A twin combination of ancient history and undiscovered ‘interior’ Italy
Make Sicily a haven for visitors seeking sun, scenery and swimming that’s a little off the beaten track – but increasingly popular. Whether your taste is for the beach life of Cefalu or the magnificent temples of Agrigento, there’s a corner of this magical island with your name on it.
While the main cities of Palermo, Syracuse and Taormina have plenty of the big high-street names and Italian designer boutiques, there’s plenty more for those who want something a bit special. Mascalucìa, a small town on the southern flank of Mount Etna, has a super monthly craft market, where you can pick up colourful Caltagirone ceramics and pupi (puppets) for a pittance. Palermo has some excellent markets and is also home to the unique Bottega dei Sapori (13 Piazza Castelnuovo), which stocks superb local produce grown on farms confiscated from the Mafia.
Food & Drink
The sheer variety of places to eat out in Sicily is almost mind-boggling, with everything from tiny trattorias selling local specialities to formal Michelin-starred restaurants. Make a start at Ristorante al Duomo (11 Vico degli Ebrei) in Taormina, which is ideal if you’re looking for a tasty introduction to Sicilian specialities. For cheap eats in Palermo – including local favourite sfinciuni (a fluffy pizza with anchovies, tomatoes and primo sale cheese) – try Ristorante Santandrea (4 Piazza Sant’Andrea), a shabby-chic eatery with slightly frayed service but a brilliant line in antipasti. Blow the budget on deliciously indulgent dishes at Ristorante Metrò (76 Via dei Crociferi) in Catania; you won’t regret it.
Not for the faint-hearted, La Mattanza (The Massacre) is the annual tuna hunt just off the Egadi Islands on Sicily’s west coast. Head out to sea with the fishermen or wait on the beach for their return and a slap-up fishy feast.
Festival of Santa Rosalia
For Palermitani (Palermo inhabitants), mid-July means only one thing: the annual feast day of their patron saint, St Rosalia, and the huge street party and procession that accompanies it.
Festival of San Salvatore
Cefalù lays on two days of processions, street performances and fireworks to celebrate the town’s patron saint, St Salvatore. Local food plays a big role – look out for pasta a taianu, a delicious concoction made with aubergines and pecorino cheese.
Sagra della Salsiccia
Sicilian sausages are so good, they’re worth celebrating – at least according to the townsfolk of Aragona, who throw an annual party dedicated to the peasant staple.
Targa Florio Classic
Once a competitive race along Sicily’s northern coast from central Palermo through the Madonie Mountains, the event is now a stately procession of classic cars that draws enthusiasts from all over the world.
There’s no shortage of great places to sleep in Sicily; no surprise given the diversity of the island. A particularly lovely spot can be found at the Atahotel Capotaormina (105 Via Nazionale), which is perched on a craggy rock close to Taormina and boasts both sea and Mount Etna views. Another good bet for beach lovers is the Grand Hotel Villa Igiea (43 Salita Belmonte), a palatial pile in Palermo that boasts its own stretch of sand and has views over the Gulf of Palermo. Away from the ocean, try the Grande Albergo Alfeo (5 Via Nino Bixio), a grand old townhouse in central Syracuse.