Sicily travel guide

Less effusive and more inscrutable than their mainland counterparts, Sicilians don’t conform to carefree Italian stereotypes. Life on the island has been too tough and embattled. Numerous civilisations have invaded, with the Greeks and Romans building temples and amphitheatres and the Normans, Arabs and Spanish leaving behind everything from cathedrals, to citrus fruits, chocolate and couscous. More recently, an earthquake in the 17th century saw the towns of the Noto Valley rebuilt in gorgeous late Baroque style. Sicily’s delights aren’t limited to the manmade though.
The football kicked by Italy’s boot, Sicily is so packed with ancient sites and architectural gems it could be accused of showing off. Only that’s not the Sicilian way.
Its natural landscapes range from rolling limestone hills and quiet bays, to the explosive peaks of Stromboli and Etna, while its fertile seas and fields produce the fresh goodies used in its unique cuisine and sensational street food.
Sicily is/isn't

Sicily is…

bursting with treats for all ages, from culture and history, to fab food and beaches.

Sicily isn’t…

Italy in miniature. Sicily has its own language, cuisine and history, not shared by the mainland.

WHAT WE RATE & WHAT WE DON'T

UNDERRATED

Sicilian wine

Sicilian wine once had a reputation as being a bit …

Separateness

Don’t make the mistake of thinking Sicily is like the …

Cycling tours

Sicily pulls in folk hungry for its history and its …

Family vacations

Sicily isn’t generally first choice for a sunny family getaway, …
RATED

Ancient sites

Sicily’s position in the midst of the Med means it’s …

Sicilian food

Sicily’s food is legendary. The island is brilliantly fertile and …

Volcanoes

Two of Italy’s three active volcanoes are found around Sicily …

Walking

As well as beautiful coastal trails, Sicily has walking that’s …
OVERRATED

Irresponsible souvenirs

Don’t buy pumice from the Aeolian Islands, obsidian or coral …

Thirsty cruise ships

Palermo port sometimes handles as many as 10,000 cruise ship …

Sicily in August

Temperatures creep into the 30°Cs in July and August, making …

Pizza

Obviously, we love pizza as much as the next person, …

FOOD, SHOPPING & PEOPLE

EATING & DRINKING IN SICILY
Arancini, little rice balls stuffed with ragù were introduced to Sicily by Arab invaders who brought rice to the island in the 10th century.
A popular street food in Palermo, panelle are Sicilian fritters made from chickpea flour, often eaten between bread, like a sandwich.
Sfincione means “thick sponge” – the perfect description for these deep pan pizzas which originated in Sicily. They are made with focaccia, topped with tomatoes, onions, a few anchovies and grated casciocavallo cheese.
PEOPLE & LANGUAGE
'Where is…?' Is Unni è...? in Sicilian, and Dov’è...? in Italian.
Sicilian is thought to be the first Romance language to have developed from Latin. It’s very different to Italian, containing words from Arabic, Hebrew, Greek and other languages. That said, it’s only spoken by some Sicilians and most people speak a mix – basically Italian with Sicilian words thrown in.
Hello is saluti in Sicilian and ciao in Italian, both best used with people you know, not strangers. If unsure, stick with the simple basic greeting Buongiorno (good day).
In Sicilian, lu capisciu is I understand, but if you don’t, say nun lu capisciu.
The largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily is also home to Western Europe’s largest volcano, Mount Etna.

Our top Sicily Vacation

Sicily history tour, Italy

Sicily history tour, Italy

One of the most fascinating islands in Europe

From US $1825 to US $2125 9 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2019: 30 Mar, 13 Apr, 20 Apr, 4 May, 11 May, 18 May, 25 May, 1 Jun, 8 Jun, 29 Jun, 24 Aug, 31 Aug, 7 Sep, 14 Sep, 21 Sep, 28 Sep, 5 Oct, 12 Oct, 19 Oct, 26 Oct
2020: 28 Mar, 11 Apr, 18 Apr, 2 May, 9 May, 16 May, 23 May, 6 Jun, 13 Jun, 27 Jun, 8 Aug, 15 Aug, 29 Aug, 5 Sep, 12 Sep, 19 Sep, 26 Sep, 10 Oct, 17 Oct
Helpdesk
Hello. If you'd like to chat about Sicily or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.
GIFTS & SHOPPING
The traditional coppola hat, once associated with the Mafia, has now been appropriated by hipsters. It’s made in Palermo from wool or cotton
Look out for pasta, extra virgin olive oil, honey, preserves and limoncello with the Libera Terra label, meaning “freed land”. It’s produced on land confiscated from the Mafia which now benefits local communities.
The UNESCO protected town of Caltagiorone is famous for its brightly coloured pottery.
There are 23 DOC zones on the island producing popular Sicilian wines like Marsala and Syrah, and less known varieties, including Etna Rosso and Nero d’Avola.
Between 1876 and 1930, out of the five million Italian immigrants who came to the United States, four-fifths were from the South – Calabria, Campania, Abruzzi, Molise and Sicily.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Bottle of good table wine: £4.50

Loaf of bread: £60p

Cappuccino: £1.15

Three course dinner for two with wine: £35

Ferry from Messina (Sicily) to Lipari (Aeolian Islands): from £23 single

A BRIEF HISTORY OF SICILY

Perfectly positioned between mainland Europe and Africa, Sicily has been a strategic military and trading location for millennia. Phoenicians came here from the eastern Mediterranean from the 11th century BC, their settlements later falling under the control of Phoenician Carthage, and then the Greeks followed in the 8th century BC. Sicily soon became the star of Magna Graecia, or Greater Greece, with Syracuse its most important colony. The Valle dei Temple in Agrigento, the site of the ancient city of Akragas, rivalled Athens in its splendor and the remains of its Doric temples are among the best preserved Ancient Greek buildings in the world.Read more
Written by Joanna Simmons
Photo credits: [Page banner: Gandolfo Cannatella] [Sicilian Wine : Fabio Ingrosso] [Separateness: Francesco Zala] [Cycling Tours: Antti T. Nissinen] [Family Vacations: Marco Verch] [Ancient Sites: Franck Manogil] [Sicilian food : Paoletta S.] [Volcanoes: Dean Hochman] [Walking: Gareth Williams] [Irresposible souvenirs (coral necklace): niky] [Thirsty cruise Ships: patrick janicek] [Sicily in August: Rodrigo Silva] [Pizza: Rino Porrovecchio]
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