Sicily is a tourist destination that has it all. From ancient Greek and Roman temples to beautiful sandy beaches, from superb Baroque architecture to natural reserves, a vacation in Sicily combines it all. Here are attractions in Sicily that Forbes Travel Guide editors say shouldn’t be missed:
1. Climb atop Mount Etna. One of the major active volcanos on earth and the tallest in Europe at almost 11,000 feet, it towers above the eastern coast of Sicily. A cable car takes you to the top of the volcano, which offers a view of the entire island. Nightly excursions beginning at 3 a.m. are organized to reach the summit in time to see the dawn of the day. Not to be missed is the 87-mile drive circling the base of Mt. Etna, with its stark contrasts in a landscape that alternates between lavish vegetation and desolate lava.
2. Spend a few days in Taormina. One of Sicily’s gems, this colorful, medieval-looking town on the eastern coast of Sicily is cast between the sea and Mount Etna. Wander the hilly city and its narrow streets to admire the Teatro Greco, the Roman ruins, the medieval churches and noble palaces. Walk along Corso Umberto I, the main street lined with shops and cafés and go up to the castle and the belvedere (panoramic point) for a splendid view of the coast. Spend some relaxing time on one of the beautiful beaches in the surroundings and see the ruins of the ancient Naxos.
3. Visit the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. This city on the southern coast of Sicily was first colonized by the Greeks, then by the Romans, leaving an exceptional legacy of archaeological monuments. Don’t miss the temples of Jupiter, Hercules, Juno and Concordia, the beautiful houses of the Greek-roman neighborhood, the monumental graves. Between December and February, the blooming almond trees give the valley a special allure.
4. Visit Palermo and Monreale. Palermo is fascinating for the originality of its Norman and baroque monuments in the midst of lavish gardens. Don’t miss the Cathedral, the Martorana church, the Norman palace and S. Giovanni degli Eremiti. In the surroundings, drive among gardens and citrus groves to Mt. Pellegrino for the panoramic view and to the charming little town of Monreale to admire the Duomo and its mosaics.
5. Visit Syracuse. A major archaeological center of the ancient Greek civilization on the eastern coast of Sicily, Syracuse (Siracusa) sits above the island of Ortigia, the old center of the city, and the adjacent coast in a natural scenery of great beauty. See the Greek Theater, the Roman Amphitheater, the catacombs, the Eurialo castle, the ruins of the temples of Apollo and Athena inside the Duomo.