Seductively beautiful with diverse landscapes that range from sandy beaches and chains of charming islets to mountain ranges and archeological ruins, Sicily is a beautiful island located off the south coast of Italy. The land of the Cyclops has been inhabited by everyone from Arabs and Byzantines to Greeks and Romans, making it a cultural melting pot (and one of the best things to do in Italy).
Whether you wish to explore the ancient streets of Palermo and enjoy the island’s delectable cuisine, visit picturesque hilltop fortress towns where life is unhurried and pasta alla Norma is made from scratch by friendly grandmas, discover magnificent nature reserves, Norman palaces, and Greek and Roman ruins, or spend the weekend enjoying the island’s beautiful beaches with white sands and crystal-clear waters, this list of the best things to do in Sicily has got you covered.
What to do in Sicily
Kick-off your Sicilian travel itinerary with a visit to the Valley of Temples, the largest archaeological site in the world and one of the very best things to do in Sicily. Located just outside of Agrigento, this fabulous UNESCO-listed archeological park is home to remains of 8 temples that date back to the 5th century BC. Don’t miss the pre-Hellenic cave sanctuary, as well as the Temple of Concordia: one of the most famous Greek ruins in existence.
Did we tell you how we’re super mega fans of the Sicilian cuisine? From my personal experience, I have to say that the Streaty Food Tour in Palermo is one of the best experiences for adventurous foodies visiting Sicily. This walking tour lasts for about 3 hours and explores Palermo’s local markets of Capo and Vucciria. Our guide Marco took us to the best places in these centuries-old markets to try local food delicacies such as arancini, sfincione, cazzilli fritters, pani ca’ meusa, and the almighty cannoli with ricotta cream.
Taormina is without a doubt one of the most popular tourist destinations in Sicily. Lined with souvenir shops, galleries, craft stores, and restaurants, the town’s main Corso Umberto Street is an ideal place to enjoy a peaceful stroll and admire the beauty of attractions like the black and white April IX Square and the Church of Saint Augustine. Visit the Teatro Antico di Taormina (Ancient Greek Theatre) or take the cable car down Isola Bela, a famous beach in Taormina.
Located just a short drive from the city of Palermo, Mondello beach is a favorite gathering place for Sicilians looking for some quality beach time. Travelers who wish to have access to beach amenities and facilities will have to pay a small fee, while the other part of the beach is free to visit. Don’t forget to snap some cool photos in front of the art nouveau villas and colorful cabins.
There are so many cool things to do in Sicily, and spending a day at the fabulous Zingaro Nature Reserve falls into this category. Easily reachable from towns like Trapani and Scopello, the reserve offers everything from small beaches to an abundance of flora and fauna and magnificent ocean views. It is highly recommended to wear comfortable shoes while visiting the Zingaro Nature Reserve.
I strongly encourage you not to tell a Sicilian that you’ve had a cannoli in other countries, not even in the north of Italy. In case you do, many of them will ask you things like “Was it filled with custard cream instead of our sheep ricotta cream?” or “So, you haven’t really tried a cannoli, have you?. Don’t take it to heart, as Sicilians are really proud of this dessert. Where to try it? We recommend the San Lorenzo Mercato in Palermo and the small village of Piana degli Albanesi.
A sea destination just a short drive from Palermo, Cefalù is a small town famed for its medieval centro storico and an imposing Norman cathedral with beautiful mosaics. Dotted with souvenir shops and restaurants, the narrow streets of Cefalù pulse with life. This picturesque town is also home to one of the best beaches in all of Sicily.
Catania based Etna Wine School allows travelers to learn more about winemaking on Mount Etna and offers a wide range of unique and private educational experiences. We recommend taking the Half-Day Class and Day Wine School tour which lasts for about 4 hours and includes everything from learning about the winemaking techniques, a tour of the winery, tasting of premium wine varieties like Etna Bianco DOC and Etna Rosso DOC, and delicious seasonal Sicilian foods.
There is no shortage of beautiful beaches in Sicily and Lido Arenella is one of them. Located about 10 km from the city of Syracuse, this typical Sicilian beach offers both a beach club equipped with all the necessary facilities and amenities for a relaxing beach vacation and a rugged beach area with free access. Parking is plentiful and the cliffs to the north of Lido Arenella make for great photo ops.
While you are in the neighborhood, pay a visit to the Ortigia market on the island of Syracuse. Whether you wish to try almond cakes, snails, pistachios, or sample chili peppers from Etna and seafood delicacies, a visit to this colorful market is a great introduction to local food products and the Sicilian cuisine. Don’t leave before trying the mouthwatering sun-dried tomatoes with basil and olive oil.
The oldest temple in all of Sicily, the Temple of Apollo is located on the island of Ortigia and features many superb ancient sites and ruins. See the rectangular foundation of the structure, as well as ornate columns. Travelers who wish to learn more about the temple can pay a visit to the nearby Museo Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi.
Mount Etna is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and the number one attraction in Sicily. Join one of the many Mount Etna tours that offer easy access via a cable car and a small bus to the summit from where you can wander on your own and admire the sheer beauty of this place.
A cooking class with Chef Massimo in Taormina was definitely one of our favorite things to do in Sicily. The tour starts with a visit to the colorful fish market where you will pick up fresh seasonal ingredients for the hands-on cooking class that awaits you. Once you are back in the kitchen, you will be learning how to make typical Sicilian dishes like stuffed artichokes, fresh egg pasta, Ricotta-stuffed zucchini flowers, and rolled stuffed beef. During the cooking class, you will also have an opportunity to sample local Sicilian wines.
Famed for its milky-white sands and azure waters, Rabbit Beach on the island of Lampedusa is an ideal destination for a weekend getaway trip. It is ranked as one of the best beaches in the world, so it comes as no surprise that it’s usually packed with tourists during the summer season. However, the island of Lampedusa is also home to quite a lot of other beaches where you can find some peace and quiet.
From my personal experience, I have to say that Frida Pizzeria is one of the best places in the world to indulge in an authentic Italian pizza. It seems that I am not the only one with a passion for their crusty pizza, as the English Daily Mail voted this place as one of the top 15 pizza joints in Italy. You will find Frida on a small picturesque square in the historic center of Palermo. Go for the vulcanotti pizza or for any version that includes classic Sicilian toppings like buffalo mozzarella, capers, and fresh ricotta.
Easily accessible from the town of Trapani, the three Aegadian Islands of Favignana, Levanzo and Marettimo should be included on every Sicilian travel itinerary. From renting a bicycle and hiking to swimming in beautiful coves, there is plenty to look forward to when visiting these fabulous islands. In case you are not sure which island to visit, our vote goes out to Favignana.
One of the finest museums in Sicily, Palermo’s Archaeological Museum is home to many impressive artifacts ranging from grave carvings from Chiuisi and Copper Age tools and vessels to Egyptian Pharaohs and the incredible statue of Zeus. Also, expect to see many items related to the history of the island.
Hiking enthusiasts looking for things to do in Sicily can spend a day at the wonderful Monte Cofano Nature Reserve. It may not be as famous as the Zingaro Nature Reserve, but this area that runs along the seaside, has fewer tourists, and offers breathtaking landscapes and vegetation. If you are an experienced hiker, make sure to climb to the top of Mount Cofano and enjoy panoramic views of Sicily.
Owned by Giuseppe and Mimma, Capriccio Siciliano Restaurant in Cefalu is one of those non-touristy food joints that offer delicious Sicilian cuisine. The cheese and meat platter is amazing, as well as other local delicacies like fresh fettuccine with mushroom sauce and pasta alla Norma. However, the dish that makes this restaurant special is the homemade lasagne. The portion is definitely big enough for two people.
Made of 7 islands and a few islets, the Aeolian Islands in Northern Sicily can be easily reached from towns of Palermo, Messina, and Milazzo. The good news is that each island has its own atmosphere and charm. For instance, Vulcano is the closest island to the shore and is famed for its breathtaking volcanic landscapes, while Salina is home to amazing hiking trails. Then there’s Lipari, which is the largest island and premiere yacht destination.
Located right between Selinunte and Agrigento, the Torre Salsa Nature Reserve is one of those lesser-known attractions in Sicily. Whether you wish to have a picnic, go hiking, or visit the reserve’s sandy beach and enjoy water activities like snorkeling and swimming, Torre Salsa Nature Reserve offers something for every traveler. It’s actually one of the best places in the region to get away from large crowds of tourists, especially in high season. Parking is plentiful, but not well indicated.
A lovely Baroque town nestled on the side of a cliff, Modica is best-known for its stone chocolate. If you have a sweet tooth, visit one of the many chocolate shops in the town and learn more about chocolate making techniques that were used by the Mayan people who prepared this sweet treat over a warm stone.
A metropolitan cathedral from the 12th century, Monreale’s Cathedral is one of the finest UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Sicily. Admire the beauty of glowing golden mosaics and the Benedictine cloister with a peaceful garden and a courtyard. Perched majestically on a hill overlooking Palermo, the cathedral is one of the best examples of Norman architecture.
Sicily is not short on natural wonders and Alcàntara Gorge is one of them. Located in a cute park close to the town of Taormina, this 150-foot high gorge is famed for its cold waters that come from the Alcantara River. To experience spectacular views of this massive rock formation, travelers can hike one of the trails. There is also an elevator that transfers passengers down to a small beach. Adrenaline junkies visiting Alcantara Gorge can look forward to body rafting in the rapids.
Fans of the Godfather trilogy have probably heard of Corleone, a small town in Sicily where the Anti-Mafia museum can be found. Visitors will find 3 rooms inside this magnificent museum that tells stories about the history of the Cosa Nostra crime syndicate in Sicily. The first room houses documents from the trials in the 1980s, while the second room is home to photographs by famous journalist Letizia Battaglia. Inside the third room, expect to see many photos of Mafia bosses.
Located in Palermo’s beautiful Verdi Square, Teatro Massimo is the largest opera house in Italy with a capacity of about 3,000 people. The acoustics here are amazing and listening to famous productions like Bolero and Madame Butterfly is simply a must for opera lovers visiting Sicily. Due to the popularity of productions at Teatro Massimo, we suggest that you purchase your tickets well in advance.
If you are staying in Catania, make sure to pay a visit to the city’s fish market called Pescheria. The smell of fish here is not for the faint-hearted, but the atmosphere is lively with noisy merchants selling their catch-of-the-day. Apart from selling fish and seafood, the local vendors also offer veggies and fruits, cheese, and ham. Try the Sicilian red oranges!
Located just a short drive from the city of Palermo, Adventure Park Eco Campus Casaboli is an ideal destination to visit if you are exploring Sicily with the little ones. From different adventure paths to rope ladder waling and tree climbing, there are definitely more than enough activities at this adventure park in the Casaboli forest to entertain your kids throughout the day. Keep in mind there are no food facilities available on-site.
Travelers looking for more things to do in Sicily with children can spend a day at the Salt Pans that are located near Nubia, between the towns of Trapani and Marsala on the west coast of the island. Here, you can marvel at large piles of salt that are drying in the sun and hop on a boat ride to the nearby island of Mothya where many excellent picnic spots can be found. The easiest way to reach the Salt Pans is by taking the famous Salt Pan train from Trapani.
Welcome to Donnalucata, a small fishing village located just a short drive from Ragusa. The main attractions here are the two pristine beaches of Ponente and Micenci where many scenes from the popular Italian TV series Inspector Montalbano were shot. Don’t leave this popular tourist village before stopping by the Blue Moon that offers the most delicious artisan ice cream.
Occupying the central-northern part of the island, the Madonie National Park covers an area of approximately 40,000 hectares and is one of the most famous ecosystems in all of Italy. Inside the park, expect to find many endemic plants and tree species, as well as numerous scenic trails that you can explore on foot. The park’s main attractions include the Grotta of Vecchiuzzo in Petralia Sottana, a natural amphitheater of Mount Quacella, and the valley of Madonna degli Angeli.
Set in the pristine countryside about an hour from the town of Cefalu, Tasca d’Almerita Vineyards is the largest wine producer in the country and a perfect destination to visit for all you wine lovers out there. During the tour, travelers can sample local Sicilian varieties like Inzolia, Catarrattoo, and Nero d’Avola and admire the beauty of over 1,000 hectares of vineyards. Leisurely gourmet meals are also available.
The white stone Donnafugata Castle has been featured in many popular TV shows and movies like the Leopard and the Viceroys, making it a popular tourist destination in Sicily. Go on the tour of this magnificent castle and explore its 22 rooms with period furniture from the 18th century. Visitors can also look forward to exploring the beautiful 8-hectare wide park, as well as other attractions including a few artificial caves with stalactites, a small circular temple, and the stone labyrinth.
No visit to Sicily is complete without checking out one of its strongest cultural traditions, the popular puppet theater. With dozens of these small awesome theatres in major towns like Palermo, Catania, and Syracuse, it’s relatively easy to find a place where local puppeteers re-enact unforgettable stories. Our favorite puppet theaters are Figli D’Arte Cuticchios in Palermo and Teatro dei pupi in the city of Siracusa.
Germany has bratwurst, England has fish & chips, and Palermo has the epic spleen sandwich called Pani ca’ Meusa. It is one of the most famous Sicilian street food delicacies and you simply have to try it. So, what’s Pani ca’ Meusa? Boiled cow spleen, trachea, and lung served with a slice of fresh Sicilian lemon and perhaps a bit of caciocavallo cheese. If you are a fan of cow innards, head out to the marina in Palermo where you will find Pani Ca’ Meusa Porta Carbone that serves the most delicious Pani ca’ Meusa.