Palermo is a resplendent and chaotic city filled with palazzos that still hint at an earlier era of abundance and lush glamor. There are markets that are like paintings come to life, filled with tables heaving with fresh produce and seafood just plucked from the sea. You can see an opera at the recently renovated Teatro Massimo and take in the splendor of the Palermo Cathedral that contains architectural elements from the 12th to the 18th century. The glittering floor to ceiling mosaics at the Palazzo dei Normanni, a building that now serves as a seat of regional parliament, will astound. Make sure to stop along your sightseeing way for a bite to eat. Plan on trying a brioche stuffed with gelato or a ricotta filled cannoli and a plate of seafood pasta.
The collection of eight towns in the southeastern corner of the island are so architecturally important they are collectively a UNESCO World Heritage site. Caltagirone, Militello Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa and Scicli are each unique and have cathedrals, piazzas and palazzi that merit a visit. The devastation caused by series of earthquakes a few centuries ago is how these towns came to have such a cohesive style as they were all rebuilt in the same time period. Caltagirone is famous for the multi-colored ceramics that adorn an impressive staircase and fill almost every shop in town. Modica is famous for its particular kind of chocolate.
There are over 600 miles of coastline in Sicily. There is something for every type of beach loving traveler here. For an easy break from the city, Mondello is within easy reach of Palermo. If you need a dramatic picture for your Instagram feed, head to the Scale dei Turchi near Agrigento. Charming Cefalu’s buildings that spill down to the sand all take on an ochre glow in the late afternoon summer light, and turquoise water and soft white sand stretch in the famous San Vito lo Capo. For the adventurous, the Lo Zingaro nature reserve offers coastal trails and rocky inlets.
Sicily has a collection of its very own islands. The easiest to reach is the Isola Bella where you can take a cable car from high above in Taormina. The Aeolian islands are the most diverse of the satellite islands with easygoing Salina and glamorous Panarea where the jet set flock for a few weeks every summer. Stromboli boasts an active volcano that puts on a show every night once the sun sets. The three Egadi islands offer deep clear waters and rocky coves that are perfect for snorkeling and diving.
Sicily has been producing wine for millennia. No matter where you are on the island, you are likely close to a vineyard. The volcanic soil on the slopes of Mount Etna produce wines with hints of the smoke that comes with regular eruptions. On the island of Salina, the Malvasia grape that grows there is harvested to make a light sweet dessert wine. You can stay on a wine estate and spend a day visiting vineyards to sample the region’s vast choice.