Although Sicily is not the most popular destination with visitors who choose Italy for their vacation, it’s very popular with us Maltese, who happen to live just a 40 minute flight away from this beautiful island. I have now lost the count on the number of times I visited Sicily and I have been more than once to most of the places listed below. I will start listing the places from North to South with no particular order. However I recommend a minimum of 3 full days to be able to visit the below places (ideally changing accommodation to reduce travelling time) Sicily is the largest region in Italy and distances are huge, especially if you are driving along a winding road to get to a mountain top village. Drives are long but the views are rewarding I promise 🙂
- Change accommodation
- 3 full days to visit all these places (more if you intend to visit others mentioned in my sicily parks guide
- Closest airport is Catania Fontanarossa
- Best time to visit is during Winter or Spring
Lying on top of a hill in the province of Messina, Savoca gained its popularity mainly following the movie ‘The Godfather’. Walking along the narrow streets of Savoca is a true delight, as you experience the beautiful views but also the street art along the way. There are several picturesque spots in Savoca such as the Bar Vitelli, the City gate, the Church of San Nicolo’. Tourists are slowly discovering this place so getting here early, before the tourists’ coaches start arriving, is highly recommended.
Another hilltop village yes! There are so many of them, that you sometimes get mixed up 🙂 But they are all pretty I can guarantee that! Once again going up to Castelmola involves driving along winding uphill roads, however you can easily catch a bus from Taormina to visit. Your first impression of Castelmola will most likely be the huge cobblestone square Piazza Sant’Antonio overlooking the ‘Stretto di Messina’. Many cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops side ‘Via Alcide de Gasperi’, but make sure to walk along the narrow alleys as well. If you go all the way through this road you will end up on the other side of the village with majestic views over mount Etna.
I have visited Taormina during all the seasons and all times of the day and my favourite was a late Spring evening. Taormina is the most popular town on Sicily’s eastern coast and it is very crowded during the day. So I once tried to visit Taormina in the evening and it turned out to be much more charming. It was the first time I could actually admire the tiles on Piazza IX Aprile as it was almost empty. If you are visiting the Teatro Greco make sure to get there before it gets dark, otherwise you won’t enjoy any of the views. Another important spot that is usually missed by many visitors is the views of Isola Bella from the terrace in Via Pirandello. Try to walk away from the main road and venture in the narrow alleys away from the crowds as well.
Siracusa & Ortigia
This is another place that I visited several times. Oritigia is the main attraction in Siracusa and there are so many good reasons to visit this place. On weekday mornings there is a small market with food tastings just next to Apollo’s temple. Ortigia is one of the places where you can see the connections Sicily had with Greece. Apollo’s temple is the oldest doric monument in Sicily and although it is now shattered to ruins, you can still appreciate the structure and the colonnade which surrounded the main temple. The next stop will most probably be Piazza Archimede, where lies the Fontana di Diana and this marks the start of the pedestrian historical centre. Get lost in the alleys of Ortigia and you will most probably end up in the main square Piazza Duomo, full of cafes and delicious gelaterias. But your visit to Ortigia is not over yet; further south you need to include Fonte Aretusa and the lungomare in your itinerary. Fonte Aretusa is a natural water fountain where you can find papyrus plants and is also linked with the Greek mythology. It is the place where the nymph Arethusa, the patron figure of ancient Syracuse, returned to earth’s surface after escaping from her undersea home in Arcadia. Last but not least, enjoy lunch or dinner in one of the restaurants facing the sea along Lungomare Alfeo. A delicious fish based dish won’t disappoint here!
Unlike all the other towns mentioned above, Noto is located inland and does not face the Mediterranean sea. It is located in the ‘Val di Noto’ area, a group of towns in Southern Sicily famous for their baroque architecture. Moreover, Noto and its Cathedral are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main attractions of Noto are the numerous palazzi and churches along the main road Corso Vittorio Emanuele. You will be impressed by the decorated limestone balconies, the huge facade of the Duomo and the imposing staircase that leads to the entrance amongst others.
Modica is also part of Val di Noto, and thus offers a feast for the eyes for architecture lovers. However my favourite aspect of this city is their chocolate. Modica chocolate is very different from the chocolate we are used to. It is very strong in flavour and its texture is completely different. This is due to the fact that the chocolate is prepared using a traditional manual method of grinding at a cold temperature. There are numerous variations of chocolate as several flavours and spices are added to the mixture and these include vanilla, cinnamon, lemon, almonds and also chili!