The Top 15 Things to Do in Sicily

Panorama from the Rock of Cefalu in Sicily
Gina Pricope / Getty Images

Sicily is not only Italy's largest island, it's also the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Its history spans thousands of years, and its terrain is vast and varied, ranging from snowy peaks to balmy, tropical beaches. Sicily's cities are also diverse and richly cultured—think seaside outposts, remote towns, and teeming historic centers lined with Baroque monuments. And there are Greek and Roman ruins everywhere; they sit beside busy downtowns, glorious beaches, and on remote hilltops.

To see all there is to see in Sicily would take weeks or months, so we've listed below the top 15 things to do on the island. If you don't fit them all in on your first trip, there's always next time!

01 of 15

Go Back in Time at the Valley of the Temples

Statue and temple in Valley of the Temples

TripSavvy / Linda Strauta

Address
92100 Agrigento, AG, Italy
Phone +39 0922 183 9996

Rome may have its ancient ruins, but few archaeological sites in the Eternal City are as old as the Greek ruins in the Valley of the Temples. Dating to the 6th century BCE, this UNESCO World Heritage Site covers more than 2,300 acres. Of its seven Doric-style temples—each in varying conditions—the Temple Concordia is the best preserved. In addition to its outstanding examples of Greek monumental architecture, the Valley of the Temples affords sweeping views of the surrounding countryside. It's set just outside the city of Agrigento, also built on ancient foundations.

02 of 15

Marvel at Mosaics at the Villa Romana del Casale

Mosaics at Villa del Casale, Piazza Armerina, Sicily, Italy
Tim Graham / Getty Images
Address
SP90, 94015 Piazza Armerina EN, Italy
Phone +39 0935 680036

It's not clear who the owner was—maybe Roman emperor Maximian, who ruled from 286 to 305?—but whoever built the opulent Villa Romana del Casale was an extremely high-rank individual with good taste and lots of money. The UNESCO World Heritage Site showcases one of the finest, most extensive examples of Roman mosaic art, its floors decorated with nearly 40,000 square feet of beautifully detailed mosaics. As a result of a 12th-century landslide that covered the villa, they remain in excellent condition to this day. It's located about a 90-minute drive from Catania.

03 of 15

Take a Hike on Mount Etna

Hikers near a crater at Mt Etna

Apexphotos/GettyImages 

Address
Mt Etna, 95031 Adrano, Province of Catania, Italy

When Mount Etna isn't spewing lava (most recently, the volcano spectacularly erupted in February 2021), visitors can hike along several different trails of varying levels of altitude, length, and difficulty. Itineraries may take you to the edge calderas, through lava caves, or past the rows of grapevines and other crops that flourish in Etna's fertile volcanic terrain. The Parco dell'Etna has two visitor centers and an observatory, and can arrange guided tours of the park.

04 of 15

Sip Sicilian Wine

Making Wine Under A Volcano's Shadow
David Silverman / Getty Images

The volcanic terrain around Etna and on the Aeolian Islands, as well as fertile areas across the rest of Sicily, produce some highly coveted wines. Wine aficionados should definitely plan some winery visits for tours and tastings, and maybe even an overnight stay. The Etna wine-growing region is an obvious choice, but there are also noteworthy wines being produced in the west (including around Marsala), and in the Monreal and Alcamo regions near Palermo. Read more in our guide to wine tasting in Sicily.

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05 of 15

Eat Street Food in Palermo

The market Vucciria in Palermo
Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images
Address
Palermo, PA, Italy

Ancient, fascinating, beautiful, and teeming with life, Palermo is a must-see stop in Sicily. It's also one of the best places in all of Italy to eat street food, which was part of the culture here long before it became trendy. The city's open-air markets are fine places to try arancini (fried rice balls), cannoli, pizza, and panino con le panelle (sandwiches made with fried chick-pea patties). More adventurous eaters can try pane con la milza, sandwiches stuffed with stewed spleen, as well as an array of other offal-based dishes.

06 of 15

Sample City and Sea at Taormina

Taormina theater

TripSavvy / Linda Strauta

Address
98039 Taormina, Province of Messina, Italy

North of Catania, on the eastern coast of Sicily, Taormina offers a little bit of everything: Greek and Roman ruins, a romantic medieval historic center, and gorgeous beaches not far from town. It's a stop on many tours of Sicily, and a good place to base yourself for exploring the northern side of Mount Etna. Enjoy lofty views from the ancient Greek theatre, wander the narrow street of the centro, and take the cable car down to Mazzarò beach.

07 of 15

Island Hop in the Aeolians

Panarea - Magic island
Gabriele Scotto di Fasano / Getty Images
Address
Lipari, 98050 Lipari, Province of Messina, Italy

"Otherworldy" doesn't begin to describe the Aeolian islands, a group of seven volcanic islands off the northeastern tip of Sicily. Black-sand beaches, spewing volcanos (on Stromboli and the Vulcano islands), dazzlingly blue seas filled with marine life, bubbling thermal mud, Greek and Roman ruins, and tiny towns—some without cars—make the Aeolians one of the most unique places in the Mediterranean. Ferries leave from the Sicilian port of Milazzo and connect all the islands, though less frequently in the off-season.

08 of 15

Go Greek in Syracuse and Baroque on Ortigia Island

Ortigia (Ortygia)
Maremagnum / Getty Images

On an island full of Greek ruins, the city of Syracuse (Siracusa in Italian) may have the most. Its vast archaeological park features the remains of a Greek city—one that rivaled Athens in size and importance—including the largest Greek theatre in Sicily. A hop over to the connected island of Ortigia takes you closer to the modern age—but just barely. Ortigia Island serves as the historic center of Syracuse, and offers an enchanting ambiance of Baroque architecture, narrow cobbled streets lined with shops and eateries, and a gorgeous seafront.

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09 of 15

Take a Tour of Trapani

Scenic view of Trapani town and harbor in Sicily
MartinM303 / Getty Images
Address
91100 Trapani, Province of Trapani, Italy

Like so many of Sicily's coastal cities, Trapani offers a divine mix of ancient and more recent history. The Sicilian city rose to riches in antiquity when, along with nearby Marsala, it became a center for the salt trade. Visit Baroque cathedrals, close-by beaches, and the salt pans and windmills between Trapani and Marsala. Trapani is also a fine base for exploring the coast and interior of western Sicily.

10 of 15

Bask in the Sicilian Baroque

Italy, Sicily, Syracuse Province, Val di Noto, Noto, Noto Cathedral in the evening
Westend61 / Getty Images

When a massive earthquake leveled the towns of the Val di Noto (Noto Valley) in 1693, they were built back in the prevailing ornate style known as Sicilian Baroque—considered a hybrid of Italian and Spanish Baroque. Noto, Ragusa, Modica, and Catania are among the Val di Noto cities that form a combined UNESCO World Heritage site for their outstanding representations of Sicilian Baroque art and architecture; plan a visit to wander the streets and admire it up close.

11 of 15

Pause in Pretty Cefalù

Cefalu

Tripsavvy / Michela Sieman

Address
90015 Cefalù, PA, Italy

Regarded as one of the prettiest villages in Sicily—and that's saying a lot!—Cefalù sits on the northern coast about 40 miles east of Palermo. It's dominated by the Promontory of Hercules, a huge rock formation on which sit the ruins of the Greek Temple of Diana, plus evidence of a settlement dating to the 9th-century BCE. The town below has Greek, Byzantine, Norman, and Arab roots, giving it a fascinating mix of architectural styles and monuments. A pretty harbor and plenty of nearby beaches complete the scene here.

12 of 15

Head to the Market in Catania

Fresh tuna fish for sale at a Catania market
FlickrVision / Getty Images
Address
95131 Catania, Province of Catania, Italy

There's plenty to see in Catania, Sicily's second-largest city. Part of the Val di Noto UNESCO area, Catania is rife with Sicilian Baroque architecture, including the Duomo (main cathedral). But without a doubt, the Catania Fish Market, "La Pescheria" in Italian, is one of the most colorful, authentic experiences in the city. Wander through and you'll find not just a dizzying area of fresh fish and sea life, you'll also hear the chaotic sounds of vendors hawking their goods, haggling customers, and scavenging seagulls. The market also sells produce and tasty street food. It's open Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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13 of 15

Watch the Sunset from the Scala dei Turchi

Scala dei Turchi

Tripsavvy / Michela Sieman

Address
Stair of the Turks, 92010 Realmonte, AG, Italy

If you make it down to Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples, don't miss a nearby natural landmark, the Scala dei Turchi (the Turkish Steps). These sea cliffs, composed of layers of sediment that have taken on a step-like formation, are an incredible sight and a popular spot for watching the sunset. Two sandy beaches lie on either side of the steps.

14 of 15

Go Wild in the Zingaro Nature Reserve

Zingaro Beach, Sicily

Atlantide Phototravel/Getty Images

Address
91010 San Vito Lo Capo, Province of Trapani, Italy
Phone +39 0924 35108

For intrepid nature lovers, the Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro, or Zingaro Nature Reserve, is one of the most rewarding experiences in Sicily. The reserve, established in 1981, can only be visited on foot. While you'll find a few houses and picnic shelters here, you'll otherwise traipse through undisturbed natural areas to reach small, perfect beaches, many of which are accessed via steep staircases.

15 of 15

Soak Up the Sun at San Vito Lo Capo Beach

San Vito lo capo

nadisj/GettyImages

Address
91010 San Vito Lo Capo, Province of Trapani, Italy

If the Zingaro Nature Reserve requires a little too much roughing it or you have little kids in tow, head instead to San Vito Lo Capo. Located at the tip of the promontory, the small, touristy town fronts a perfect half-moon-shaped beach that's lapped by shallow turquoise water. This is one of the best beaches in Sicily, so don't expect to have it to yourself if you visit in high season.

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The Top 15 Things to Do in Sicily