Guide to Sicily

The entire region has so much to offer

An evocative journey of discovery with enchanting natural scenery and a vast artistic and cultural heritage: this is Sicily. Young European aristocrats and men of letters knew this well even in the 18th and 19th centuries when it became the last stop on the Grand Tour, the cultural journey undertaken by the likes of Goethe.

Over the centuries, the island saw many different rulers, including the Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Normans. All of them left their mark on its character, alongside rich testimonies to their settlements. The island’s main attraction is its wealth of archaeological and culturally significant sites – many of which are on the UNESCO world heritage list. A wealth that ranges from the magnificent palaces and baroque churches in Ragusa-Ibla, Modica, Scicli, Noto, Syracuse and Catania to the archaeological excavation sites in the Valley of the Temples of Agrigento, in Selinunte and Segesta, from the ancient villas and Roman baths in Piazza Armerina to the stylised architecture of the Norman cathedrals of Palermo, Monreale and Cefalù. Among the most beautiful resorts on the island are Taormina and Cefalù. Taormina, with its bright terraces high above the sea, offers an absolutely stunning scenic view: beyond the blue bay of Isola Bella, Mount Etna rises majestically in the distance. Cefalù, with its magnificent cathedral, well-preserved medieval town centre and old harbour quarter, is often called the pearl of the northern coast. Sicily’s inland regions are just as attractive for visitors. Across the broad, softly rolling hills stretch citrus plantations, vineyards and fields of grain. Alongside them are nature reserves perfect for long walks on signposted paths, such as the Parco delle Madonie, planted with manna ash trees cultivated for their sugary sap, or the Parco dell’Etna on Europe’s highest active volcano.

Sicily is one of Italy’s most important tourist destinations and has charmed visitors for centuries thanks also to its typically mild Mediterranean climate with long hot summers and mild winters. Mountain areas are cooler with more notable climatic changes than the coast and often see snow in winter. The weather along the Ionian and Tyrrhenian coasts and on the smaller islands is generally mild in winter and hot in summer, while the southern coastal areas are more susceptible to sirocco winds from north Africa that make the air more muggy especially in the summer months. Average sea temperatures are usually above 20° from June to October and can reach 25° in August but fall to 15° in the winter months.

The greatest attraction of all, however, remains the sea. Be it bays with wide, white sandy beaches, spectacular cliffs or isolated rocky bathing points – Sicily has something to offer for every ocean lover. Among the best sites are Scala dei Turchi, the Oasi Vendicari nature reserve, San Vito lo Capo with the nearby Riserva dello Zingaro and the coasts of the 15 smaller islands surrounding Sicily itself.

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