out on the Mediterranean. It is one thing to see the water from land, but it is quite another to actually see it up close and experience the views first hand! Our hotel had a free boat trip included in our stay, but you can find a boat excursion trip using Experience Taormina as well!