It is Italy and yet Sicilians say Sicily is not exactly Italy. If you ever traveled in both (Italy and Sicily), you will indeed notice big differences.
The differences are in architecture, history and troublesome of Sicily, influences from Arabs, Normans and Byzantine eras. Greeks have a lot to do with the history of Sicily (if not everything to do). You may heard the “Magna Crecia” terms. This relates to Sicily a lot.
Sicily is an island located at the very south part of Italy. It hosts Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano.
Most popular things to do in Sicily
There are lots of things related to ancient times but also to different cultures (Arabs, Normans and more). Many buildings (churches, surprisingly) have such strong architectural elements. Visitors will see buildings with Byzantine domes next to Arab ones.
In a really interesting way these co-exist in a balanced symmetrical way.
Sicily is a strongly religious island. They support Pope decisions in a similar strong way, no matter if the “mainland” Italy may disagree.
If you can be a week in Sicily these are things to do.
You can explore many of Palermo options with private tours. See here.
Called a Mafia city but we didn’t get that feeling while walking around the city. Start from the historical centre of Palermo and eat cannoli. Get the Palazzo Conde Federico tour.
Visit the old city build with stones from the lava (ergo the dark grey color of everything). Seek for the underground theaters and ancient buildings that are weaved with modern ones. Find out about the Elephant monument and its meaning. Eat “arancini”.
Make time to visit the ancient theater and the beach. If you go in summer time you will be amazed with this place. Part of the city is on a hill, while the rest is near the beach. There is a cable car to visit all and explore. Taormina is not big but from one side to another it is a beautiful city place high on a hill, which provides great views. Visit Mount Etna.
A fantastic place like Ortygia is a must to visit. Allocate lots of time for walking around, exploring and eating. You can cross one of the 3 bridges to get there. Walk the Piazza Duomo, one of the most bright and beautiful places in Sicily. Visit the Greek theater and Roman amphitheater.
The Valley of Temples will get you connected with ancient history. Your are in Sicily, Italy, but Greek culture, gods and mystery are here vivid and strong. Get into the archaeological area (best with a guide) and learn why this whole area existed.
Cefalu could be one of your first stops in Sicily as it is close to the airport. Very picturesque with a small beach. Try their delicious local lemon iced-water. Visit the Duomo as it is one of those who kept the Norman style of architecture.
Weather in Sicily
The weather follows the Mediterranean “pattern”. It is hot during summer, even after Easter time, so plan accordingly. Many of the places you may want to visit are swarming with people in summer time (Taormina for example).
In parallel many of the locations are under bare sun. This means “too hot”.
If you are fine with that (and why not to be) then you will enjoy the colors. The limestone reddish and yellows, along with the dark grey of lava stone made cities like Catania.
Moving inside the cities of Sicily
Get prepared to take lots of photos, as each city is an architectural jewel. The only thing you will find to be the same in most cities is the Duomo (The Cathedral). Each city has one and most seem to look alike regarding their interior.
We encountered no “funny business” in Sicily. Prices were fine, food was well cooked, even in snacks restaurants or in some looking “too touristic”.
Transportation is regular and taxis are a bit pricey. Not “London like” pricey but still… Compared with other countries, even nearby Greece they are expensive as in Greece in the city taxi is really cheap.
Read the posts mentioned per destination for things to do in Sicily and you will find lots of ideas for your adventures there.