An island that has its own islands. In fact, Sicily has three different sets of islands: there are the seven the Aeolians to the north, the three Aegadian ones off the Eastern edge and the Pelagie Islands are nearer to Malta and Tunisia than mainland Italy. You have your choice of vibes ranging from the jet set glamor of summertime Panarea in the Aeolian islands, to the barefoot chic of Favignana, to the rugged charm of Linosa.
The beach at San Vito lo Capo in Sicily’s north west is regularly number one on lists of best beaches in the world, with miles and miles of white sand, rocky outcrops and crystal clear waters to be found. You can choose from national parks with long empty stretches of sand and tiny rocky coves on virtually unknown islands. The water in Sicily is calm and warm, with the best time for swimming from June until well into October.
In the southeastern corner of the island, there are a cluster of towns that are a Baroque architectural wonderland. Noto, Ragusa and Monica each are filled with flamboyant churches and palazzos in soft ocher tones and plenty of swirls. A devastating earthquake in 1693 destroyed this part of Sicily and the result was the creation of new cities and lavish buildings. Look out for details like elaborate balconies and putti, which are plump winged cherubs and masks.
Did you know that Chef Boyaredee Spaghettis are actually based on a traditional Sicilian dish? Or that it’s perfectly acceptable to eat gelato for breakfast in Sicily? This is just the beginning of the culinary wonders that you can find only in Sicily. Look for anelli – which means little rings – in the pasta section of the market or grocery as a unique souvenir. Sicilian wines are world renowned, with rich reds and minerals whites that are grown in the ashy volcanic soil near Mount Etna being particularly delicious.
Sicily has two active volcanos, Etna which rumbles occasionally and Stromboli on the Aeolian island of the same name which puts on a nightly show. This volcano has been continuously active for roughly 2,000 years with short bursts of flame and ash. Occasionally you might catch a deep red lava flow from a crater down to the sea below. You can take an evening hike to the top or a boat cruise and watch nature’s fireworks from the sea.
The seaside town of Catania on the eastern coast of Sicily is the place to be if you like to stay up late and dance the night away. The city is home to a large university, so start your evening at one of the low key bars in the historic center. There are brew pubs and live music venues centered around the Teatro Massimo, and Banacher is a famous and lively nightclub near the beach.