Holidays in Sicily, Italy
Sicily offers surprises and overwhelming experiences of any kind.
In Sicily you will find a stunning and varied countryside that stretches from steep mountains to tiny coves with white sand beach.
Few places in the world you can see so much history together in such a small area.
The colors and scents that pops up both in the cities and in the countryside, is striking. It's as if everything has a stronger scent here.
The food is an experience in itself. Made with love and served with pride.
There are many interesting towns, some of which we list below.
Trapani is the main town in the province located on the Sicilian west coast. With its approximately 70.000 inhabitants it is a quite big, but still cosy harbor town.
The area is green and luxuriant with many vineyards. In fact it is one of Italy’s largest wine producers. Trapani is a very interesting town with many historical monuments. If you are archaeology interested you should visit the archaeological parks of Selinunte, Segesta and Mozia which are all easily reachable by car. Especially Selinunte is very impressing, it is situated ca. 1 ½ hour drive from Trapani. Here you will find some of the best preserved Greek relics on the whole Sicily. The excavations are situated in a beautiful position with a view over the sea and the small fishing village Marinella. Bring your swimwear and combine with a dip in the crystal clear sea just nearby.
Trapani and the Sicilian kitchen also offers great food and many culinary experiences. Don’t order from the menu card but try and let the restaurants chose for you in order to try all local specialties.
There is a beach in Trapani but if you like really nice beaches and crystal water we recommend you to visit the Egadi Islands, Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo reachable with ferryboat from the harbor of Trapani. If you prefer the car you can drive to Sciacca, San Vito Lo Capo or Mazara del Vallo which all offers beautiful sandy beaches.
Monte Erice with the medieval village Erice is located in a beautiful position on the top of a hill ca. 13 km north from Trapani and it is really worth a visit. You can take the cableway up, it is 3.099 meter long and on your way you can enjoy the most beautiful view over the surrounding landscape (if it is windy the cableway is closed). If you don’t like cableways it is also possible to reach the village by car. Erice is a very picturesque village with narrow cobbled streets. You just feel like being moved back in the past here.
From the village there is a marvellous view over Trapani, over the bay and the Egadi Islands in one direction. Looking north you can see the beaches in San Vito Lo Capo. You should be aware that there are a lot of tourists in the village but according to us it is still worth a visit since it is very suggestive. It is friendly for children, the centre is closed for traffic and if you use your fantasy you can even have a glimpse of a knight just around the corner.
Even if this city has a long and interesting history, today it is most famous for the production of Marsala wine. This production characterizes the whole city and all around you will find small wine cellars or bars where it is possible to taste the wine. Marsala wine is a liqueur that reminds you of port but in this area people often drink it as a normal wine. The alcoholic content is quite high, ca.16-20%.
The Marsala wine is often served as an aperitif or as a dessert wine but it is also often used in the cooking; all Tiramisu lovers will recognize the taste.
The history of Marsala is over 2000 year old. The city was founded by the Phoenicians 400 years BC. The history of the village is violent, full of wars and conquests, which you will understand when you visit the archaeological museum where it is also possible to see an ancient Punic wreck. The architecture in the city is also very interesting, full of beautiful buildings. The visit in Marsala can be combined with a beach trip. The beaches are nice and the water has been awarded with the European ”blue flag”.
S. Vito lo Capo
The small village of San Vito Lo Capo, with ca 4000 inhabitants is without any doubt the most fashionable beach village on Sicily’s north-west coast. It is typical Mediterranean with small, low houses in bright colors. It is situated in a bay with the most beautiful white sandy beach. The beach was selected as Italy’s best 2011 by Tripadvisor, and ranked number eight in Europe.
When we went there we rented a rubber boat and went to the nature reserve ”Riserva dello Zingaro” (see below).
No particular knowledge is required to rent a small boat, you will get good instructions at the pick-up but if you prefer it is also possible to join common excursions by boat. You will pass Scopello where you can admire the old tuna fishery "Tonnara Di Scopello", which is a famous historical site in this area. Very interesting and the boat trip is unforgettable.
S. Vito lo Capo also offers shopping, nice atmosphere especially in the evening when everything is open. Many nice restaurants with local Sicilian dishes, some with Arabic touch.
Riserva dello Zingaro
This is a 1650 hectares wide, protected area with a coastline of 7 km which mostly consists of rocks. Lo Zingaro is one of Italy’s most famous reserves due to its beautiful scenery with lush vegetation which reflect in the sea changing colors each time of the day.
It is really worth a visit. You can hike along the paths, discover small bays or just relax on sandy beaches. You can climb the rocks or visit caves. If you like diving or snorkeling. ”Lo Zingaro” offers great opportunities.
A small beach town placed between Palermo and Trapani. Very cozy atmosphere both during the day with the many small beaches and in the evening with most restaurants and cafés placed right on the waterfront with a fantastic view over the ocean and all the boats.
We had dinner at the restaurant “Mirko”. Not cheap, but maybe the best dinner we have had for a very long time. We ordered “Busiate” which is a characteristic type of pasta only served here. We advise to book a table in advance since this is a small place.
Palermo is the capital on Sicily and it has ca. 700.000 inhabitants which make it the fifth largest town in Italy. Here you can enjoy city life with nice shopping, bars and restaurants and a lot of monuments and interesting architecture. It like visiting a big open air museum. Like many big cities it is quite chaotic and a lot of traffic. For this reason it is not very child friendly, especially during the hot summer months.
During our visit we chose a very touristic way to visit the city; on a horse carriage. It took us along the narrow street passing beautiful squares and buildings (remember to fix the price before the tour starts!). This is a nice way to visit the city, especially if you are travelling with children. After the tour you can focus on a smaller area, a museum, a couple of churches or a street that interests you.
We recommend you also to visit the characteristic market “Vucciria”.
It is good to know that the main streets are called: Via Maqueda, Via Vittorio Emanuele, Via Roma and Via Ruggero Settimo.
The Egadi Islands
Take the ferry to one of the small islands outside Trapani, especially Favignana is nice. It is only 14 km2 big and has about 4000 inhabitant but yet it is the biggest of the group of islands called Egadi. Here you will find small bays with both cliffs and sandy beaches and beautiful crystal water.
We rented bikes and went around the island. It is 33 km but the landscape is quite flat and the trip is lovely with stops in the small villages or a dip here and there in the small bays. You can take the ferry from the harbor in Trapani and when you reach the harbor in Favignana you can rent bikes in all different sizes.
Be aware, it is a challenge to drive here but once you have parked the car there are a lot of interesting things to experience. It is the second city on Sicily with ca 350.000 inhabitants.
The historical centre has been restored during the last years so the monuments appear well kept and inviting. We recommend you to stroll along the narrow streets where you will find small characteristic shops and restaurants. If you want to feel the pulsing city life you should walk along Via Etnea. If you prefer to relax in more peaceful areas we suggest a visit at Villa Bellina with a big park. Do not miss the town hall, the cathedral and elephant fountain that stands in the main square.
The city is close to the volcano Etna which is a must see if you are in this area. The black lava stone from the volcano characterizes many of the old houses.
It is also a must to try the local dish "Pasta alla Norma" which can be found in almost any restaurant. It is based on fried aubergines, tomato sauce and baked ricotta cheese. It is a quite heavy dish - don’t order any main course after.
The volcano Etna
As you drive up to the volcano the landscape starts to change and becomes more and more lunar, barren and black. Unreal and fascinating!
You can only drive until a certain point where there is a square with some shops, restaurants and a good parking. From here you can take the cable way ”halfway”. It is a very exciting ride that might seems a bit scary for those who don’t like heights. You can continue with jeep buses and a guide all the way up to the craters. It is not suitable for small children or disabled. Be aware that the air gets thinner as you get higher but it is not perceptible before you reach the craters. For those how have difficulties with lower oxygen we suggest not to take the cable way but to stop at the parking with the car.
Traces of the Greek influence dominates here but also traces from later periods like renaissance, medieval and baroque are conspicuous in this beautiful town situated by the sea in south-eastern Sicily.
The antique centre of Siracusa is named ”Ortigia”. This part of the city dates back more than 2500 years in time. It is exactly a peninsula connected with the more modern part of the town by two bridges. You will find beautiful narrow streets, medieval buildings and baroque architecture. There are several good restaurants and cafes. Interesting architecture, churches, greek excavations, nice beaches and a very nice night life.
You must visit the archaeological park Neapolis when you are in this area. The park was founded between 1952 and 1955 and here it is possible to admire most of the monuments from the Greek and Roman Siracusa. At the entrance to the 240.000 mq. big park there is a church from 1000-century called "Basilica di S. Nicolò dei Cordari" and a well-preserved Roman amphitheater.
Further on you will find the entrance to the Greek theater dating back to 230 BC. There was room for 15.000 persons and it is the biggest Greek theatre outside Greece. From here you can enjoy the stunning views over the area and the city.
From the park you should walk to the graves - Catacomba di San Giovanni - Piazzale San Marciano 3, where you will have a guided tour. Very interesting also for children (the skeletons have been removed and it is not scary). Please note that it is closed for lunch.
The special thing about Noto is that the whole town was completely destroyed by an earthquake in 1693. While in almost all towns in Sicily the architecture is a mix from different ages and with influence from all kind of invaders, Noto was rebuilt entirely in Baroque style. For this reason Noto is a great example of this characteristic architecture here in Sicily.
The town offers a great atmosphere with many nice shops and good restaurants and it is absolutely worth a visit.
This town was completely rebuilt after 1693 with the main street wedged between the cliffs and the houses that are climbing up the rocks. It appears very dramatic. The town is divided into two areas; Modica Alta, the high part and Modica Bassa, the low part where you can find shops, restaurants and bars. The town was founded by “Siculi’erne”, a Pelagic tribe of Hindu-European origin but it became really important during the Spanish invasion. The main street is called Corso Umberto I, where you can find all kinds of shops, cafes, restaurants and historical monuments. Go all the steps up to the cathedral from 1693 so you can admire the beautiful baroque statues.
If you really like walking you should go along the narrow streets up to Modica Alta where you feel like being set back in time. Very special.
All in all, Modica is a fascinating city with a lot of atmosphere.