The Most Beautiful Towns to Visit in Sicily

Sicilian towns like Palermo offer a great diversity of ancient heritage, natural beauty and delectable cuisine
Sicilian towns like Palermo offer a great diversity of ancient heritage, natural beauty and delectable cuisine | © kavalenkava volha / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Barbara Boda
1 April 2021

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

Catania

Architectural Landmark
Map View
View of a square in Catania, Italy
© Gianniblues / Alamy Stock Photo

Sitting on the eastern coast of Sicily, at the foot of Mount Etna, this town offers something for everyone. Due to a huge volcanic eruption in 1669, most of the old town was destroyed. After this calamity, it took a long time to rebuild everything, but thanks to the stamina and determination of the locals, Catania is in bloom once more.

Palermo

Architectural Landmark
Map View
michele-bitetto-sD1g_ogRIh8-unsplash
© 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, the botanical gardens and the Capuchin Monastery’s creepy catacombs are also worth exploring. And don’t ignore the great restaurants and the amazing street-food culture for which Palermo is rightly famed.

Syracuse

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Noto, Province of Syracuse, Italy.
© Marius Dobilas / Alamy Stock Photo

As with pretty much everywhere in Sicily, you’ll find relics of the past around every corner in Syracuse. Founded by the Greeks, this town nurtured many of the 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.

Taormina

Architectural Landmark
Map View
The Greek theatre and Mount Etna, Taormina, Sicily, Italy
© Peter Adams Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

This picturesque town lies on a rocky hillside and is accessible by car or bus; the road leads up a steep and narrow serpentine hill, which can sometimes be tricky to navigate. It is well worth a visit if you long for a small town offering a little peace and quiet but also wish to catch a glimpse of the rich historical heritage that Sicily has to offer. History buffs will love the town’s ancient amphitheatre.

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  • Agrigento

    Architectural Landmark
    Map View
    Temple of Hera in Valley of Temples (Valle dei Templi), Agrigento, Sicily, Italy UNESCO
    © Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy Stock Photo

    Agrigento is well known for Greek ruins such as the temples of Juno, Heracles and Asclepius. Some of them 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.

    Messina

    Architectural Landmark
    Map View
    sunrise at messina harbor with view on the city center and mountains in the background, italy
    © Alexander Schmitz / Alamy Stock Photo

    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.

    Cefalù

    Architectural Landmark
    Map View
    View of the old town. Cefalu, Sicily
    © JAMES LANGE / Alamy Stock Photo

    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 Christus 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.

    Planning a trip to Sicily? Check out the top 10 things to see and do around the island.

    These recommendations were updated on April 1, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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