When you think of Sicily, it’s easy to picture gorgeous beaches, orange hued sunsets and the jewel toned waters of the Mediterranean sea. The scenery in the island is idyllic, yet there is so much more to Sicily than great beaches or impressive volcanoes. This is a place filled with culture: a land that seduced both Greeks, Romans, Asians and Africans. It holds treasures from ancient ruins, to Baroque towns, many of which have been included in the UNESCO list of world heritage sites. This is an island that you need to visit, and will undoubtedly fall in love with it, just like we did.
Castellammare Del Golfo
If you are looking to relax in some crystal clear waters, visiting natural reserves, and sunsets with a sea port view, head on to Castellammare Del Golfo. Perfectly located in the province of Trapani, this small town was born as a naval defense in ancient times, and owns its name to the 17th century castle that surrounds it.
The castle itself holds the Mediterranean Museum and the Ethno-Anthropological Museum Annalisa Buccellato where you will learn about the past life in Sicily and the everyday objects that were used for crafts, from ceramics to olive picking.
If you rather spend your time touring the beaches around Castellammare,you can always go to Spiaggia, a beautiful beach with lovely blue waters and fine sand. For something more secluded go to the Zingaro Nature Reserve, an untouched paradise where you can find anything from spectacular cliffs, hiking trails, and gorgeous beaches like Punta Della Capreria or Marinella with turquoise calm waters.
If you ever dreamed of visiting an active volcano, Mount Etna is where you should head. With a height of 3,340 meters above sea level, Mount Etna is Europe’s tallest active volcano, and an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visited by hundreds of thousands all year long, the grounds are used for hiking in the summer and becomes a skiing destination in the winter. The landscape is outstanding, you can even visit two inactive craters. .If you get a chance visit one of many wineries dotted around the bottom of the mountain. The rich volcanic soil helps produce some of Sicily’s best wine
Located near Palermo, the small village of Monreale is home to one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Italy. An example of Norman architecture, the Monreale Cathedral was commissioned by William II in 1174, and is included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
The walls at Monreale are filled with mosaics made out of pure gold, around 2200 kg of it. There are scenes from the Old and New Testament, and the Christ Pantocrator looking down at the top of the apse. On a side of the cathedral there is an entrance to the cloister, There is also a terrace you can access from the inside, and it will reward you with a view of the Conca D’oro, the valley that surrounds Monreale.
In the province of Agrigento, lies the jewel that is the town of Porto Empedocle. A medieval town that is both rich in history as it is in natural beauty, it has over 3km of beaches and historical landmarks as the Torre Carlo V (a 15th century tower that was built to protect the territory and is now used as a cultural center) and the Chiesa Madre (the mother church of Porto Empedocle).
The town is also famous for being the birthplace of Italian writers Luigi Pirandello and Andrea Camilleri. If you are looking for amazing food, the city center is filled with restaurants that offer some of the greatest seafood, and traditional Sicilian cuisine.
Also known as Syracuse, it was one of the most important cities founded by the ancient Greek. It is home to incredible archaeological remains that you get to visit in the Neapolis Archaeological Park. The park also has a Roman theater, the “Ear of Dionysius”, and the famous Greek theater that is said to date back to the 5th century BC.
The old of Siracusa includes the island of Ortigia where you will find the ruins of the Greek Temple of Apollo, and also enjoy the sights of the Castello Maniace and the world famous Siracusa Duomo, a cathedral with a Baroque facade that was formerly a temple to Greek goddess Athena.
Brittnay Sharman is an Aussie who lived in London for the past two years before making the move to Dublin. She managed to squeeze in 21 trips to Europe & Africa in that time (including lots of cheese & wine). Her adventures of travel and house sitting is captured The Travelling House Sitters