A Memorable Sicily Travel Guide

Deb Swacker, a Fora Advisor, smiles from the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City

Curated By

Deb Swacker

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ancient ruins in a circular theatre overlooking the Mediterranean

Curator’s statement

I went to Sicily in August of 2019 with my dad and kids. It was incredible, and we all loved every minute. We did Palermo, Agrigento, Mount Etna and then Taormina. This trip involved a lot of moving around, but minimized car time and really gave us a great overview of the island. I've formed relationships with on-the-ground companies that helped make all the transportation seamless (they set up all our tours and transfers, and each was excellent). This was crucial for my family and me, since my father uses a cane and has some mobility issues. If I could go back (and I will), I would like to see Noto and Syracuse — and hike more on Mount Etna.

I’ve put together some of my favorite tips for travel in this special region of the world in my Sicilytravel guide.

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Personalized recs

Customized travel planning for your style

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Insider knowledge

Expert advice from people who’ve actually been there

Where to stay in Sicily, Italy

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Palermo in Sicily, Italy

aerial view of a historic town square in Italy on a sunny day

No Sicily travel guide would be complete without a generous sampling of the local cuisine (Sicily is famous for its arancini and cannoli, after all). I highly recommend a street food tour to get a lay of the land and immerse yourself in the region’s local food scene. Afterward, make sure to wander around the city. On my trip, we went into several beautiful churches, and visited a monastery that makes Sicilian sweet treats. We also saw the opera house, which was featured in the Godfather III, which I loved.

On our one night here, we had dinner at Buatta, and it was superb.

Agrigento in Sicily, Italy

ancient ruins on a hilltop

The big draw here is the excellently preserved ancient ruins — the Valley of the Temples. You will need a guide, a hat, sunblock and water, too to explore this archaeological site. Go first thing in the morning, and plan to spend a few hours there. Dolce and Gabbana did a fashion show here in the spring of 2019. The Temple of Concordia is especially impressive: it’s an ancient Greek temple, and a UNESCO site.

The night before we went, we stayed at a really great hotel called Hotel Villa Athena. It is very close to the ancient ruins, and at night, from their restaurant, you can see them all lit up. The food at this hotel was delicious, and the hotel itself was lovely. Olive trees are everywhere; it has a fantastic pool.

If you chose to do this as a day trip from Taormina or other east coast areas, I would recommend setting up a lunch stop on the way back.

Mount Etna & the Monaci delle Terre Nere in Sicily, Italy

slightly snow-capped Mount Etna partially covered by clouds

I love volcanoes, and Sicily has a great one (a crucial item on any Sicily travel guide). We stayed at a truly enchanting boutique-chic farm hotel called Monaci delle Terre Nere, on the volcano's slopes. They make their own olive oil and wine (Sicilian wine cannot be matched!). The food, staff and rooms were all wonderful. It also had a great pool.

We did a fun cooking class outside and then enjoyed the fruits of our labor during a long, lazy, beautiful lunch. My daughter Sophia collected chicken eggs. From there, we spent a day on the volcano: we went into caves, saw lava fields, saw where honey is made and then visited a winery for lunch.

Taormina in Sicily, Italy

aerial shot of a hillside village on a clear-water beach

This is a stunning town, and it has some serious hotel game.

There are two Belmond’s here: one by the sea (Villa Sant ‘Andrea) and one in town (Grand Hotel Timeo). We stayed at the one in town so we could easily shop and go to dinner. Our rooms were incredible, with a view of the ocean and Mount Etna, an active volcano. The restaurant here is formal and delicious. Even if you don’t stay at this hotel, their bar, which has a balcony, is a great spot for a drink with a killer view. There is also a great pool, beautiful gardens and a less formal lunch spot on property.

The sister hotel, right on the ocean, has a beach club and a kids club. Here, we spent a day literally submerged in the Ionian Sea. There's a shuttle that takes you back and forth between the hotels.

There are many restaurants and shops in the town. And gelato. And granita, too. We got sandals made for us at Capri Handmade. We spent most of our time there shopping. However, there is much to see. You can hire a Sicilytravel guide, or wander around yourself. You can easily spend a half day (or more) in this town.

From here you can do day trips to the eastern cities such as Syracuse (1.5 hours), Noto (just under two hours) and Catania (just under an hour). You can also explore Mount Etna.

Need to Know

  • The big choice you must make in Sicily is if you want to fly into Palermo and then out through Catania, or stay on one side of the island and just use Catania. I’d be happy to chat with you to decide what’s best for your personal style and what you want to see.

  • I love working with local companies and partners in Sicily to help curate incredible experiences (and bonus: this also helps to keep more of your tourism dollars local). By working with my trusted local partners, you’ll be in excellent hands while on-the-ground in Italy. We can help to plan a as much or as little as you want.

Deb Swacker, a Fora Advisor, smiles from the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City

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Deb Swacker

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Looking for more Sicily inspiration? Check out my Guide to Arts & Culture in Sicily.