The 10 Most Beautiful Towns to Visit in Sicily, Italy

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Barbara Boda

Sicily, just off the toe of Italy’s boot, has Greek and Roman heritage, seemingly eternal sunshine and a warm sea even in November. This package makes it one very attractive destination. From Palermo to Messina, here are the top towns to stop at when touring this beautiful Italian island.

1. Catania, for hiking Mount Etna

Architectural Landmark

Catania - Sicily - Duomo
Samir Kharrat / Unsplash

Sitting on the eastern coast of Sicily, at the foot of Mount Etna, this town offers something for everyone. Following a huge volcanic eruption in 1669, most of the old town was destroyed. After this calamity, it took a long time to rebuild Catania, but, thanks to the stamina and determination of the locals, it is in bloom once more. Get an authentic taste of the city by booking a cooking class with locals.

2. Palermo, for grand Sicilian architecture

Architectural Landmark

Aerial view of a plaza in Palermo, Italia
Michele Bitetto / Unsplash

As the capital of Sicily, this majestic town boasts many grand sites that are well worth a visit. Have a look at the cathedral, the Palazzo dei Normanni and the Palazzo Abatellis for starters. The Museo Archeologico Regionale Antonio Salinas, the botanical gardens and the creepy catacombs at the Capuchin Monastery are also worth exploring. And don’t ignore the great restaurants and the amazing street-food culture for which Palermo is rightly famed. The best way to explore the Sicilian capital is without doubt on a street food walking tour – the perfect blend of history, culture and delicious Sicilian snacks.

3. Syracuse, for ancient Greek history

Architectural Landmark

Old coastal walls of Siracusa, Sicily, Italia
Antonio Sessa / Unsplash

As with pretty much everywhere else in Sicily, you’ll find relics of the past around every corner in Syracuse. Founded by the Greeks, this town nurtured many famous Greek poets, mathematicians and politicians. The Syracuse Greek Theatre was one of the biggest the Greeks ever constructed, but the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Fountain of Arethusa, the more modern cathedral of Castello Maniace and the many palazzi deserve a visit, too. The historical centre of the city is the tiny island of Ortigia, which you can explore on a boat tour, featuring sea caves and snorkels.

5. Agrigento, for historical ruins

Architectural Landmark

Tempio della Concordia, Valle dei Templi, Agrigento, Italia
Ricardo Gomez Angel / Unsplash

Agrigento is well known for its Greek ruins, including those in the Valley of the Temples. Some of the ruins were sadly damaged and destroyed over the years, but most of them are still in very good condition. Agrigento was once a wealthy town, due to its trade agreements with Greece, and is now thriving as a major tourist centre.

6. Messina, for easy ferry access

Architectural Landmark

Coastal view of Torre Faro, Messina, Sicily
Luca N / Unsplash

If you arrive from the Italian mainland, the ferry will drop you off in Messina, and you’ll be impressed from the minute you step off the boat. Huge trees line the roads, and orange, lemon and olive groves cover the sloping hills as far as the eye can see. Stop for a look at the cathedral or the Church of Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani, as well as the botanical gardens and the lovely Porta Grazia. Book a two-hour walking tour of the city to get a real grasp for its unique historical significance.

7. Cefalù, for a family-friendly seaside destination

Architectural Landmark

Taormina, Sicily
Ruth Troughton / Unsplash
Cefalù is among the most popular places in Sicily. There is a wonderful family-friendly seaside area, where you can relax while surrounded by locals’ houses and terraces. You can also visit the Roman baths or the ancient cathedral, where there is a world-famous fresco of Christ, the Christ Pantokrator. If you don’t like crowds but would like to visit Cefalù, try to go around October and November or in the spring; the weather is lovely and still warm, but there are hardly any tourists. See the city from the comfort of a catamaran on a sailing experience booked through Viator.

8. Towns of Val di Noto

Architectural Landmark

Baroque masterpiece in Modica, part of Sicilys Unesco-listed Val di Noto region
Antonio Sessa / Unsplash

Say goodbye to the coast and venture inland to the hillside villages of Noto, Ragusa and Modica. Few visitors make it here, but to miss them would be a pity. Rebuilt after a devastating 1693 earthquake, they form part of the Val di Noto Unesco World Heritage Site, designated for its beautiful architecture. Countless churches and palaces were built from the local stone; their ornate detailing draws admiring looks to this day. Fans of Inspector Montalbano may recognise Ragusa and Modica as the filming location. Make sure you grab a gelato in Noto – it’s world famous for it – while Modica produces some of the finest chocolate in the world. Book a full day Baroque tour to discover all three towns with a guide.

9. Castelmola

Natural Feature

View of the Mediterranean from the heights of Castelmola, near Taormina in Sicily, Italy
Umberto di Capua / Unsplash

More of a village than a town, this remarkable little spot sits on top of a naturally formed terrace overlooking Taormina. Its towering location was an obvious choice for the Normans to build a castle around, but today the vibes are far more quaint, with pretty tiled streets, winding alleys and charming little eateries dotted all over. This place is all about location, location, location though – the views of Taormina, Etna and the surrounding seas, are simply breathtaking. A jolly up to Castelmola is included in most of the best Taormina tours.

10. Savoca

Architectural Landmark

Scenic shot of Savoca in Sicily, Italy
Andy Fluet / Unsplash

This small, unassuming town, sat atop a not-especially-notable rocky hilltop, has seen centuries and centuries of Sicilian history come and go. Quiet, authentic and bursting with lived-in character, Savoca is the place to go if you want a taste of the Sicily that hasn’t changed for years and years. The only tourists you’ll find here are film buffs, as Savoca is where much of the Sicilian scenes in The Godfather (1972) were filmed, including the church that Michael Corleone married in, as well as Bar Vitelli, now adorned with photos from the film. Book a Godfather tour of Sicily and you’ll spend most of your time here.

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