The beautiful Italian island of Sicily is a vital cog in the wheels of a grand tour of Italy, but also a completely self-contained destination in its own right. Metaphorically kicked into the Mediterranean by the boot of Italy, holidays to Sicily will transport you to a destination at the juxtaposition of two cultures. |
It can be hard to create an itinerary to do justice to this wonderfully diverse destination, but these insider tips will go a long way to helping you make the most of your holidays to Sicily.
How to Get There
Unless you have a particular reason for wanting to take a ferry from the mainland, if you're already travelling in Italy, getting an inexpensive internal flight to either of the island's two airports – Palermo or Catania - can save a lot of hassle and time. If you're coming from the UK, or elsewhere in Europe, there are regular direct flights.
What to Buy
The island is renowned for its traditional handpainted ceramics, and it can be rather hard to go home empty handed. For the best range of delicately painted pottery wares, visit Caltagirone, a city 70kms southwest of Catania. Famous for its maiolica and terracotta pottery, the town also has a beautiful Baroque church to explore.
Take a local bus from Taormina to the hilltop town of Castelmola, to sample the famous Sicilian almond dessert wine, where it's still produced in the traditional way by the Turrisi family. The small bottles of this deliciously sweet wine make for excellent souvenirs, which can be tucked away in your luggage without taking up too much room.
In any of the towns and cities you visit on your holidays to Sicily, if you leave the main thoroughfares to explore the smaller back streets, you'll encounter the tiny workshops and studios of local craftsmen. The proprietors will invariably welcome you like old friends and, language barrier or not, the handcrafted wares speak volumes for the artists' skills and traditions.
What to See
For history and architecture buffs, the capital, Palermo, is packed with accessible culture. Don't miss the beautiful 12th century church, La Martorana, and the ornately designed Teatro Massimo.
In the gorgeous medieval city of Syracuse, a palpable sense of history emanates from the labyrinthine tangle of streets lined with stunning Baroque architecture.
The famous volcanic Stromboli Island can be explored up close and personal on a boat tour. The striking black sands and massive pitted craters make for a real life geology lesson never to be forgotten.
Agrigento, a hilltop city on the southern coast, is home to the most impressive Greek ruins on the island. Once the fourth largest city in the world, the UNESCO listed site at the Valley of the Temples is a fascinating glimpse into an ancient storied past.
What to Eat
As with every part of the country, the island has its own unique regional take on traditional Italian cuisine. Heavily influenced by the Arabs, Spanish, French and Greeks, Sicilian cuisine pays homage to them all in a delicious fusion of flavours. Being bounded by sea, naturally much of the cuisine is based around the freshest of fresh seafood, hauled in by local fisherman who still head out on their small boats every day. Try everything and leave nothing on your plate!
Mouthwatering rice balls filled with ragu, peas, root vegetables or mozzarella, Arancini is as versatile as the seasonal produce it utilises – and the tastiest way to use rice since risotto (the local seafood risotto is also a must-try).
The rest of Italy may have its pizza, but Sicily has sfincione, which is a thick-based 'white' version, topped with anchovies, onions and cheese.
Traditional Sicilian cannoli is made with sheep's' milk ricotta and there is, quite simply, no better place to imbibe in these unbelievably flavoursome filled tubes of pastry than where the recipe originated. Interestingly, their size varies from region to region on the island, with a biggest version produced in Palermo.
With a fascinating depth of history, an inclusive authentic culture, welcoming locals and a glorious natural environment, holidays to Sicily allow you to experience the true essence of Italy.
John Dixon is Managing Director of Prestige Holidays and visits Italy at least twice a year. He has been providing luxury holidays in Sicily as well as luxury holidays to many other destinations worldwide for over 30 years.
Related Articles -
Holidays, to, Sicily,