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
4 September 2020

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. Couples looking for a place to stay should check out this downtown studio apartment. Relatively small but with a central location, windows that capture the sunlight and a charming balcony overlooking Catania, this apartment is perfect for a romantic getaway.

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. When the day is done, enjoy a place to yourselves at Villa Mezzarancia. Housing six guests, this fairly central house sits in a tropical garden just opposite the city’s botanical gardens and is perfect for a group looking to get the most out of Sicily’s capital.

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. Larger groups should consider staying at this spacious villa for seven on the outskirts of Syracuse. With good parking and easy access to the town, as well as to the countryside, this large, peaceful space provides the perfect atmosphere for a Sicilian getaway.

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. As for where to stay, just outside Taormina is the stunning Villa Luce. Taking up to seven guests, this hillside home has it all; the private swimming pool, lush Mediterranean gardens, open-plan living room and jaw-dropping sea views make the short trip into town so worthwhile.

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. For an authentic Agrigento experience, check out this traditional Sicilian villa. Equipped with a private swimming pool, a gazebo with a dining table, a barbecue and even an outdoor shower, this charming home is just a short drive from town and can host up to five lucky guests.

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. Large groups needing a place to stay will struggle to do better than this spectacularly located villa, which can hold up to 10 guests. Surrounded by a whole hectare (2.5 acres) of garden space, which is populated by around 500 species of plants and flowers, the villa is only a short walk from the beach perfect for an evening dip.

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. Play king of the hill in this gorgeous villa overlooking Cefalù and the Aeolian Islands. Located 200m (655ft) above the town, the views from the garden – furnished with a barbecue and hot tub – are something to behold.

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

These recommendations were updated on September 4, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.