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Top 10 Things to See and Do in Sicily
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Top 10 Things to See and Do in Sicily

Picture of Mary Jane Dempsey
Updated: 24 April 2017
Boasting everything from nature reserves to archaeological ruins, Sicily is the perfect destination for science and history lovers, as well as everyone in between. Check out the top 10 things to see and do when visiting the largest island in the Mediterranean.
Mount Etna
Arial photo of Mt Etna | ©BenAveling / WikimediaCommons

Mount Etna

Want to climb the largest active volcano in Europe? Although Ancient Greeks thought Mount Etna was home to the Cyclops, it has become one of the major destinations for tourists to the province of Catania. In the winter, visitors can ski down its peaks, while in summer they can hike the woods. Not feeling that active? You can also see the views from 3000m via one of the cable cars. There are bus services that leave from Catania and a railway line to Riposto.

Opening hours: Mon – Sun 8.30am – 4.30 pm

Mount Etna, Piazzale Rifugio Sapienza, Nicolosi Catania, +39 095 914141

Valley of Temples
In Agrigento Valley of Temples | ©Maasaak / WikimediaCommons
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Valley of Temples

Just outside of Agrigento, Valley of the Temples is an archeological park with remains from eight temples that were built between the 5th and 6th century BC. Though all the edifices are notable, the Temple of Concordia is particularly important, due to its being one of the most excellently preserved Greek ruins in existence, even inspiring the six column design of the UNESCO symbol. Measuring about 1,300 hectares, the park is the largest archaeological site in the world.

Opening hours: Mon – Sun 8.30am – 7pm

Valley of the Temples, Agrigento, +39 0922 621657

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Villa Romana del Casale

Built sometime during the 4th century, Villa Romana del Casale contains some of the best and most complex mosaics from the Roman Empire. Named one of the 49 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Italy, the villa remained forgotten after the 12th century, only to be made famous in the19th century when the mosaics were found. One of the most famous pieces found in the villa is that of the Bikini girls, excavated in 1959, which depicts women exercising and doing sports. Daily guided tours are available.

Opening hours: Mon – Sun 9am – 6pm

Villa Romana del Casale, Piazza Armerina, Strada Provinciale 90, Piazza Armerina +39 0935 687667

Gole dell’Alcantara
Gole dell’Alcantara | ©pjt56 / WikimediaCommons

Gole dell’Alcantara

Created by waves of lava centuries ago, Gole dell’Alcantara is a series of canyons located in the Botanical Park. Between the Messina and Cantania provinces, the magma percolation runs along the Alcantara River and has led to a number of horizontal and vertical configuration, and some basalt walls as tall as 50 meters. If you want to know more, guided tours can be arranged at the Museum of Land or the nature trail. The excursion includes a taste-testing of regional specialties.

Opening hours: Mon – Sun 8 am – 8pm

Gole dell’Alcantara, Strada Provinciale 7, Castiglione di Sicilia, Sicily, Italy, +39 0942985010

Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro
Riserva dello Zingaro | ©Bultro / WikimediaCommons
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Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro

Set up in 1981, Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro was the first nature reserve set up in Sicily and includes not only the mountain chain, but also a sea coast stretching almost 7 km. Nature lovers will appreciate the ecodiversity of the wildlife, with several interesting species of bird making their home here, while for the historians, the Uzzo Grotto houses one of the first prehistoric settlements. Although the reserve offers a large number of amenities, such as museums and paths, the park can only be visited on foot.

Opening hours: Everyday 8am – 5pm

Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro, Strada Provinciale 63, 91014, Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, Italy, +39 0924 35108

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Monastero dei Benedettini

Located in Catania and a part of the UNESCO and Val di Noto World Heritage Sites, the Monastero dei Benedettini of San Nicolò is one of the largest monasteries in Europe, and also houses the University of Catania’s Department of Humanities. Guided tours are available of the cloisters, cellar, the roman domus, the main altar of San Nicolò as well as the garden and other rooms designed by architects Vaccarini and De Carlo. There is also a special evening tour on the last Friday of every month that looks not only at the building’s but also the city’s history.

Opening hours: Mon – Sun 9am – 5pm

Monastero dei Benedettini, Piazza Dante Alighieri, 32, 95124 Catania CT, Italy, +39 095 710 2767

Beaches

With six months (May-October) of warm weather, and a position nestled in the Mediterranean Sea, there is ample opportunity to explore and enjoy Sicily‘s sandy beaches. Check out Cefalù, where Cinema Paradiso was filmed, or Taormina, which has a cable car that takes visitors to the lovely Mazzorò bay, which is also a WWF nature reserve.

Sicilian sweets
I tesori della pasticceria siciliana | ©Dolci tentazioni siciliane

Sicilian sweets

A trip to Sicily would not be complete without sampling some of the tastiest sweet treats that Italian cuisine has to offer. Thanks to the many nuts and fruits that are found on the island, Sicilians have become famous for their delicious sweets. A trip to the island would not be complete without trying cassata siciliana, a sponge cake with rum, ricotta cheese and candied fruits, or cannoli, which is filled with ricotta and either candied fruits or chocolates. In the summer, look for homemade almond milk or granita, Italian shaved ice, made with fresh fruits or almonds.

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Stanze al Genio

Found in Palermo, the Stanze al Genio museum is situated in the Palazzo Torre, now Piriano, which was constructed between 1500 and 1600 and home to the Fernandez of Valdez, Torre and Benso families. The rooms were recently restored so that visitors can enjoy the paintings and frescoes in their full glory. They are mostly of Neapolitan and Sicilian origin, from the 18th to 19th century. In order to ensure that a guided tour will be available, email the Museum well in advance.

Opening hours: Sun – Sat 3 am – 3.30am

Stanze al Genio, Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, 11, 90133 Palermo, +39 340 097 1561

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Museo Storico dello Sbarco in Sicilia 1943

Museo Storico dello Sbarco in Sicilia 1943 offers visitors an active and interactive experience to learn more about the historical moment that led to both Sicily and greater Italy’s liberation from the German occupation in World War II. On July 10, 1943, after landing on the east coast, the American and British began to fight to gain control over the island. The museum includes different artifacts to illustrate exactly what happened during the stages of those battles.

Opening hours: Tues – Sun 9am – 4.45pm

Museo Storico dello Sbarco in Sicilia 1943, Viale Africa, Piazzale Asia, Catania, Italy, +39 095 401 1929