Sicily Travel Guide

Italy  #3 in Best Beaches in Italy

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Sicily Area Map


You won't want to stay in one place while visiting Sicily. As the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily is full of treasures from coast to coast. Whether you're hiring a driver or making use of public transit, you'll want to explore several cities and towns in Sicily. Below are a handful of the most popular.

Likely the best-known city in Sicily, Palermo sits on the northern side of the island along the Tyrrhenian Sea. The capital city boasts several beaches with white sand butting up against dark rocks. Two favorites include Mondello and Sferracavallo, which is popular with scuba divers. The city itself is known for its Arab-style buildings, vibrant markets, and numerous parks and gardens. It's also home to a variety of historic attractions, including the Teatro Massimo, the Church of Saint Dominic and the Palazzo dei Normanni. Palermo offers a picturesque setting for a number of boutique hotels and bed-and-breakfasts, such as the Palazzo Brunaccini, as well as the luxurious Villa Igiea, a Rocco Forte Hotel. Palermo Airport (PMO) is one of Sicily's main airports.

Catania sits on the eastern side of Sicily along the Ionian Sea at the foot of Mount Etna. The active volcano's fertile soil produces plentiful lemon and orange groves, as well as vineyards. Known for its large piazzas, baroque architecture and structures made from lavic rock, Catania boasts the Cathedral of Saint Agatha, the Palazzo Senatorio and the Monastero dei Benedettini – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Catania Fontanarossa Airport (CTA) is the one of Sicily's main airports.

Travel north of Catania and you'll reach Taormina – a resort destination full of some of the island's best hotels, including the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, the San Domenico Palace Hotel and the Belmond Villa Sant'Andrea, among others. Aside from its luxury hotels, Taormina is also known for the Teatro Antico di Taormina, which dates back to the third century. Because it's a popular vacation destination for Italians, Taormina is usually crowded in July and August, so keep that in mind if you're hoping to book a stay at one of its luxury resorts.

Head just south of Catania to reach Syracuse – an ancient Grecian city that dates back to 734 B.C. Top sites include the Temple of Apollo on Ortygia Island, the Neapolis Archaeological Park and the Paolo Orsi Regional Archaeological Museum. The area contains two cities that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Noto and Palazzolo Acreide, so named for their impressive 18th-century late baroque architecture.

Sitting on the southwestern coast of Sicily is Agrigento, known for its long beaches full of snorkelers, scuba divers and surfers with several islands just offshore. Here is where you'll find ancient ruins like the Valley of the Temples from the ancient Greeks and a Roman villa, artifacts at the Regional Archaeological Museum, its ancient quarter with a cathedral and even thermal baths.

Travel to Italy is generally safe, even though it's rife with rumors of a mafia presence. As with many European countries, simply be aware and on the lookout for pickpockets and petty thieves. In some cases, people on motorcycles may snatch a bag or purse as they drive by. Leave valuables and extra cash in a safe place at home or in the hotel room safe, and never leave your bags unattended.

The U.S. Department of State issued an advisory in December 2018 warning Americans to exercise increased caution in Italy overall due to terrorism. The Department of State also warns that some thieves may impersonate police officers and that you should always ask to see a uniformed officer or the officer's identification card.

Additionally, because Sicily is home to an active volcano, Mount Etna, there is the potential for it to erupt, which could cause airports to close and other disruptions.

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