Sicily is having a moment. Everyone from Sharon Stone and Madonna to rock icon and Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger is falling for the charms of this sunny island all the way down off the tip of Italy’s boot. Its golden cliff-backed beaches, Baroque architecture, ancient Greek temples, luxury accommodation, and devilishly good food make it the perfect place to go for an idyllic island retreat.
The famed Austrian doctor Sigmund Freud once called Sicily the “loveliest region of Italy: a stunning orgy of colours, scents, and lights,” and this selection of things to do in this gorgeous island in the middle of the Mediterranean continues to prove him right. From hiking an active volcano to wine tasting in the luscious vineyard in the heart of Menfishire and soaking up the sun on some of the world’s best beaches, there are endless things to do in this triangle of land off the southern coast of Italy, and there is never really a bad time to visit.
Soak up culture, art and history
Up-and-coming yet still relatively untouched by most tourist routes, Sicily is known for its vast and varied multicultural history, spanning many millennia. Ancient Greeks, Romans, Saracens, Carthaginians, Arabs, Venetians, Byzantines, Phoenicians, Bourbons, Islamic Moors, Catalans, Normans, and French have walked these streets before you.
Travelling around the island, all of these influences are visible, from Carthaginian shipwrecks and Phoenician ruins in the Aegadian Islands to the majestic ancient Greek temples in Selinunte, Syracuse and Agrigento, from Roman villas, Bourbon castles and the magnificent Norman cathedral in Cefalù, to the 3rd-century BC Greco-Roman grand theatre in Taormina, a posh haven for the rich and famous.
Today, Taormina’s impressively preserved, horse-shoe-shaped open-air theatre is home to classical operas, theatrical plays, cultural events, concerts and film festivals, with the audience enjoying stunning views of the Ionian Sea and Mount Etna along with the performance.
Swim surrounded by stunning scenery
With almost 1.000 miles of coastline and more than a dozen offshore islands, there are plenty of options when it comes to beaches in Sicily. From secluded bays only accessible by boat and the blindingly white, staircase-like rock formation of Scala dei Turchi to the west, to picture-perfect coves amid Mediterranean shrub and long stretches of pink-white sand lined with rustic trattorias serving traditional delights to the east, there truly is a beach for everyone. The deep-blue Mediterranean waters are warm enough for swimming from May through October.
About an hour’s scenic drive from Palermo is the fascinating bay of Scopello (pictured below), one of the most photogenic locations in all the Mediterranean, which has starred in a number of acclaimed films, TV series and commercials, including scenes from the famous Hollywood blockbuster Ocean’s Twelve.
Get active outdoors
Sicily is a dream destination for many, and if you are into outdoor activities you are in for a real treat. The island’s vast rocky interior, mountainous nature reserves, lush valleys and diverse and beautiful coastline make it a perfect setting for hiking, biking, sailing, windsurfing, scuba diving, snorkelling, kitesurfing, rock climbing, and even skiing in winter. Don’t miss a chance to take a hike on Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and explore its craters.
Sample Sicily’s classic dishes
Caponata, crunchy deep-fried arancini di riso, squid-ink spaghetti, and Palermo’s classic paccheri alla Norma, named after Catania-born composer Vincenzo Bellini’s opera, are just a few of the delights that attract bon viveurs to Sicily. As any fan of the detective series Inspector Montalbano already knows, Sicily’s cuisine is extremely rich and varied, combining great seafood and local seasonal produce, including almonds, lemons, tomatoes and incredibly succulent olives, with flavours bequeathed by Arab, French, Spanish, Greek, Turkish, and North African occupiers.
Sip on some local wine under the setting sun
Boasting one of Italy’s most dynamic wine industries, Sicily is home to its own ancient grape varietals with a distinct style not found anywhere else. Its dry and warm climate kissed with cooling winds is perfect for viticulture. From the volcanic vineyards of Mount Etna in eastern Sicily to the premier wine-growing area around Menfi on the south coast, Sicily is a dream to visit for wine lovers.
Have a luxury Sicilian villa all to yourself
This triangle-shaped, mountainous island just off the southern coast of Italy has seen the arrival of deluxe pool villas, turning its 1000-mile coastline into one of the Mediterranean’s glitziest rivieras. So why spend your dream vacation in a tiny, pricey hotel room when you can have a luxury Sicilian villa all to yourself with no unwanted disturbance from other guests? Sublime views, private sea access, and shimmering infinity pools with jacuzzi are not as out of reach as you might think. You just need to know what to look for, and when. Take, for instance, Select Sicily, a luxury vacation-rental company based in Palermo. The company has curated vacation rentals in this beautiful Italian island since the mid-2000s, with exclusive properties available from Taormina to Scopello, from Menfi to Syracuse. Whether it’s a family-friendly villa, a secluded countryside retreat, or an architect-designed, contemporary home with sauna, jacuzzi and all the facilities and amenities that ultra-luxe hotels offer, Select Sicily has the best selection of getaways in this gorgeous southern Italian island.
Go to the company’s website Selectsicilyvillas.com to view the latest holiday rental listings for your dream 2023 vacation. Staying in a selfcatering holiday rental is the safest way to vacation after Coronavirus.
Words by Jessica Maggi