The Mediterranean Island of Sicily is a paradise for beach lovers, foodies, and adventure enthusiasts. After all, the city offers a gorgeous blend of historic sites, stunning beaches, and bustling towns. Travelers know that there is plenty to experience all year round when visiting this gem in the south of the Italian Peninsula.
So, it is no surprise that countless tourists head to Sicily to experience this island. From the temples lining Segesta and Agrigento in the south to the mesmerizing Baroque architecture in the west, Sicily has a lot to offer. Many would also have a great time exploring its rich culture, delectable cuisine, and the island’s vibrant nightlife. Honestly, there’s something for everyone, which can make it a challenge to check everything out.
That’s why, today, I’ve carefully curated this list of the top places you have to explore when in Sicily. If that piques your interest, stick around for this Sicily travel guide.
Experience the Baroque Architecture in Noto
When it comes to beautiful historic sites, Sicily has a lot to offer. For those who want to experience ornate Baroque architecture, Noto is your best bet. It is why it’s the first mention of our Sicily travel guide.
As a matter of fact, the southeastern city is often deemed as the epitome of the Sicilian baroque. This historical epicenter exudes elegance and old-world charm, which is unparalleled. It’s why many tend to forget that Noto is a bustling city instead of a piece from a museum.
In recent years, tourism has increased in this Baroque treasure, which is why it’s vital you visit it now before it gets too popular.
When arriving in Noto, we recommend you check out Palazzo Nicolaci and Palazzo Ducezio first for their grand ornate décor and posh furnishings. The former private noble house, Palazzo Nicolaci di Villadorata is the largest palace in Noto, with about a total of 90 rooms. Its exterior has lavishly decorated balconies with iron balustrades and statues of winged horses and mermaids. The windows of the façade are also quite similar to Michelangelo’s kneeling windows.
On the other hand, Palazzo Ducezio is an imposing piece of architecture nestled in the heart of Noto. It features various arcades divided by Corinthian columns and windows reminiscent of the Renaissance. The upper levels of the Palazzo offer a panoramic view of the Cathedral.
The Cathedral has one of the most impressive architectures out of the many cathedrals Italy boasts of. In fact, even in a city full of gorgeous baroque palaces and mansions, it stands out as the architectural crown jewel.
Its facade features a mesmerizing white dome with a bell tower on the left and a clock tower on the right. The Cathedral is also adorned with Corinthian columns and an abundance of decorative windows. Within its magnificent building, there is an array of frescoes and other impressive artwork.
However, Noto doesn’t only feature baroque architecture! If you happen to visit the city in spring, you’d be in for a treat! During May, the island town is transformed into a festival of florals for the span of three days. The Via Corrado Nicolaci, which is a steep street leading up from Vittorio Emanuele, becomes a carpet of colorful and vibrant flowers. This event is called the Infiorata di Noto and draws numerous tourists yearly.
Visit Catania—One of the Biggest Cities in Sicily
Next up on our Sicily travel guide is one of the largest cities in Sicily. Catania sits like a gem between the sparkling Ionian Sea and the barren Mount Etna and features breathtaking views and captivating architecture. As a matter of fact, its unique artistic heritage makes experiencing it an adventure you won’t forget.
Catania boasts of thousands of years of history, rich culture, and gorgeous Baroque architectural sites. So, it’s not surprising that it has been awarded UNESCO status. The city has a magnetic pull, which is why many tourists flock toward it every year. Moreover, this island city has something for everyone. So, whether you prefer artistic architecture or vibrant nightlife, this bustling city has got you covered!
However, we recommend that you first check out Palazzo Biscari. This baroque treasure is one of Italy’s most stunning and imposing pieces of architecture. Boasting of a whopping 600 rooms, the palace features a courtyard adorned with an enormous pincer staircase. When you head inside, you’ll see its grand hall, which features a fresco by Sebastiano lo Monaco. The Rococo-style decorated lounge also features decorations. However, the most amazing element of its architecture is its spiral staircase located in the Bird Gallery.
You can’t visit Catania without visiting Castello Ursino. This site is one of the city’s most interesting pieces of history. The design predates baroque architecture dating back to the Middle Ages. The castle has a square structure because of Frederick II’s love of geometrical shapes with corner towers. Its lavishly decorated halls feature imposing statues of Aphrodite and the gladiators.
If you want to steer clear of Catania’s bustling streets, we recommend a trip to Mount Etna. This UNESCO world heritage site is the tallest active volcano in Europe that stands up to 3,357 m in height. Mount Etna is incredibly important when it comes to Sicily’s topography, which is why you have to check it out!
You can experience this mountain and its breathtaking views by hiking it. If you visit Etna during the spring or fall, you’ll be in for a relaxing hike with landscapes of woods, vineyards, and barren fields.
However, if you think that’s all there is to the mountain, that’s far from the truth. Mount Etna is also an integral part of Italy’s history. Ancient Greeks used to believe that the volcano was home to Cyclops, the well-known one-eyed monster. Additionally, the gorgeous mountain was also featured in the legendary epic poem, Odyssey. This classic by Homer is considered one of the oldest extant works of English literature.
See The Touristic Spots in Taormina
Though it is a small town nestled on the east coast of Sicily, it is one of the island’s most popular cities. In fact, it has been a spot visited by legends like Goethe, Johannes Brahms, Oscar Wilde, D.H Lawrence, Elizabeth Taylor, and Woody Allen. This is why Taormina is the next contender in our Sicily travel guide.
Taormina is set like a gem on a cliff and features mesmerizing views of the Ionian Sea and Mount Etna. The town also hosts medieval buildings, winding streets, and a thriving nightlife. So, it makes sense why numerous tourists are drawn to Taormina like bees to a honey pot.
When in the city, I recommend you first visit Corso Umberto. It is a picturesque street that runs the total length of Taormina’s historic center. Walking down its main street lined with various shops, restaurants, and hotels feels like living out a Sicilian dolce vita. Most tourists take it to visit historic sites, such as the Greek Theater. However, if that’s not your cup of tea, you can visit the luxury boutiques or restaurants and ice cream parlors surrounding it.
This leads to the main attraction of Taormina, the Greek Theatre. It is undoubtedly the city’s gem that boasts of Sicily’s rich history. During the Greek period, it accommodated plays and other performances. However, it was turned into a place for gladiatorial battles under the Romans. Today, it’s home to various events, including plays, fashion shows, concerts, and cinema festivals. It is only a five-minute walk from the main square, so it’s easy to find.
Once you’re tired of exploring the city, head over to Villa Comunale to relax. It is definitely a place worth spending your time in when you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
These were once private gardens set by Lady Florence Trevelyan, a Scottish woman who had left her country. Today, they offer a place for respite. The Villa Comunale features lush vegetation of palm trees, cacti, and numerous types of flowers. It’s why this place is quite a delight for the eyes during the summer months.
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I’m Irina Bukatik and I’m a travel and food blogger who aims to take you with me on my exquisite journeys across the globe. I aim to discover and experience different cultures and exotic places, and you can come along with me right from your home.
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