Sicily is such an amazing place it is hard to know where even to begin.
Not only is it rich in history, but also in beautiful beaches, mountains, desert-like landscapes, and even volcanoes.
Sicily is not simply a pit stop in Italy like other parts, but instead, I highly recommend spending at least a week here. We spent about 2 weeks, and that wasn’t even enough.
It truly is difficult for me to rank the places in Italy, as there are so many beautiful ones it is hard to go wrong. Therefore, in the order that I experienced it, I have compiled a list of what you can do in Sicily.
Taormina is an amazing city nestled on the mountain side. Below, they have the Isola di Bella, which is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. It is a large cove with a tiny island in the middle. Rocks make up the beach, so don’t expect any sand here!
It is a great place to snorkel and explore. You can rent an umbrella and chair, or simply look for the most comfortable rock to lay your towel across.
Warning, it does get crowded- especially in the summer time. However, I personally didn’t mind that crowd. I didn’t find it overwhelming at all. Anyways, I don’t think it is worth avoiding just because there is a crowd. We found our own little area and were happy snorkeling away.
We rented an AirBnb that overlooked the Isola di Bella. From there, you can walk down to the Isola di Bella or you can head into town by way of cable car or driving your own car.
While Taormina can be a bit touristy, if you can look past some of the first shops and street vendors, you will see charming buildings and quaint streets. There are many piazzas you can walk to, but one of the biggest attractions is the Piazza IX Aprile where you can see Mount Vernon in the distance. We came at the end of sunset; the sun had almost completely died away. However, we were able to see the grand mountain shrouded in a pink hue. Breathtaking.
We ate dinner at a very crowded “street food shop” called Da Cristina where you order the food and take it away to eat on the street, or if your are lucky enough, one of the very few provided tables. I recommend trying the typical arancini, which are a tasty cone-shaped fried food.
Later we went to eat granita, which is the real italian ice that is famous in Sicily. The place we ate at was in a very cute, small piazza, called Bam Bar.
Taormina was our first stop in Sicily, and it sure didn’t disappoint.
Marina di Ragusa
Marina di Ragusa is a town in the south east of Sicily. Here, the landscape is desert-like and barren. Beige sand makes up the beaches, and it is much flatter than some of the other parts of Sicily. The water here is still crystal clear, but you won’t find high mountains jutting into the sea.
This area of Sicily is much less touristy, although the town of Marina di Ragusa becomes crowded with Italians, especially at night.
Here there is a famous house that is in a very popular Italian TV Show called Montalbano. It is in the center of town on the beach, so we stopped by. There were many Italians, including our friends, taking pictures with the house. I remember thinking it was funny that everyone was taking a picture with the house, because to me, it was just another house.
Marina di Ragusa was a good base to explore this part of Sicily because you have great restaurants and night life here, and you are close enough to the other small towns of the area.
Modica is one of the small towns I was describing earlier. It is also one of the most charming. We spent about half a day in Modica wandering the streets. Again, the buildings are white-washed and the terrain is quite mountainous. There was a train you could take to sightsee, although we didn’t do this option.
Ragusa is one of the larger towns in the south eastern of Sicily. It is different because it is etched into the side of a mountain, so it is quite an interesting sight as you approach it. You can visit the city in just a day. There are churches, piazzas, and even a park to see.
What I remember most about this town is the color. Everything is beige. The city is small, so it is easy to see just about everything in half a day. For about 2 euros you can climb the tower of one of the churches and get a great panoramic view.
This was one of the last small towns that we visited in this area. We saw it mostly at night, but it was quite charming.
To be honest, I am not sure the place is called Chiaramonte Gulfi, but based on research, I believe it was this small town that we came to. We happened upon this beautiful beach, which I believe is called San Lorenzo, where you could walk far out into the water without it ever going past your waist. Off in the distance you could see mountains. The beaches were long and wide, so there was plenty of space without having to worry about over-crowding.
After the beach we had dinner, changed, and then went to Chiaramonte Gulfi where there was a market at night and lively piazzas. It was all very charming to see the stone and even the broken buildings.
This was one of my favorite days in this region of Sicily. After a day at the beach, we drove to Castle Donnafugata. As we approached the castle, we were greeted by a herd of cattle being ushered into their pen, completely ignoring us as they walked past us in what was probably their daily routine. Something you certainly wouldn’t see in America.
After that sight, we happily went up to the castle and paid only to climb the wall, towers, and gardens. We didn’t go inside as that was a separate ticket.
The castle had tall white-stone towers and a wrap-around wall that you could walk along to get a panoramic view. After doing that, we went to the gardens which were speckled with ancient statutes and dark greenery.
There was even a stone-walled maze that was fun to race to complete.
Afterwards, we headed back home and stopped at an Agritruismo (or farm house) for dinner. It was budget-friendly and delicious. We even bought the ricotta that they made there at the farm. Ricotta is another food that Sicily is famous for. To this day, I fell in love with Ricotta because of what we ate there.
And that was our experience in this region of Sicily. However, before we move on, I’d like to tell you about a little event called Ferrogosto. This is a big holiday in Italy that is celebrated on August 18th. In Marina di Ragusa, many, many people camp out and party on the beach waiting for midnight. When midnight hits, they all run into the sea! Granted, it is mostly young people who do this, but it is definitely a sight to see! (If not actually participate in!)
Valley of the Temples
We drove west from the Ragusa area, along the southern edge. Finally we hit the famous Valley of the Temples, which is exactly what the name suggests: A place where there are many ancient temples spanning over history. It is comprised of Greek, Roman, and Paleo-Christian ruins. It all depended on who occupied Sicily at the time.
I remember, like much of these parts of Sicily, the color of the valley was a dusty beige. Tan sand with the occasional pale green bush covered the Earth.
The Valley of the Temples is almost like a park of Temples, except instead of it being fake like an amusement park, everything is real.
Some temples are so destroyed they are little more than rocks. While others are still fairly intact.
You can even walk on some of the ruins. There is nothing more humbling than touching or being near something so ancient.
Tip: Be prepared to do quite a bit of walking.
Castellammare de Goffo
We stayed at yet another AirBnB that was more in the countryside, but near Castellammare del Goffo, Lo Zingaro, and San Vito lo Capo. We felt staying near/in Castellammare was a good position to be able to explore the western part of Sicily.
Once we checked in, we ventured into the city of Castellammare which was buzzing with life, like so many cities do in Italy during the summer. There was music, dancing, and people strolling the streets. We had a drink at one of the bars along the dock. It was a cute town (then again, nearly all of the towns are in Italy).
The next day we went to Lo Zingaro. Wow. In one word, wow.
It is a huge nature reserve that you hike along. There are many pathways. Some go inland, towards caves, whiles others line the cliffs that jut down into the coast. Be prepared to walk! My stupid self ruined my flip-flops. I highly recommend tennis shoes.
Since we had only a day here, we stuck to the path that went along the coastline. Simply breath-taking. I wanted to take a picture every five seconds.
There are coves you can hike down to and swim in the calete. Here there is crystal clear water, small beaches, giant rocks jutting from the sea. Of course, like much of August, it is crowded, but in my opinion, it doesn’t matter. The beauty is too great to even let big crowds distract you.
Lo Zingaro will forever be one of the best places I’ve visited. It was pure nature and like nothing I’d seen before. I’d say it is even better than Isola di Bella.
Tip: You could also rent a boat if you wanted to see it from a seaside perspective. We tried to do this, but all of the boats were rented, so I’d recommend booking in advance.
The day after Lo Zingaro, we drove up to Palermo. Compared to the seaside towns, Palermo was a much quieter place. I imagine during the year it could be a bit rambunctious, but when we were there, it was very serene.
Palermo is full of churches, palaces, gardens, and great places to eat. We wandered throughout the town and eventually made it to the river and one of the parks.
In the end we decided to go to one of the many nearby beach towns. Here we had some dinner and saw the sunset before driving back home.
San Vito Lo Capo
San Vito lo Capo was our next stop. Here there is a long sandy beach that is surrounded by tall mountains. The water is not only clear, but it is also quite shallow. You can walk out pretty far before the water gets too high and you have to swim.
The town of San Vito is very similar to other towns, although this one might be a bit more touristy. After a day at the beach, we had a bite to eat and turned in for the night.
Our last day was meant for Favivgnana, a beautiful island off the coast of Sicily. We were supposed to take the ferry from Trapani, but when we arrived, everything was booked!!!
TIP: BOOK FERRY IN ADVANCED, especially in the summer months.
So, instead, we went to the beach in Trapani which was beautiful, but nothing like Lo Zingaro, Isola di Bella, or San Vito.
As it got later in the day, we decided to take a cable car up to this small mountain village called Erice. Very cute, with high stone walls and narrow streets. If you have the time, I recommend checking it out.
The next day we drove back to Calabria, where we spent the night at a friends house in an absolutely amazing little village called Badolato that no one knows about. Sicily, however, will always be in my heart. One day I hope to return.