Sicily is a stunning island located on the southern tip of Italy. It is a beautiful place to visit any time of the year, since it offers a variety of attractions and recreations for everyone. Magnificent beaches, historical ruins, picture perfect panoramas and even winter activities. Here are some of the places you should check out when you are taking a vacation in Sicily.
One of the most popular tourist spots in Sicily is Mount Etna or Muntagna for the locals, one of the world’s most active volcanoes and Europe’s highest and largest. It is a dominating figure over the expanse of the city of Catania, second largest city in the Sicily region, and an important part of their culture. It is said that Plato sailed in just to have a glimpse of the beautiful volcano and that the oldest gelato ever made was from the snow found on the slopes of this towering marvel. And Catania was actually and literally built with the volcano’s lava. After a devastating eruption, the city was rebuilt in Baroque style with this unusual material. Today, the volcano is one of the main attractions in the city. Tours around the peak are offered to tourists or you can observe it through the Ferrovia Circumetnea. Another must-visit is the Piazza del Duomo, a lively square where tourists and locals meet. It is also home to “U Liotru”, an elephant statue carved out of lava and Catania’s symbol. The architecture of the buildings surrounding this area is a must-see; it includes the Cathedral dedicated to Saint Agata and the 17th century arch of Porta Uzeda.
A fascinating view of Mount Etna can be seen from Taormina, a city perched on a mountain high above the sea. With the architectural grand of Teatro Greco, the well-preserved splendor of Palazzo Corvaja and the lovely public gardens at Villa Comunale, it is understandable that they call this city the pearl of Mediterranean. It is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Sicily. And of course, take note of the Taormina Mare where stretches of beaches make it impossible for onlookers to not soak in the sun and have a dip in the water. There are resorts and tiny islands that will surely make your summer vacation unforgettable, like the famous Isola Bella. There are also cable cars called funivia that offer breathtaking sights.
Palermo, the regional city of Sicily, is another interesting area to explore. The diversity of its history and culture is made evident by the arches, domes and towers of the remarkable Cattedrale. Other churches worth entering are The Church of Santa Maria dell’Ammiraglio or simply La Martorana and the Church of San Cataldo. They are both located at Piazza Bellini. La Martorana’s meticulously preserved mosaics and San Cataldo’s three impressive red domes are not to be missed. Piazza Pretoria is another square you should visit. The Fountain of Shame at the heart of the piazza and the almost 500 sculptures of nymphs, humans and satyrs adorning it are wonderful works of art. The Quattro Canti or Four Corners is another interesting stop you should make. It is in the corner of Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Via Maqueda where four Baroque palaces meet. Yes, four palaces with four fountains and four sculptures of four Spanish kings.
Syracuse or Siracusa is a medium-sized city with a rich Greek history. Cicero, a Roman philosopher and orator, once described the city “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all.” The Piazza del Duomo is in Ortiga, the heart of Syracuse. It is the best place to meet and observe locals and tourists alike. With Doric columns of the magnificent Cathedral, the lovely symmetrical Baroque Palazzo Beneventano and the church of the town’s patron saint, Santa Lucia, it is understandable that Piazza del Duomo is one of Italy’s most beautiful piazzas. At the southern tip of Ortiga, Castello Maniace is inaccessible but a sight to see. It is a bastion built by Frederick II and is one of tourists’ favorite sites in Syracuse.
Enna is a city in the heart of Sicily and is about 1,100 meters above sea level. With its strategic importance, it played an important role in Sicily’s history. The sight of the city isolated from the rest of Sicily is overwhelming and its elevation brings chilling winds, uncommon in other cities. Castello di Lombardia is a cliff-hanging castle where visitors can climb up the tower and have great views of the coasts surrounding the city itself and its neighboring areas. Other spots to enjoy spectacular views of the Sicilian countryside are Rocca di Cerere or Rock of Demeter and Torre di Federico II or Umbilicus Siciliae (Navel of Sicily). Though the latter is not open to the public, unlike the former, the surrounding park is. Torre di Federico II is a mysterious octagonal tower, which is said to be built at the exact geometric center of Sicily, thus the nickname.