Beyond the Beaten Path: Discovering Authentic Sicily
From the moment I arrived in Sicily, I was welcomed with open arms by the locals, who proudly maintain authentic Italian traditions. I quickly fell for the island's gorgeous beaches, dramatic cliffs and postcard-worthy fishing villages dotting the coastline. Beyond the dazzling scenery, Sicily stole my heart through its incredible cuisine - fresh seafood, bright vegetables and delectable pastries I still crave today. But what truly made my experience unforgettable was the Sicilian people, whose joy, hospitality and invitation to embrace la dolce vita will stay with me forever.
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Where to stay in Sicily
Hotel Villa Athena
Elegant five-star hotel located within a UNESCO World Heritage Site near ancient ruins.
$50 hotel / resort credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
Taormina Hotel Villa Ducale
This romantic boutique hotel has breathtaking views across the sea and Mount Etna.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
$100 (or units of local currency) credit (per day for suites and per stay for rooms and junior suites).
Monaci delle Terre Nere
In the foothills of Mount Etna, a charming rural boutique for tranquil downtime in nature and a deep dive into local winemaking traditions.
A glass of local Etna wine on arrival.
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Things to do in Sicily
Explore Ancient Greek Ruins
Sicily has some of the best preserved ancient Greek temples outside Greece itself. The Valley of the Temples near Agrigento and the archeological sites in Syracuse allow you to step back in time thousands of years.
Hike Mount Etna
This active volcano dominates the east coast of Sicily. Hiking Mount Etna is an adventure, allowing you to walk across old lava flows and see steam vents up close. The views from the top over Sicily are stunning.
Eat fresh seafood
Sicily is an island, so seafood is incredibly fresh and delicious here. Be sure to try pasta with sardines, swordfish or other catches of the day. The island's unique cuisine mixes Italian and Arabic influences.
Wander medieval mountain towns
Hilltop towns like Taormina and Cefalu have winding medieval streets, historic churches and castles and sweeping views over the sea. They showcase the complex layered history of Sicily.
Shop at local markets
Outdoor food markets like Ballarò Market in Palermo overflow with colorful fruits, vegetables, cheeses and street food. They are the perfect place to soak in the sights, sounds and smells of daily Sicilian life.
Take a cooking class
Sicilian cuisine has unique flavors influenced by the island's diverse cultural history. Taking a cooking class is a fun way to learn traditional recipes and techniques using local ingredients.
Explore Palermo's palaces and churches
Palermo has ornate palaces, cathedrals, and churches in styles ranging from Byzantine to Baroque. Seeing sites like the Palatine Chapel and Monreale Cathedral provides a look into Sicily's past as a cultural crossroads.
Relax on undiscovered beaches
While some of Sicily's beaches are popular tourist destinations, you can find hidden coves and quiet stretches of sand away from the crowds if you know where to look. Ask locals for their secret favorite spots.
See a performance at the Teatro Massimo
This elegant opera house in Palermo is known for its perfect acoustics. Attending a concert or opera is a chance to experience the soaring music in a beautiful historic venue.
Take a day trip to the Aeolian Islands
The volcanic Aeolian Islands off Sicily's north coast have stunning scenery, quaint villages, and relaxing thermal spas. Taking a boat trip out to Lipari or Salina makes for a rejuvenating getaway.
Taormina (1 hour from Catania)
This picturesque hilltop town has stunning views over the coast and Mount Etna. Wander narrow medieval streets, see ancient Greek theater ruins and enjoy the charming shops and restaurants. Don't miss the public gardens for more beautiful vistas.
Cefalù (1 hour from Palermo)
This coastal medieval fishing village has one of Sicily's most magnificent Norman cathedrals. Climb up La Rocca, the craggy headland overlooking town for breathtaking sea views. Relax afterwards on the golden sand beach tucked between the cliffs.
Scala dei Turchi (2.5 hours from Palermo)
The iconic white limestone rock formations along the coast near Realmonte are stunning. Admire the dramatic cliffs and crystal blue waters, and enjoy the unspoiled beaches and nature trails surrounding the area.
Places to eat & drink in Sicily
Osteria Ballarò - This Palermo institution serves pasta with sardines, eggplant caponata and other Sicilian home cooking. Try the mixed antipasto plate.
Friggitoria Chiluzzo - Beloved Palermo spot for fried street snacks like arancini rice balls and chickpea fritters. Get the potato crochettes.
Santa Barbara - This Castelbuono bakery makes cannoli and marzipan fruits. Sample the pistachio cannoli.
Da Calogero - Agrigento trattoria excellent for seafood pasta like spaghetti with sea urchin.
I Banchi - Artisanal chocolate shop in Modica. Try the spicy, grainy cioccolato di Modica.
Bar Gelati Divini - Innovative gelato flavors like jasmine, ricotta and fig in Palermo. Opt for pistachio or cassata.
Antico Caffe Spinnato - Historic Palermo cafe famous for granita ice treats made from local fruits and nuts.
Pasticceria Cappello - This Palermo bakery crafts mini cannoli and other traditional pastries. Pick up a sweet tray of mixed samples.
Caffe Sicilia - Historic Modica cafe with creamy gelato in flavors like cinnamon and chocolate made daily.
Need to Know
For more Sicily travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Lauren Harvey's guide, 4-Day Itinerary for Catania, Sicily: Local Culture & Sightseeing.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Sicily.