Sicily with Kids: Ancient History on Crystalline Shores

A view of Mt. Etna from Taormina. Photo by grigorylugovoy

The jaw-dropping cliffside vistas and moody waters of Sicily have likely crept into your social media feed as of late, thanks to the White Lotus effect. But the treasures that await on this culturally rich and supremely historic island are indeed stunning IRL and ripe for exploration. We’ve teamed up with our travel partners in the area to finesse an itinerary that will wow everyone in the family.

Where to Go in Sicily with Kids
Palermo at sunset. Photo by Kavalenkava/Adobe Stock

Where to Go in Sicily with Kids

To truly experience the breadth of the isle, plan to spend at least a week here; with less than a week, we suggest opting for a taste of Sicily by focusing your itinerary around either Taormina or Syracuse. If you’d like to include a visit to the Aeolian Islands, a trip of 10 to 14 days is ideal. These seven volcanic islands off Sicily’s northeastern coast, also known as the Lipari Islands, include Stromboli, Lipari and Volcano. Best inserted in the middle of a Sicily itinerary, they lure nature lovers with their rugged beauty and archaeological sites, lending themselves to hiking, biking and sightseeing by boat.

An ideally crafted Sicily family vacation starts by arriving in Palermo and then flying home from Catania. Here’s a sample of what to look forward to in the towns and areas along the way.

Palermo

The Sicilian capital boasts one of Europe’s largest historical centers and is the center of culture, economy and tourism on the island. Among other things, Palermo is famed for its food. Families can enjoy a culinary street food tour that includes markets such as Ballarò and Capo, or opt for a cooking class — perhaps trying your hand at making cannoli. These crispy pastry shells filled with sweet ricotta originated in Palermo; popular flavors include pistachio, lemon, chocolate chip and almond.

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Top historical sites in Palermo include the Piazza Pretoria in the heart of the Old Town, Palermo Cathedral and many stunning palazzos such as Palazzo Reale. In the afternoon, cool off at Mondello Beach north of town.

Kids and adults alike will have fun experiencing a traditional Sicilian puppet show, which is an integral part of local culture. These puppet shows are a true art form and reveal the history and lore of the island in an entertaining format. In the Palermo area, families rave about stays at Villa Igiea by Rocco Forte, a turn-of-the-century palazzo stunningly situated on the water’s edge. CB! Family Travel Advisors can book this and other luxe Sicily properties for our clients, often with exclusive perks to pass along — reach out for help with a stay.

Where to Go in Sicily with Kids
The Temple of Concordia at Agrigento. Photo by crocicascino/Adobe Stock

Agrigento

Agrigento is a hill town in the southwest portion of Sicily, surrounded by the famous Valley of the Temples. Dating back to 500 BC, this UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts some of the best-preserved Greek archaeological treasures in the world. Most notable are the Temple of Concordia, the Temple of Juno and the Temple of Hercules. Kid-friendly guided tours bring the area to life, including a private picnic in the archaeological area. Other families might opt for a horseback riding excursion to take in the unique sights.

Near Agrigento lie the Scala dei Turchi (Stairs of the Turks), highly photographable white cliffs formed from sedimentary rock that lead to a sandy beach.

There are two standout resorts west of Agrigento. Verdura, another Rocco Forte property, is an ideal family choice nestled amid orange and olive groves along the Mediterranean. There’s also the newly opened Adler Resort and Spa, which benefits from an excellent seaside location and a slew of family-friendly amenities.

Where to Go in Sicily with Kids
Ortigia, the Old Town of Syracuse. Photo by Travellaggio/Adobe Stock

Syracuse

Located on Sicily’s Ionian Coast, Syracuse is nothing short of a delight for archaeology devotees. Start at the pedestrian-friendly central piazza in the Ortigia, or Old Town — technically an island, but connected to the mainland by bridge. Here you will find Syracuse’s Duomo, with its high-arched walls and paintings in the Sicilian Baroque style, the Fountain of Diana and the Temple of Apollo.

Another key draw in Syracuse is the nearby Archaeological Park, with fantastic Greek and Roman amphitheaters as well as a storied altar to Zeus and the Latomia del Paradiso. This limestone cave is also known as the Ear of Dionysius for its resemblance to the shape of a human ear and its acoustic properties. Legend has it that tyrant Dionysius kept prisoners here and used its sound magnification to listen to their secrets and plans.

Cultural activities abound in Syracuse, such as cooking classes and culinary tours, and even the youngest children can partake in excursions such as a photo treasure hunt. For older kids and teens who would like to delve further into local history, there is the Syracuse Archaeological Museum. Syracuse is also home to appealing beaches for downtime, including Arenella Beach and Fontane Bianche.

Where to Go in Sicily with Kids
The Duomo di San Giorgio peeks out from one of Ragusa’s narrow streets. Photo by christophe/Adobe Stock

Ragusa

The charming hilltop town of Ragusa makes for a notable family day out. Don’t miss the ornate baroque church Duomo di San Giorgio as you explore the Ibla, or Old Town; its many interesting landmarks include the Church of San Giuseppe, Castello di Donnafugata (the Castle of the Woman who Fled) plus amazing views from the Church of St. Mary of the Stairs. Afterward, burn off some energy at the pretty public park Giardino Ibleo.

Families can also enjoy a guided tour of an ancient, still-functioning water mill nearby, or learn more about the local food culture with a Ragusa cooking class.

Where to Go in Sicily with Kids
A long flight of stairs leads to Modica’s 18th-century cathedral. Photo by Maekfoto/Adobe Stock

Modica

Next up is a stop in Modica. Divided into two halves, Alta (Upper) and Bassa (Lower), Modica’s steep terrain is filled with stairs — there are 250 leading to the Duomo di San Giorgio, the mother church of the city. Get your bearings and then get your sweet tooth on in the most famous place for chocolate in Sicily. Indulge your crew with a visit to the Chocolate Museum and savor a chocolate tour or a chocolate-making workshop.

The Marina di Modica also attracts beachgoers for its sandy beach and conditions conducive to surfing and windsurfing.

Where to Go in Sicily with Kids
The small city of Noto is known for its baroque style. Photo by Anna Lurye/Adobe Stock

Noto

Noto is a compact gem of a town that typifies Sicilian baroque architecture. It was largely rebuilt in the 1700s after a huge earthquake in the area, and its gentle pace feels like a step back in time. There are palaces to dazzle, cafes in which to relax and alluring nearby beaches, such as Calamosche. Make sure to check out the flamingoes at the Vendicari Nature Reserve, and try to save time to taste the bounty of the nearby fishing village of Marzamemi. If you happen to be traveling in the spring, Noto is known for its annual Flower Festival that attracts visitors from near and far.

Where to Go in Sicily with Kids
A view of Mt. Etna from Taormina. Photo by grigorylugovoy/Adobe Stock

Taormina

Taormina is perhaps Sicily’s most famous hilltop town, offering stunning views of the coast as well as a chance to see Mt. Etna in the distance and Isola Bella below. A narrow path connects Isola Bella, a.k.a. the Pearl of the Ionian Sea, with the mainland. Taormina can keep families entertained for days — between exploring the town itself, the surrounding waters and escapades around Mt. Etna (Europe’s most active volcano), there is plenty to do.

In town, families will be captivated by Piazza IX Aprile, the most charming local square, thanks to its black-and-white tile floor, cafes and the Baroque Church of San Giuseppe. This stunner offers views over Mt. Etna and the Bay of Naxos. Piazza del Duomo is another picturesque spot in town, a jumble of Roman-Gothic and Baroque architecture, featuring the town’s symbol of a crowned centaur. There are also the grounds of Villa Comunale to roam, which are English gardens created by Queen Victoria’s cousin, who lived here in the late 1800s.

Browse our favorite destinations around the world for cultural immersion with kids!

All destinations can have unique cultural experiences incorporated into a visit, but some places truly shine. Read about the ones we love most, then contact us to help plan an unforgettable family trip.

Taormina offers a fantastic array of memorable family activities, like pizza-making classes and tours of Mt. Etna by Jeep or even donkey, depending on the season. In the summer months you can watch live demonstrations of (and taste!) traditional Sicilian granita being made during a visit to Mt. Etna. Another enticing option for parents is to combine an active visit to the volcano with a tour of a nearby DOC winery.

Whatever you choose, the sea will figure prominently into your Taormina stay. Book a half- or full-day boat trip to Grotto Azzurra, where the clear aqua waters make for amazing snorkeling and scuba, or simply take the cable car to Taormina Beach and enjoy a dip in the Ionian Sea.

Two hotels that families seek out in the Taormina area are Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea and Mazzarò Sea Palace, both of which offer a prime locale, excellent service and private beaches.

Where to Go in Sicily with Kids
Bellini Gardens in Catania. Photo by dudlajzov/Adobe Stock

Catania

Sicily’s second-largest city, Catania, is an important economic port. Outings to Mt. Etna are also possible from Catania, as volcano access is equidistant between Taormina and Catania.

Favored spots to seek out in town include the main square, or Piazza Duomo; the Cathedral; and the Bellini Gardens. History buffs might enjoy the Museo Storico dello Sbarco in Sicilia 1943, otherwise known as the Allied Landings in Sicily Museum, which highlights this area’s curious role in turning the tides for the Allies in World War II. There is a movie with English subtitles, but many of the exhibits are in Italian, so visiting with a guide is helpful for context. Combine it with a guided visit to the former battlefront along the Simeto river nearby.

Etnaland Theme Park outside Catania might be just the ticket for your bunch after a full sightseeing itinerary. There’s also the nearby Monte Rossi Adventure Park with ropes and adventure courses for kids of all ages.

When to Go

May and the end of September, leading into October, are ideal months to visit Sicily. Summers are conducive to longer family trips, but the months of June, July and August can be quite hot. Make sure to plan your itinerary accordingly if you are visiting in the peak summer season, with outings and tours in the morning to avoid the heat of the day.

Relevant Links:

Browse all family-friendly destinations and accommodations in Italy with kids

52 things to know before traveling to Italy with kids

Where to go next in Italy: A melting pot of cultures in Sicily

Why families love Sardinia — an Italian island unlike any other

10 unexpected family spring break destinations

 

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