Final winter, The White Lotus put the Mediterranean’s largest island on many a journey want checklist. The luxurious sea-view resort, alluring delicate sands, and obsession with ceramic heads did the gross sales pitch, sending couch detectives worldwide right into a Sicily spin. However now we’ve lastly obtained that theme tune and visions of ‘Peppa Pig’ using on a Vespa out of our personal, barely much less embellished heads, my reply to the query “Is Sicily value visiting?” stays resolutely the identical: a convincing sure.
Top-of-the-line islands to go to on the earth, not to mention Italy, Sicily scintillates in a myriad of the way. A dwelling time capsule for human civilisations, historical past buffs will probably be laden with layers from the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Byzantines – and all of the others who’ve been and gone. Equally, it’s a haven for paradisiacal sands, and seashore seekers will probably be blown away by the cinematic shoreline backdrop of Cefalu or the bath-like waters of Isola Bella. Foodies, in the meantime, arguably get the largest win – every part on Sicily’s menu is delectable.
However maybe the very best motive to go to Sicily is to decelerate and relish the island’s lot. Sicily packs in lots, positive, nevertheless it additionally invitations you to linger in lazy hill cities, gawp at energetic volcanoes, and dive a bit of bit deeper into the native life-style – it’s undeniably Italian, but distinctly Sicilian, and that’s a mix value savouring.
The slower tempo of Sicilian life
I spent a bit of over a month in Sicily on my first go to and was enamoured with the Sicilian tempo of life. These particular islands – there are two archipelago teams alongside the primary island – had been virtually born for sluggish journey. Whether or not it’s lazy days sauntering between sands, tackling the multi-day long-distance mountain climbing trails by means of the hinterlands, or spending time slowly exploring the Aeolian or Aegadian Islands the place harbour’s of fishing males present ample people-watching opportunites, lots of the finest causes to go to Sicily boil right down to breaking-away from the fast-tourism mannequin.
Even within the generally chaotic capital of Palermo you’ll discover loads of time to pause and delve deeper, be it with a Sicilian cooking lesson on the Mamma Corleone culinary studio or a a pottery course at MUD to craft your individual creation and be taught extra in regards to the ceramic heads (teste di moro) which are ubiquitous in Sicily.
Primarily, Sicily is an open-air museum, and with seven World Heritage Websites throughout the island, you’ll must both plan a slow-jaunt to cherish all of them, or e book one of many many unhurried excursions of Italy’s south, particularly those who dedicate a minimum of every week – or ideally ten days – to Sicily itself.
An archaeological journey by means of time
Why go to Sicily when the remainder of Italy has so many historic points of interest to supply, you is likely to be asking? Effectively, this island has been seducing seafarers for millennia, stacking tales, flavours and architectural kinds upon one another. A real time capsule of treasures, Sicily’s archaeological sights span epochs and eras which have formed not simply these shores, however Europe and past.
On the historical Greek Valley of the Temples, which dates again to the fifth century BC, you’ll be able to stroll atop the ridge the place one in every of Greece’s most influential cities as soon as was. Whereas subsequent invaders destroyed a few of the authentic temples, don’t let that deter you; restoration work has been performed respectfully, and the location is each fascinating and photogenic.
One other of my favorite locations on the island is Villa Romana del Casale, the place you’ll discover what UNESCO name “the best mosaics in situ wherever within the Roman world”. This huge 4th century AD villa is carpeted in mosaics depicting varied scenes, with raised walkways permitting for optimum views.
Unforgettable lodging for all budgets
You don’t must splurge on a keep on the upscale White Lotus Resort (it’s an actual lodge, the San Domenico Palace in Taormina) to get a style of Sicily’s best sea views or luxurious suites; the island has loads of unbelievable lodging for all budgets.
My most vital standards for our first week on the island was to have a sea view, and with an abundance of tranquil villas in Sicily, each on the primary island and the archipelagos (extra on these later), it wasn’t arduous to discover a surprisingly reasonably priced base to get pleasure from balcony evenings watching the final copper glints over the lapping waves.
One other fashionable motive to go to Sicily is the prospect to remain in a palazzo (small palatial constructing) as there are lots dotted across the island, a lot of which have been transformed into quick time period leases which are a good worth for the chance they provide.
Meals value savouring
If I used to be to reply the query ‘why go to Sicily’ in a single phrase, I’d be momentarily torn between responses earlier than giving arguably probably the most compelling motive: the meals – and that’s actually saying one thing in a rustic as appetizing as Italy.
Scrumptious dishes based mostly on seasonal and flavoursome elements, mouthwatering morsels of candy treats, caught-and-cooked seafood, and recent, aromatic pomegranate juice stalls are simply a few of the island’s many unforgettable bites.
You’ll want to search out signature dishes resembling caponata, a typical aubergine plate with candy and bitter flavours; cannoli, ricotta stuffed tube pastry; Pasta alla Norma, a aubergine and ricotta topped pasta tubes; and arancini, a fried stuffed rice balls – however that’s just a few plates to get you began, Sicily’s full menu is extensively glorious.
Cities with numerous layers
Understandably, the archipelago’s fame as a European seashore vacation spot stays one of many prime causes to go to Sicily, however you shouldn’t snub the island’s cities throughout your go to both. With layers of artwork and structure, Sicily’s storied cities are personality-packed delights.
In Palermo, the attractive, sassy and generally overwhelming capital metropolis, your senses is likely to be quickly overloaded, however all for good causes. On Palmero’s boisterous backstreets, for instance, Ballaro Market can appear to be a whirlwind, however it is going to introduce you to the island’s character and best avenue meals flavours. Enterprise contained in the Twelfth-century Cathedral, admire the Byzantine mosaics adorning the Cappella Palatina, and gawp on the Royal Palace of Palermo – the place additional mosaics, courtyards and hovering ceilings astound.
Throughout the island on the east coast, the second metropolis of Catania – a brief drive from imposing Mount Etna which supplies a usually bellowing backdrop to her Baroque – presents a extra ‘classical Italian’ expertise with it’s fairly Bellini gardens, castle-turned-gallery Ursino, and Basilica embellished with a formidable marble façade – there’s additionally the stays of a Roman-Greek amphitheatre to tour. However it’s in spectacular Syracuse the place Greek historical past shines brightest, with the archaeological museum and amphitheatres eternally imprinted on my thoughts.
Volcanoes and vines
You is likely to be questioning why go to Sicily if there are such a lot of energetic volcanoes throughout the archipelago? Effectively, that’s very a lot a part of the attraction.
UNESCO-listed Mount Etna and Stromboli are maybe probably the most well-known, however there are much more. On Vulcano Island, for instance, we had been greeted by the stench of sulphur and warning indicators that the volcano’s trails had been now closed because of worrying exercise – some residents had even quickly relocated. However past the concern, life continues and has even blossomed shut to those pure wonders. In addition to with the ability to hike up Mount Etna (with a information), those that would moderately take within the views from afar can pattern a few of Sicily’s unbelievable wines at one of many 100-plus-year-old vineyards which cling to the slopes.
Lazy days on the Aeolian Islands
One among my favorite second throughout numerous visits to Italy was staying on the Aeolian Islands, a cluster of seven inhabited volcanic and dramatic isles. For me, these idylls are motive sufficient to go to Sicily, as exterior of the busy August holidays, they continue to be one thing of a lesser-visited Italian vacation spot.
We based mostly ourselves on the most important island of Lipari, sipping spritz overlooking Stromboli’s steaming crater at sundown. It was a pleasant place to whereas away the sunny November days, hopping between a few of the different islands, resembling Vulcano and Salina, utilizing the native ferries for day journeys. Volcanic black sand seashores, stunning mountain climbing trails, and straight-from-the-boat eating places had been all highlights. For those who’re questioning if Sicily alone is value visiting, then these small scenic detours needs to be an additional motive to make the journey.
In fact, you don’t must go to any of the opposite Sicilian islands to seek out beautiful seashores – the primary island brags lots. Calm down on the silver-screen-worthy sands of Cefalù, an impressive mediaeval coastal spot full of seashore golf equipment and backed by spectacular structure – the Cathedral past the worthy star.
At Isola Bella, the jewel of Taormina’s coast, you’ll discover a beautiful sandbar main out into the glowing turquoise waters, whereas the extra untouched swathes of sand close to Noto are perfect for a get-away-from-it-all seashore day.
Timeless cities and villages
However there are as many causes to go to Sicly’s dreamy hilltop hamlets because the island’s shore-hugging cities. From panoramic cities with far-reaching views, to smaller villages tucked-away removed from the tourism path, a street journey throughout the island will carry you to some actually unbelievable areas.
Head inland to the Baroque wonders round Val di Noto, the place Modica, Ragusa and Noto itself all serve up a timeless ambiance amongst their re-constructed storied streets. Throughout the island, Erice, a beautiful small borghi hugs the slopes, topped by a Regular fort. Sperlinga is one other of Sicily’s ‘most stunning borghi’ so as to add to the checklist, whereas Piazza Armerina’s cluster of museums makes for a pleasant afternoon after visiting the mosaics at Villa Romana del Casale.
An opportunity to reconnect with nature
Sicily has lengthy held a popularity as an inspiring sluggish journey vacation spot by in-the-know travellers, writers and artists. The emerald inexperienced hills, pistachio and vine coated hinterlands, and contrasting colors of the cobalt Tyrrhenian and turquoise Ionian Seas being mystical muses – and that’s earlier than you take into account the bewitching and bellowing Mount Etna.
Top-of-the-line methods to take all of it in and reconnect with nature is on the island’s trails. There’s a community of various routes you’ll be able to go for, however the 116-mile, coast-to-coast Magna By way of Francigena is an effective wager if you happen to’re searching for a ten day possibility. Crossing from Palermo within the north, to Agrigento within the south you’ll traverse from city sprawl to dense forests and vineyards, virtually forgotten villages with ageing populations, and discover shelter at rural visitor homes the place lakes, mountains and pastures are by no means distant; the island’s inside is certainly idyllic.
Why go to Sicily, you say? The reply is sort of self-explanatory. All of Italy’s finest experiences are blended right here, an impressive microcosm of a mighty nation.