Top Things to See and Do in the Southeast of Sicily

The Duomo di San Giorgio in Ragusa is one of many beautiful cathedrals in southeast Sicily
The Duomo di San Giorgio in Ragusa is one of many beautiful cathedrals in southeast Sicily | © mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Pia Staigmueller
3 September 2021

Italy has countless beautiful places, but the southeast of Sicily stands out for many reasons. Sandy beaches, lively cities with wonderful architecture, a rich history and culture, delicious food made of the best Mediterranean ingredients, and sun all year round. Take a trip on the southeastern coast and be prepared for some unforgettable beauty. Here are the best things to see and do when you’re here.

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Noto

Wander through the streets of Noto to admire the overwhelming number of beautiful baroque buildings and churches – this small town in Syracuse has understandably been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. For an authentic taste of Sicily go to Trattoria Fontana D’Ercole to feast on antipasti, fresh fish and seafood, and a selection of pastas. The simple yet divine pistachio pesto is a perfect example of the genius in the kitchen. Got a sweet tooth? Stop by Dolce Barocco for a cannolo, cassata cake or paste di mandorla. Satisfaction is guaranteed.

Tour the baroque buildings of Noto before enjoying authentic Sicilian cuisine | © Marius Dobilas / Alamy Stock Photo

Syracuse

Syracuse (Siracusa in Italian) is known for having a rich history that dates back 2,700 years. It was a powerful city in the ancient Mediterranean and its glorious past is visible everywhere today. Greek temples with giant columns have been transformed into churches, such as the majestic Duomo (formerly a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena). Find that on Piazza Duomo, considered as one of the most beautiful piazzas in Italy.

Also make sure to stroll through the narrow streets in the well-kept centre, dipping into the elegant shops and restaurants. Stop by Ortigia Sicilia, which offers a range of luxurious perfumes, scents, candles and other products for bath and body inspired by the scents and colours of Sicily.

Grab a coffee on the Piazza del Duomo and admire the columned cathedral | © Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo

Marzamemi

Situated at the southernmost point of Sicily, Marzamemi is a place where time seems to stand still. The main attraction of this cute town is the little piazza surrounded by small shops and bars, just a few steps from the sea and the port. It comes to life at night when the town comes together to enjoy the lower evening temperatures with music and drinks. The history of Marzamemi is strongly connected to tuna fishing – explore that by visiting the Tonnara, a former tuna factory now restored as a venue for weddings and other events.

Tuna is still an important part of the local cuisine, but you’ll also find a variety of regional specialties, such as bottarga, capers or dried pomodorini from Pachino, a nearby town famous for cherry tomatoes. Visit the restaurant Campisi to enjoy delicious fish specialties right by the sea. The ideal place to try the Sicilian breakfast consisting of a fluffy sweet brioche and a refreshing and tasty granita is Bar al Ciclope 2, situated on the main street along the harbour. And for a beachy vibe with a sea view, head for an aperitivo at Blasè. Situated directly on the seaside, it is the ideal location for a moment of relaxation and offers lovely views of the town.

Pull up a chair in Piazza Regina Margherita to enjoy views of the Chiesa di San Francesco Di Paola church | © Joshua Windsor / Alamy Stock Photo

Modica

Modica is another gem in the Val di Noto. The region suffered major damage during a devastating earthquake in 1693 and entire cities were reconstructed in a style widely known as Sicilian baroque, which gives Sicily a unique architectural identity. The city consists of two centres, Upper and Lower Modica. Climb the steps of the cathedral of San Giorgio for views of the lower part of the city.

Modica is also famous for its chocolate which is made from an ancient and well-kept Aztec recipe, brought to Sicily by the Spaniards. Different from other versions later produced in Europe, this chocolate has never been industrialised. For a sweet treat, head to Antica Dolceria Bonajuto – said to be the oldest chocolate factory in Sicily. Embark on a guided tour or purchase a selection of chocolate bars.

Stop by the Unesco-listed Cathedral of San Giorgio on your tour of Modica | © Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Ragusa

On top of a hill overlooking the valley, this small town could come straight from a fairytale; think beautiful baroque churches and buildings, old Sicilian men chatting beside doorsteps and linen hanging outside the windows. The old part of the city, Ragusa Ibla, is connected to the newer part, Ragusa Nuova with a winding street that allows for views of the sandcastle-like town. Hungry? Head to Ciccio Sultano, a ‘basilica of taste’, for delicious breads, appetizers, main dishes and homemade desserts. Alternatively, I Banchi serves the best Italian and regional products.

The hilltop Ragusa looks like something from a fairytale | © Em Campos / Alamy Stock Photo

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