If you have experienced mainland Italy and are itching for more, or have a family of adventurous travelers who love great food, Sicily should be your next ‘must see’ destination. While Sicily has the bones of a traditional Italian vacation, the distinct influence of other cultures and the mix of sightseeing alongside a wealth of activities make it a destination that stands on its own.
Throughout its history, Sicily has been ruled by the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans and Spanish, just to name a few. This means that depending on where you visit on the small island (close in size to the state of Massachusetts), the architecture, food and traditions will differ and provide a unique feel. From the volcanic ash baroque architecture in downtown Catania to the Arab influence in Palermo, it’s difficult to tire of Sicily’s unique beauty.
The diversity of Sicily’s landscape and culture means you can combine a packed sightseeing itinerary with plenty of leisure time. After hiking Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in all of Europe, you can unwind at a farm lunch complete with kid-friendly pasta and fabulous wines where the grapes were grown in volcanic ash. Take a chocolate-making class in Modica (it’s flavored with lemon or pistachio and made in such a way that the sugar never quite dissolves — best chocolate you’ll ever have), and end the day with a game of golf or relaxing by a pool overlooking the best-preserved Greek ruins in the world. Combine a sailing excursion through Isola Bella with a private beach day and everybody will be happy.
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Sicily is the perfect place for picky eaters and foodies alike. It was the first location in Italy to specialize in street food, which means you can get a quick, delicious bite when you don’t have time for a leisurely lunch. Pastas are typically simple but packed with flavor. Sicilians are masters of sweets; enjoy some cannoli with your afternoon espresso or start your day with a brioche and granita (Sicilian Italian ice), a typical summer breakfast perfected at Bam Bar in Taormina or Café Sicilia in Noto.
As you can imagine, Sicily is very driven by food and the land that produces it. A great activity for your vacation is to be a part of a seasonal harvest. Oranges, almonds, grapes, olives — there are lots of options. To see the care and tradition that goes into the food here is a truly special experience.
Italy is well known for being incredibly family-friendly. Sicily not only embodies this focus, it takes it to the next level. Servers will often entertain your children while you eat, and business owners will include kids in activities and conversations. You rarely have to worry about children making noise or getting fussy at a nice restaurant, as there will likely be at least several other families dining as well. Many facilities in the countryside have playgrounds for children to enjoy, and even the indoor shopping centers have great play areas suitable for all ages.
There are only a few great hotels in Sicily, but what lacks in quantity is made up in quality. The countryside glitters with good farmstays, while Mt. Etna and Taormina boast luxury boutique hotels, many with family room or apartment options. There are a couple of fantastic resorts, such as the ultra-luxe Verdura at the island’s western end, and renovated private villas are plentiful if you would like a little more autonomy for a longer stay. Book early for the best selection!
There are no direct flights into Sicily from the U.S., but many major European cities connect to either Catania (if you are visiting the east coast) or Palermo (to visit the west). This provides a perfect opportunity for long layover in a city of your preference on your way to Italy’s most diverse island.
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