Sicily Island, Italy
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Sicily is a mountainous island dotted with lemon, orange, almond and pistachio orchards—an extension of the Apennine Mountains separated from the mainland by the Strait of Messina. La Sicilia is the largest island in the central Mediterranean, with some 9,927 sq mi/25,711 sq km of variegated terrain.
Many powers have occupied and governed this strategically important area 310 mi/500 km south of Rome: Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Goths, Byzantines, Muslims (Arabs), Phoenicians, Normans, Spanish, the royal houses of Hohenstaufen, Savoy, Habsburg, the Aragon and, for brief periods, the U.K. and the U.S. Historic sites related to these powers are part of the island’s attraction.
For touring, the island can be roughly divided into the north-shore and south-shore areas. The north shore has reefs, olive groves, secluded coves and countless seaside resorts, including Cefalu, a gorgeous Arab-Norman city with good beaches. Also on the north coast is Palermo, the ancient (and current) capital, and the island’s largest city. About 50 mi/80 km west of Palermo lies the ancient village of Erice, atop a mountain: It still has remains of a temple dedicated to Venus.
The southern coast has an even milder climate, so there’s swimming most of the year (although it can get cold there November-March). Among the areas not to be missed are Agrigento, Acireale and Taormina, a distinctive, beautiful town perched on cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean.
Mount Etna is a 10,902-ft-/3,323-m-high active volcano on the east coast—its crater is difficult to reach, so join a guided tour and dress warmly. There are great ocean views from the mountain, and (depending on volcanic activity) it’s possible to ski there in winter. You can also drive or take a train along the 120-mi/200-km route around its base to see a wide variety of scenery.
It’s also possible to visit various island groups that surround Sicily. The Aeolian Islands lie off the northeast coast, the Egadi Islands are to the west and the Pantelleria Islands and Pelagian Islands are to the south.
MUST SEE OR DO
Sights—The well-preserved archaeological sites all around Sicily, including Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples, the Doric temple and theater at Selinunte Archaeological Site; the well-preserved mosaics of the Villa Romana del Casale at Piazza Armerina; the Teatro Greco in Taormina; the Teatro Greco & Parco Archeologico della Neapolis in Siracusa; the Monreale Duomo just outside Palermo; the medieval hilltop town of Erice; a cruise around the Aeolian or Aegadian archipelagos; a cable car up to Europe’s most active volcano, Mount Etna.
Museums—Museo Archeologico Regionale Antonino Salinas in Palermo; Siracusa’s Museo Archeologico Paolo Orsi;
Palermo’s Galleria di Arte Moderno; Museo Regionale di Palazzo Abatellis in Palermo, which contains some of Sicily’s most famous works of art.
Memorable Meals—A steaming plate of seafood couscous at Osteria La Bettolaccia in Trapani; melt-in-your-mouth cannoli at Pasticceria Cappello in Palermo; street food in the rustic Vucciria or Ballero markets in Palermo; irresistible stuffed “arancini” rice balls at Antica Rosticceria da Cristina in Taormina; a surprising meal at a little family-run restaurant or trattoria no one knows about yet.
Late Night—Jazz on the terrace at chic Metropole in Taormina; a fine cocktail in Morgana Bar Taormina; a glass of Sicilian wine in a small enoteca or osteria.
Walks—Lush trails of Mediterranean flora at the Riserva Naturale Orientate dello Zingaro; exploring any of the other major national parks at Madonie, Nebrodi or Alcantara; hiking up the otherworldly terrain of Mount Etna volcano; strolling leisurely along Corso Umberto in Taormina or around the historic centers of any other large capitals of the island, including Trapani or Syracuse.
Especially for Kids—The rides at Etnaland amusement park; family beaches at Cefalu; Bioparco di Sicilia at Carini near Palermo, with its zoo and dinosaur exhibition; many comfortable shopping malls in most major cities together with local parks and playgrounds; any of the array of food festivals ( sagre) and religious festivals (feste) held year-round, which make for perfect family outings.
Sicily is the largest region of Italy. The coastline of the triangular-shaped island is more than 620 mi/1,000 km long, and it takes about three and a half hours to cross the island from east to west by car and about two and a half hours to cross it from north to south.
The Greeks nicknamed the island Trinacria from the Greek words for “three” (tries) and “promontory” (akara). The island is shaped like an isosceles triangle lying down on one side. At its western point is the seaside city of Trapani, indicating toward Portugal and France. On the eastern tip lies Messina, separated from the mainland Italian region of Calabria by the strait. The triangle is completed in the south by Syracuse. The island is divided into nine administrative provinces, which take their names from their capitals. Sicily may seem small, but each
province is made up of densely populated towns, each with its own particular history, dialect and landscape.
Sicily’s highest point is Mount Etna at 10,902 ft/3,323 m, an active volcano on the eastern side of the island, with the Nebrodi and Madonie mountain ranges located along the northern coast. The area around Etna consists of very fertile, volcanic soil. Most of the rest of Sicily’s topography is hilly and rugged, with the land being dominated by agriculture wherever possible.
There are many islands off the coast of Sicily, from the volcanic Aeolians to the rustic Aegadian, isolated Pelagian archipelagos, Pantelleria, Lampedusa and Uscita.
Sicilian history is a cavalcade of invasions, one after another, and each of these invasions has added another dimension, a rich layer, to Sicily’s extraordinary fusion of cultures and customs.
The first inhabitants of Sicily were Stone Age settlers from the Siculi tribe in 12,000 BC, originally from the region of Calabria on the mainland, who in turn gave the island its name. They were joined by the Elymi, descendants of the Trojans, and then followed by the Phoenicians who arrived from Carthage and settled on the west coast.
The Phoenicians founded Palermo and established important trade routes on the coast from Palermo to Trapani.
The Greeks arrived by 735 BC as the island’s prosperity increased, and they established their first colony at Naxos, today Giardini Naxos, just south of Taormina. The Greek colonies grew more prosperous and powerful in the east, causing tension with the Phoenicians (in alliance with the Carthaginians) who were settled in the western part of the island. In 480 BC, the Carthaginians were defeated by the Greeks at Himera, and what followed was a golden age for Sicily with the building of the largest of the Greek temples at Agrigento.
The Romans invaded and sacked Siracusa 264-211 BC; the island remained under Roman rule until AD 468. Following the Romans came the Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans and Spanish.
The Spanish remained in control from the 12th through 17th centuries. During this time, the Mafia first emerged as a result of the feudal system forcing peasants off their land, breeding frustration and oppression. The island became free of Spanish rule only in 1860 after the arrival of Garibaldi, who began the process of the Unification of Italy. (Almost every major city and town in Italy has a Garibaldi square or street in his honor.)
During World War II, when the Allies invaded Sicily, they were greatly aided by the Mafia, who were eager to rid Sicily of the Fascists who had attempted to eliminate them under earlier rule by Mussolini. It was not until 1946 that Sicily became an autonomous region of Italy. At that time, the Mafia formed ties with the Christian Democrats and the Roman Catholic Church in their common goals of suppressing Communism.
Although there are many milestones in the anti-Mafia crackdown, one in particular is notable. In 2006 the top Mafia boss, Bernardo Provenzano, was arrested after 40 years on the run. Sicilian business groups continue to work with the police and local government to prosecute members of Sicilian Mafia groups.
In recent years, the Addio Pizzo movement in Palermo has been working against the payment of extortion money to the Mafia, and tourists visiting the island are encouraged to support the war against organized crime by frequenting businesses that no longer pay protection money to local criminal organizations.
Sicily is a wonderful spot for a vacation with a unique mix of history, culture, nature, fine cuisine and a variety of activities to experience.
There visitors find watersports, beaches of rock and sand (including black sand), rugged mountains and volcanoes and beautiful vistas, good food, prized ceramics and other quality shopping, and friendly people.
The Sicilian word for Mafia is actually an Arabic word for “refugee,” first used when the Sicilians hid in the mountains from the invading Arab and Norman armies.
Famous visitor and philosopher Wolfgang Goethe said about Sicily in 1787, “Italy without Sicily doesn’t leave any trace in the soul: The key to everything is here.”
Sicily is technically part of the Italian Republic, but it maintains a semiautonomous status with its own parliament and president. Its capital is Palermo.
Although Sicilian is referred to as an Italian dialect, it is so different that it can almost be considered a language in its own right. About 70% of Sicily’s inhabitants speak Sicilian. Unfortunately, Sicilian is considered a dying language, as it is only spoken, no longer written.
Sicily boasts six UNESCO World Heritage sites.
It is best to have one or two weeks to tour Sicily in order to fully experience the sights, culture and scenery of the island. If time is limited, however, a good strategy is to pick a region or an area of the island to visit for a few days, such as the northwestern part—Palermo and Trapani—where you can also plan a visit to the temple at Segesta, and the charming hilltop town of Erice. A side trip to the Egadi Islands is also possible.
Another good itinerary is a relaxing beach holiday on either the north coast at Cefalu, from which excursions to the regional parks of Madonie and Nebrodi are relatively easy, or the south coast to Marina di Ragusa where excursions to the archaeological area of Agrigento is possible.
A further possibility is to focus on the eastern side of the island, utilizing either the lively towns of Taormina or Siracusa on the Ionian Sea as a base. From the eastern coast, it is relatively east to visit the baroque southern towns of Ragusa and Noto or to take a day-long trekking tour to Mount Etna. From Taormina, it is also relatively easy to travel to Milazzo on the northeast coast to catch a ferry to the Aeolian Islands.
Among the ancient Greek and Roman ruins on the island are Taormina’s Greek theater, San Domenico Monastery near Messina, the Greek theater and several temples in Syracuse, the fifth-century-BC Temple of Concord in Agrigento and the Casale Armerina—a mosaic-encrusted jewel of a Roman villa—in the town of Piazza Armerina, near Enna.
For information on all parks, museums, art galleries and archaeological areas in Sicily, see the Regione Siciliana’s website: http://www.regione.sicilia.it/beniculturali/dirbenicult/database/dipartimento_2/siti_list.asp.
The Region of Sicily’s (Regione Siciliana) tourism website also contains plenty of regularly updated information:
Agrigento and the Valley of the Temples
This archaeological area, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the most important in the world. The great temples of ancient Akragas are located in the southern part of the town of Agrigento, including the Temple of Hera (Juno), Lacinia, Concordia, Heracles (Hercules), Olympian Zeus (Jupiter), Castor and Pollux (Dioscuri) and Hephaistos (Vulcan). Farther down, on the bank of the Akrgas river, is the temple of Asklepias (Eusculapius), the god of medicine. The archaeological site is open daily 8:30 am-7 pm. Some areas are not open to the public, whereas others are only accessible with a guide. The eastern hill near the Temple of Zeus, as well as the Hellenistic Roman ruins, are open to the public, and there is an audioguide available from the bookshop. In the summer (1 July-5 September), the site is open for nighttime visits; advance booking is required. Entrance 10 euros. Viale le Valle dei Templi, Agrigento. Phone 922-621-657 or 092-228-521. http://www.parcodeitempli.net.
This villa was designed and built by English artist Robert Hawthorn Kitson in 1905. When he died in 1948, his niece, Daphne Phelps, went out to Sicily to sell the house, but when she failed to sell the property, she decided to stay on with paying guests. She ended up spending her life there, eventually sharing the story of her life in a book titled A House in Sicily. After Daphne died in 2005, the local government purchased the house, and today it is a luxury B&B with a museum and botanical gardens. This Taormina landmark is worth a visit. Open by appointment. Via Leonardo da Vinci 5, Taormina. Phone 0942-28362. http://www.casacuseni.com.
Catacombe dei Cappuccini
Just outside the Palermo City Center, the Capuchin convent’s creepy labyrinth of catacombs contains the mummified bodies of about 8,000 citizens of Palermo who died between the 17th and 19th centuries. The nobility of Palermo had a macabre tradition of preserving their dead, dressing them up in all their finery, and then visiting them and taking them food, particularly for the religious festival of All Souls’ Day on 11 November. This site is a fascinating part of Palermo’s history, but the corpses are in various states of decay, so for visitors who are easily shocked, it is advisable to avoid the catacombs. Monday-Saturday 9 am-1 pm and 3-6 pm, Sunday 9 am-1 pm.
The catacombs are closed to the public late October-late March. 3 euros. Via Cappuccini, Palermo. Phone
Palermo’s most picturesque and notorious square is the site of the city’s most spectacular fountain, Fontana Pretoria. Designed by the Florentine sculptor Francesco Camilliani in the mid-1500s, it was meant to be installed in a Florentine villa. The square is known as Piazza del Vergogna, or “square of shame,” because the nude statues surrounding the fountain are positioned directly in front of a convent. The square is a perfect place to start or end a walking tour of Palermo, as it is closed to traffic and convenient to other sights, including the Quattro Canti (the four corners), Chiesa di San Cataldo, the Duomo, the Ballero and Vucciria markets, and several other historically significant palaces. Open daily. Free. Piazza Pretoria, Palermo.
Selinunte Archaeological Site
Part of the Parco Archeologico di Selinunte, this is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the Mediterranean, with 2,500-year-old ruins lying on a beautiful high plain overlooking the sea on Sicily’s southwest coast near Mazara del Vallo. As you enter the park, you will see the impressive Doric temple known as Temple E.
Visitors can climb into the temple to get an idea of the scale and history of the building. There has been no development around the site, allowing visitors to get a sense of the ancient town as it would have been thousands of years ago. The park covers a large area, so visitors should allow a minimum of three to four hours to view the temples and ruins. There is a small electric train that runs around the site’s main areas for those with mobility problems or less time. Daily 9 am-7 pm. The ticket office closes at 6 pm. The park closes at 8 pm. 6 euros adults, 3 euros children. Via Selinute, Trapani. Phone 092-446-540 or 092-446-277.
This beautiful horseshoe-shaped theater, which is the second largest in Sicily next to the one in Siracusa, is Taormina’s premier attraction. The site is breathtaking, with the third-century-BC theater seemingly suspended between the sea and sky, with Mount Etna on the southern horizon. The theater is part of the Parco Archeologico di Naxos and can be easily reached by foot a few minutes’ walk from the main Roman archway at the entrance to the center of Taormina. Open daily 9 am until one hour before sunset. 8 euros. Via Teatro Greco 40, Messina, Taormina. Phone 942-232-220. http://www.teatrogrecotaormina.com.
Teatro Greco & Parco Archeologico della Neapolis
This site is the main attraction in Siracusa, with the pearly white fifth-century-BC Teatro Greco hewn out of the rock above the city. There are classic theater and concert performances in the Teatro Greco during summer. Also worth seeing is the second-century Anfiteatro Romano, which was used for gladiatorial combat and horse races.
Just west of the amphitheater is the third-century Ara di Gerone II, a sacrificial altar to Heron II. The Parco Archeologico della Neapolis is in the northwestern part of the modern city and is open daily 9 am-6 pm; when there are performances in the Greek Theater, the park closes at 4:30 pm. 9 euros adults. Parco Archeologico della Nepalis, Via Paradiso, Siracusa. Phone 0931-66206.
This Palermo landmark is one of Italy’s largest opera houses. Known as the La Scala of the south, it offers a rich selection of opera, ballet and orchestral music thoughout the year. The closing scene inGodfather III was filmed there. The monumental stairs leading up to the building are a favorite meeting place of locals. There are often small exhibitions in various rooms of the theater; see the website for details. The theater is open 9:30 am-5 pm; tours offered daily (last tour at 4:30 pm, unless a performance is scheduled). Book ahead. 8 euros adults. Teatro Massimo, Piazza Giuseppe Verdi, Palermo. Phone 091-605-3521. http://www.teatromassimo.it.
Teatro Massimo Bellini (Catania)
This stunning historical theater was built to show off the operatic works of Sicily’s most well-loved opera composer Vincenzo Bellini and was opened at Catania in 1890 with the debut of his opera Norma. Today it is one of Sicily’s busiest theaters, hosting an array of events including opera, ballet, recitals, theater performances, conferences and debates. Tickets are 6 euros adults, 3 euros students. Guided tours of the theater are available Tuesday-Saturday from 9:30 am until midday. The theater is easily accessible for visitors with disabilities and offers free entrance to the disabled and any guests accompanying them. Via Perrotta 12, Catania, Sicily Island.
Phone 095-715-0921. http://www.teatromassimobellini.it.
Tempio di Segesta
One of the world’s most perfectly preserved Greek temples is located in the ancient city of Segesta, in northeast Sicily, between Trapani and Palermo. Included on the site is a roofless Doric temple, and there’s a Greek theater on the facing hill. According to legend, the Segesta was founded by refugees who had survived the Trojan War, led by the Trojan leader Aeneas. Open daily from 9 am. Closes at 6 pm October and March, 5 pm early November-late February, 7 pm April-September. Last entrance one hour before closing time. 6 euros adults, 3 euros children. Parco Archeologico di Segesta, Case Barbaro, Calatafimi Segesta, Segesta, Sicily Island. Phone 0924-952-356. http://www.siciliasud.it/parcosegesta.html.
Villa Romana del Casale
One of the few remaining sites of Roman Sicily, this third-century Roman hunting lodge in central Sicily near the town of Piazza Armerina was thought to be owned by Diocletian’s co-emperor Marcus Aurelius Maximianus, who ruled AD 286-305. The beautiful mosaic floor, covering the entire villa, was discovered in the 1950s, buried under mud from a 12th-century flood. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is best seen early in the day or off-season to avoid the hordes of tour buses. Daily late March-late October 9 am-7 pm, late October-late March 9 am-5 pm. In July and August, the villa is open until 11:30 pm Friday-Sunday. Ticket office closes one hour early. Tickets are 14 euros but are valid for three days and include access to the nearby archaeological site of
Morgantina and the Aidone Museum. Entry is free on the first Sunday of the month. Strada Provinciale 15, Piazza Armerina, Enna. Phone 0935-680-036. http://www.villaromanadelcasale.it.
Biblioteca-Museo Regionale Luigi Pirandello di Agrigento
Italian dramatist and writer Luigi Pirandello is buried at his birthplace in Agrigento. Pirandello won the 1934 Nobel Prize in Literature for his dramatic works, which are considered forerunners to the Theatre of the Absurd. Daily except Monday 9 am-8 pm. The writer’s tomb can be visited 9 am to one hour before sunset. The Luigi Pirandello Library is open Monday and Friday 8:30 am-1:30 pm, Wednesday and Thursday 3-6 pm. 4 euros adults, 2 euros children. Via Imera 50, Agrigento. Phone 092-262-2111 for the library, 092-251-1826 for the house.
Casa Museo Giovanni Verga
The birthplace of Italian realist writer Giovanni Verga still houses many of his personal belongings. We recommend reading his novelle rusticane (Little Novels of Sicily) before your trip. Open by appointment only. Via Sant’Anna 8, Catania. Phone 095-715-0598.
Galleria di Arte Moderno
This elegant museum housed in the former convent of Sant’Anna alla Misericordia houses paintings and sculptures from the Neoclassical and Romantic periods, as well as examples from the Aesthetic Movement, Exoticism and lyric Naturalism. The Galleria also hosts regular exhibitions of contemporary art and chamber music concerts. A bookshop and cafe are on-site. Daily except Monday 9:30 am-6:30 pm. 7 euros adults, 5 euros children. The ticket office closes an hour before the museum. Via Sant’Anna 21, Palermo. Phone 091-843-1605.
Museo Regionale di Palazzo D’Aumale
This museum has a variety of collections dedicated to Sicilian archaeology, natural science and ethnohistory, including a fascinating collection of colorful Sicilian carts, which represent one of the most ancient artistic trades of Sicily. Tuesday-Saturday 9 am-7 pm, Sunday 9 am-1 pm. The ticket office closes 45 minutes early. 6 euros.
Lungomare Peppino Impastato, Terrasini, Palermo. Phone 091-881-0989.
Museo Archeologico Paolo Orsi
About a half-mile/kilometer from the archaeological park in Siracusa is one of the largest, best organized and most interesting archaeological collections in Europe. The four sections, divided by era, include a wide collection of fossils and figures from Ancient Siracusa. Open Tuesday-Saturday 9 am-6 pm, Sunday 9 am-1 pm. 8 euros adults. Viale Teocrito 66, Siracusa. Phone 0931-489-511.
Museo Archeologico Regionale Antonino Salinas di Palermo
Housed in a Renaissance monastery, this museum houses some of Sicily’s most important and valuable Greek and Roman artifacts. A series of decorative friezes from the temples at Selinunte are also on display. Note: The museum is currently under renovation and is scheduled to reopen in 2015. Open Tuesday-Friday 8:30 am-1:30 pm and 3-6:30 pm, Saturday and Sunday 8:30 am-1:30 pm. 6 euros adults. Piazza Olivella 24, Palermo. Phone 091-611-6805. http://www.regione.sicilia.it/beniculturali/salinas.
Museo Internazionale delle Marionette Antonio Pasqualino
A visit to Sicily wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the colorful history of Sicilian pupi, or marionettes, which at one time served as a popular form of entertainment and told epic stories of historical battles, legends and heroes. It is a theatrical art that is in danger of becoming extinct, with only a handful of companies that still operate in Sicily. Monday-Saturday 9 am-1 pm and 2:30-6:30 pm, Sunday 10 am-1 pm. Piazzetta Antonio Pasqualino 5 (turn off Via Butera), Palermo. Phone 091-328-060. http://www.museodellemarionette.it.
Museo Regionale di Palazzo Abatellis
Housed in the 14th-century Palace Abatellis, this impressive art gallery houses a variety of paintings, sculptures, ceramics, decorative arts and jewelry. The Abatellis features works from artists such as Antonello da Messina, Antonello Gagini and Francesco Lauren, with sections dedicated to the 14th and 16th centuries. There is also a research library and bookshop. Call for opening hours. 8 euros adults, 4 euros children. Via Alloro 4, Palermo.
Phone 091-623-0047. http://www.regione.sicilia.it/beniculturali/palazzoabatellis/home.htm.
Museo Regionale Pepoli
This regional museum is a former Carmelite monastery. Highlights are a collection of archaeological and religious artifacts, including incredibly intricate nativity scenes. Local coral crafts and works that are an ancient tradition among artisans in Trapani are displayed there from the collection of Conte Pepoli. This museum has brought together collections from other, smaller museums in the Trapani area, creating a unified collection by combining elements from the former Museo Pepoli, the archaeological museums of Mazara del Vallo, Favignana, and the Salt Museum of Trapani. Open daily 9 am-8 pm. Ticket office closes 30 minutes earlier. 6 euros adults, 3 euros
children. Via Conte Pepoli 200, Trapani. Phone 0923-553-269. http://www.comune.trapani.it/turismo/pepoli.htm.
Parco Fluviale dell’Alcantara
This fantastic park is a perfect complement to a tour of Mount Etna, and a visit is often combined with half-day trekking tours to the volcano. The gorges were formed by a lava flow from Mount Etna thousands of years ago—today, particularly in the summer, the crystal clear, icy cold waters of the Alcantara River are the perfect place to cool off. The park offers outdoor activities such as body rafting, trekking and guided tours through the botanic gardens and geological park. There’s also a 4-D multimedia show and the MOL (Museum of Land), as well as a tour through the nearby Museo Contadino del Parco (agricultural museum). Daily 9 am-dusk. 7 euros for the lift down to the park. There’s a free public entrance just past the lift entrance, but you must climb down 200 steps (and back up). Guided tours and recreational activities may cost extra. Parco Botanico e Geologico, Via Nazionale 5, Motta Camastra, Messina. Phone 0942-985-010. http://www.parcoalcantara.it.
Parco Regionale dei Nebrodi
This is Sicily’s largest park, covering about 330 sq mi/855 sq km in the northeast part of the island. It features Europe’s largest remaining beech forest, sparkling lakes and spectacular views of Mount Etna, which is just southeast of the park. The Nebrodi park offers trekking, orienteering, mountaineering, opportunities for landscape photography, and birdwatching (particularly the rare griffon vulture—for more information, see
http://www.ambientesicilia.it). Popular trekking excursions cover Alcara Li Fusi, Galati, Longi and Mistretta. Also inside the park are the historical farmlands, mansion and gardens originally given to Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson by Spanish king Ferdinando III. The property is open to the public and has an extensive museum. Daily 7 am-7:30 pm. Strada Nazionale, Cesaro (park office; maps and information are available there), Messina. Phone 095-696-008. http://www.parcodeinebrodi.it.
Parco Regionale dell’Etna
This park in northeastern Sicily, the largest unspoiled wilderness remaining on the island, is a study in contrasts—from the surreal summit of Mount Etna, a 10,919-ft-/3,329-m-high active volcano, to lava deserts, to coniferous forests. There are two good ways to get to the craters and the summit. For the southern approach, regular buses from Catania go to Rifugio Sapienza (at 6,307 ft/1,923 m), and from there you can take a cable car up the mountain to 8,200 ft/2,500 m. The northern ascent from Piano Provenzano is accessible by four-wheel drive excursions or rental car, but there is not a public transportation option with this alternative.
Another option is to circle the park on the private railway Ferrovia Circumetnea (http://www.circumetnea.it), which you can connect to from Catania’s main station. The train follows a 71-mi/114-km trail (about two hours) around the base of the volcano with amazing views, but you can also stop at one of Etna’s unique towns, such as Bronte or Adrano, along the way. Daily 7 am-7:30 pm. The last cable car leaves at 4:45 pm. 27 euros for the cable car; 50 euros for cable car, bus and guide; about 40 euros-55 euros for the four-wheel-drive excursion on the northern side.
Train ride on the Circumetnea is 7.80 euros round-trip. Via del Convento 45 (on Etna’s southern side; the northern entrance is at the Visitor Center Parco dei Parchi, Via Umberto 43, Randazzo), Nicolosi. Phone 095-821-111 or 095-799-1611 (Visitor Center Parco dei Parchi). http://www.parcoetna.it.
Riserva Naturale Orientate dello Zingaro
This nature reserve extends about 4,077 acres/1,650 hectares between Trapani and Palermo, with 4 mi/7 km of coastline. It is dotted with white pebbly coves set in a turquoise sea, and luxuriant Mediterranean flora. Various walking trails ranging 3-9 mi/6-14 km in length are available throughout the reserve. Camping with previous permission (obtainable through a form on the website) is possible in shelters dotted throughout the reserve October-May. Bird-watching is also good there. The reserve starts at Cala Mazzo at Sciacca and extends to Tonnarella Dell’Uzzo, San Vito Lo Capo and part of Castellammare del Golfo. Guided visits are available on request. Daily 7 am-7:30 pm. 3 euros adults, 2 euros children. Via Segesta 197, 91014 Castellammare del Golfo, Trapani. Phone 0924-35108. http://www.riservazingaro.it.
Located 5 mi/8 km southwest of Palermo, this is truly the finest example of Norman architecture in Sicily. This masterpiece built in the 12th century by William II incorporates Norman, Arab and Byzantine elements. The interior is encrusted in beautiful mosaics that depict Old Testament stories, and the cloister outside the building exudes an Asian theme. Visitors should dress modestly, with knees and shoulders covered. Monday-Saturday 8:30-10 am and 2:30-5 pm. Only 350 people can be in the Duomo at one time, so visits are limited to 30 minutes. A 3-euro donation is requested at the entrance. Audioguides are provided. Admission to the cloister is 6 euros. Piazza del Duomo (easily accessible by bus from Piazza Indipendenza in Palermo), Monreale. Phone 91-640-4413.
This beautiful, multifaceted cathedral is one of the best examples of the unique Arab-Norman style of architecture. Although the interior is of a grandiose scale, it is relatively unimpressive compared to the beautiful majolica cupolas and intricate, geometric patterns of the exterior. Open March-October Monday-Saturday 9 am-5:30 pm, Sunday 7:30 am-1:30 pm and 4-7 pm; November-February Monday-Saturday 9:30 am-1 pm,
Sunday 7:30 am-1:30 pm and 4-7 pm. Entrance to the church is free of charge; 7 euros adults, 5 euros children for the exhibition area of the cathedral treasures, the crypt and the area of the royal tombs. Tickets can be purchased at the crypt entrance. Corso Vittorio Emanuele, Palermo. Phone 91-334-373.
Waterpark, theme park and prehistoric park all rolled into one with fun for the entire family. The aqua park includes a variety of slides and water rides, and the prehistoric park features life-size models of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures in a natural setting. The theme park includes a 4-D cinema, laser show and various rides, ranging from cable cars to roller coasters and carousels. The water park has a variety of waterslides, pools and wave pools. Aqua park open daily in July and August 9:30 am-6:30 pm. Theme park open daily mid-April to August 9:30 am-6:30 pm, weekends only September-November (open until 1 am in July and August). Some rides closed in the evenings. Aqua park 20 euros-24 euros adults, 13 euros-15 euros children. Theme park 25 euros adults, 20 euros children. Corso da Agnelleria, Belpasso. Phone 095-791-3334 or 095-791-3333.
WINERIES, BREWERIES & DISTILLERIES
There are many different wine areas to explore throughout Sicily, but the most distinctive are those in the area near Mount Etna.
The wines from the paesi Etnei, or towns near Etna, are very different from those of the southeast and southwest of the island, as many of them are produced in small, family-owned wineries.
Alagna Vini Marsala
The Alagna family has been making wine for generations, and the family continues to build on its strong foundations. Alagna Vini has various plots of land in the towns of Marsala, Mazara, Trapani and Salemi, each of which grows a variety of Sicilian grapes. These grapes are cultivated only in Sicily: In fact, they’re so local, they require a particular microclimate that can only be found in this province. Alagna Vini offers group tasting tours, which pair a variety of wines with local specialties including almond cake, breads and cheeses. It can also ship wine and local food items back home for you. Via Salemi 752, Marsala. Phone 0923-981-022.
Barone di Villagrande
This winery offers lovely wines. With wineries on the slopes of Mount Etna and on the island of Salina, you can taste everything from rich, strong-flavored reds to the sweetest Malvasia dessert wines. Beautiful accommodations are also on-site. Monday-Friday 9 am-1 pm. Catanis Via del Bosco 25, Sicily Island. Phone
ZOOS & WILDLIFE
Bioparco di Sicilia
This small zoo is home to 55 species of animals. It has particularly good natural habitats for primates, as well as a great reptile area and aquarium. There’s also a dinosaur park with realistic replicas of more than 20 dinosaurs in a natural setting. Also a center for scientific research, and for the education of visitors on endangered species and conservation. Open daily March-November 9:30 am-6:30 pm. 8.50 euros adults. Via Amerigo Vespucci 420, Carini. Phone 091-867-6811. http://www.bioparcodisicilia.it.
Sicily’s recreational opportunities run the gamut from swimming, snorkeling and diving at several beach areas to hiking and exploring the regional parks to sailing around the island. Other options include horseback riding, golf, tennis and skiing on Mount Etna in the winter.
This 1-mi/1.5-km length of golden sand and turquoise clear sea is one of the best beaches on Sicily. Very popular with families. It is located on the northern coast of the island halfway between Palermo and Messina.
This port town 3 mi/5 km south of Taormina is where the cruise ships stop for tours to Taormina and Etna, and the east coast of Sicily. The beach at Giardini Naxos is the longest in the region, consisting of both free beaches and lidos (bathing establishments with lockers and sunbeds for rental, facilities and restaurants). The beach promenade is hopping with cafes, bars and restaurants, and is popular with package tours in July and August.
A funicular (funivia) just below the north gate of historic Taormina whisks you down to the beaches of Taormina, which are just a short walk from the bottom station. Public access to Isola Bella, a small islet connected to the shore by a narrow strip of beach, can be accessed next to the Ristorante Gabbiano. There is also access to private lido bathing establishments, called stabilimenti. You can rent a lounge chair and gain access to the showers and locker rooms for 8 euros-12 euros. Many of these establishments also have beachside restaurants serving snacks and drinks. Daily 9 am-8 pm. 3 euros adults for the funicular. Access to the beach is free, but it can be crowded.
Marina di Ragusa
The highlight at this bustling resort on the southern coast of the island is its long sandy beach. There is a good mixture of private lidos (bathing establishments) and free beaches. The area is great for windsurfing and watersports, and there is a smattering of great seafood restaurants and bars along the beach promenade.
A few minutes’ drive from Palermo, this white-sand beach is located beside the Capo Gallo Nature Reserve.
Riserva Naturale Belice
This nature reserve, beach and dune area in the province of Trapani offers an evergreen piece of Sicilian nature thanks to the Belice River. There are cycling and hiking trails, as well as one of the best beaches on the island.
San Vito Lo Capo
This pristine beach in western Sicily is located near the Zingaro Nature Reserve.
The wild coastline of Sicily’s oldest nature reserve, Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro, is a refuge for the rare Bonelli’s eagle, as well as more than 40 other species of birds. Detailed maps of walking trails are available at the park’s main entrance in the village of Scopello in the northwestern part of the island between Palermo and Trapani. http://www.riservazingaro.it.
Most of the major parks such as Madonie, Nebrodi and Etna have bird-watching sites available throughout the year. There are often sentiere or rifugie lookouts set up for bird watching. For a list of excellent bird-watching spots in Sicily, see http://fatbirder.com/links_geo/europe/italy_sicily.html.
BOATING & SAILING
Boat Excursions Taormina
Kayaks, paddleboats, windsurfing and other watersports can be organized through this rental company, which also offers short boat excursions around the Isola Bella, Taormina and Naxos Bay for breathtaking views of the coastline and Mount Etna, and Grotta Azzura (Blue Cave). It also offers pesca turismo, where you fish, cook and eat your catch onboard. For the fishing enthusiast, nighttime fishing excursions are also available. Via Nazionale, Mazzaro Bay, Taormina. Phone 348-034-4312 or 333-272-6940. http://www.boatexcursionstaormina.com.
A charter boat company offering yacht management and tours. Cruises depart from Palermo, Marsala and Portorosa to all the major islands surrounding Sicily. Its sailing fleet comprises 23 yachts and one catamaran. It also offers 24-hour assistance and sailing recommendations. Fondo Mineo 3, Palermo. Phone 091-580-679 or 389-346-8266. http://www.sailingsicily.com.
This sailing charter company arranges excursions ranging from day trips to weeklong tours. It also offers dinghy tours, diving excursions and gastronomic tours to all areas of Sicily, as well as to the Egadi and Eolie islands off the northern coast. Open April-October. Fees range 400 euros-2,350 euros per day, depending on the excursion. Harbor of Marsala (south of Trapani on the northwestern coast), Marsala. Phone 338-299-4535.
Freccia delle Egadi
If you find yourself on an excursion to the Egadi Islands and fishing is your thing, this sportfishing charter sails from Favignana, the largest island of the Egadi archipelago. Daily March-October. 100 euros per hour boat rental, 175 euros for a half-day of fishing, 250 euros for a full day. Port of Favignana, Egadi Islands (about 4 mi/7 km from Trapani), Sicily Island. Phone 092-392-2209. http://www.charterdipesca.com.
Donnafugata Golf Resort & Spa
The Donnafugata Resort has two 18-hole courses (par 72) and a Golf Academy with a driving range for up to 70 people, a pitching and chipping green, practice bunker and putting green. The Parkland is a signature course designed by the legendary Gary Player, and the Links course was designed by Italian architect Franco Piras. The Club House consists of a terrace, bar and restaurant, all with a view of the course. The on-site Donnafugata Golf Academy offers classes for every level, and there is a pro shop on the premises. Greens fees 150 euros for 18 holes, 80 euros for nine holes; 30 euros for players younger than 18. Donnafugata Golf Resort & Spa Ragusa, Contrada Piombo, Sicily Island. Phone 0932-914-2975. http://www.donnafugatagolfresort.com.
Il Picciolo Golf Club
Playing golf under Mount Etna is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In addition to the outstanding views, this club also makes a great base for exploring the area’s many nearby attractions. Il Picciolo Golf Club has a renowned 18-hole course near the Sicilian village of Castiglione di Sicilia, about a 30-minute drive from Taormina. Equipment rentals are available, as are golf lessons, a driving range, and a putting and pitching green. Visitors can also opt for a variety of health spa experiences, including a fully equipped gym, sauna, turkish bath, spa, hydrotherapy and more. The club also offers excursions on four-wheel-drive bikes (quads), trekking, mountain biking, horseback riding, free-climbing and helicopter tours. State Road 120, Km. 200, Castiglione di Sicilia, Catania. Phone 0942-986-252. http://www.ilpicciologolf.com.
I Monasteri Golf Resort
I Monasteri is made up of a four-star hotel, health spa and an 18-hole golf course (par 71). Citrus groves, palm trees and olive trees dot the landscaped grounds. A well-equipped health spa is also open to the public for bookings. Fees vary according to high and low tourist seasons. Greens fees range 30 euros-50 euros for nine holes, 50 euros-80 euros for 18 holes. Junior greens fees range 15 euros-25 euros for nine holes, 25 euros-40 euros for 18 holes. Driving range 10 euros per day, 5 euros for juniors. Health spa entrance price is 25 euros.
The 75-minute treatments include a series of baths (sauna, turkish bath, exfoliating shower and spa). Traversa Monasteri di Sotto 3, Siracusa. Phone 0931-941-470. http://www.imonasterigolfresort.com.
Le Madonie Golf Club
Beautiful golf course on the northern coast of Sicily, and part of a luxury resort. Driving range, clubhouse, pool and spa. Daily 8 am-8 pm. Contrada Bartuccelli, Collesano. Phone 921-934-199. http://lemadoniegolf.com.
Verdura Golf & Spa Resort
The Verdura Resort has a large area of parkland and a strip of private Mediterranean coastline. With three golf courses (two with 18 holes, one with nine) designed by international golf course designer Kyle Phillips, a 197-ft/60-m pool, seven clay tennis courts, an international spa, and several restaurants and bars, it is an impressive luxury destination. Aside from golf, it offers a selection of watersports, including windsurfing and
sailing, tennis and lessons at the Sunball Tennis Academy, a soccer field, cycling, cooking lessons and wine tasting. State Road 115, Km. 131, Sicily Island. Phone 0925-998-001.
HIKING & WALKING
Scala dei Turchi
This fascinating rock formation known as The Turkish Steps is located near Realmonte in the province of Agrigento. It’s a little out of the way, but it’s a fascinating day trip destination with clean beaches and is a stunning place to explore by foot. http://www.guidavalledeitempli.it/ita/guida_agrigento/scala_dei_turchi.html.
SCUBA & SNORKELING
Sicily’s stunning coastline provides ample opportunities for watersports. Some of our favorite off-the-beaten-track snorkeling areas include Riserva dello Zingaro west of Palermo, Tonnara di Scopello on the western coast, Isole dei Ciclopi near Acitrezza (http://www.isoleciclopi.it), and the Maddalena Peninsula (http://www.plemmirio.it).
Divesicily Diving and Watersports Center
Established in 1986, this was the first diving center to open in Taormina. Hands-on, personable and knowledgeable instructors can arrange a boat trip with diving, snorkeling, fishing, water-skiing, Jet-skiing, wakeboarding, kayaking, parasailing or a mix for customers with different skill levels. Lessons for children are available. Diving courses and open-water certification also offered. Daily March-late October. 50 euros for one
dive; 160 euros for six dives across three days. Snorkeling and kayaking tour (with a seafood barbecue) 45 euros; minimum of four people. Lido La Pigna, Via Nazionale, Mazzaro Bay, Taormina. Phone 360-289-555 or 333-180-0986. http://www.divesicily.com.
Centro Ippico Amico del Cavallo
This equestrian center in the shadow of Mount Etna has eight school horses of Sicilian origin and offers riding for beginners to advanced riders. It offers lessons and tours, including a two-day ride around Mount Etna. A four-hour ride from the equestrian center to the seaside at Catania costs 85 euros; a seven-hour ride around the Etna Regional Park (including a restaurant lunch and hotel) costs 145 euros. Via A. Gramsci 27, Misterbianco.
Phone 095-461-882 or 329-950-9849. http://www.amicodelcavallo.com.
This farmhouse and guest ranch is one of the best places in Sicily for horseback riding. Its equine center has extensive stables and riding paddocks. It can organize horseback-riding excursions for a few hours, full days, or for experts, horseback treks along the tracks and towns within the Madonie National Park and to the seaside town of Cefalu. Open daily. Fees vary; contact for a quote through the website. Contrada Pozzetti, Collesano. Phone 921-427-703 or 334-843-9241. http://www.agriturismoarione.it.
Although Sicily may not be top-of-mind for great skiing, it is a realistic pursuit thanks to Mount Etna’s 10,902-ft/3,323-m height and favorable snow conditions on the mountain December-March. There are three main ski centers: two on the south side (Rifiugio Sapienza-Nicolosi and Piano Battaglia) with four lifts and 14 groomed pistes, and more vertical terrain; and a smaller one on the north side (Piano Provenzana-Linguaglossa) with one piste. Day ski passes cost 15 euros-25 euros, with additional fees for equipment rental. Phone 095-914-141.
The Funivia dell’Etna cable car is on the south side of the volcano in Nicolosi. In the winter season (December-March), it makes trips daily 9 am-3:45 pm; in summer, it’s open daily 9 am-5:45 pm. Visitors can take guided excursions overlooking Mount Etna at sunset every Monday and Friday (weather permitting) departing at 5:30 pm. Phone 095-914-141 for bookings. Piazza Vittorio Emanuele 45, Nicolosi, Sicily Island.
TENNIS & RACQUET SPORTS
Verdura Tennis Academy
This is one of the largest tennis centers in Sicily. The well-equipped center has state-of-the art facilities and a dedicated team of tennis coaches. Programs for children and adults, and for all levels of skill. Open daily. 68 euros for a private 50-minute lesson, 40 euros per person for a semiprivate 50-minute lesson. Price includes equipment hire. Court rental without lesson is 25 euros per hour. Verdura Golf and Spa Resort, S.S. 115 Km. 131 (on the southwest coast of Sicily, about 15 minutes from the small seaside town of Sciaccia), Agrigento. Phone 925-998-001. Toll-free 888-667-9477.
Palermo and Catania, with its large university population, offer some of Sicily’s best nightlife. Smaller resort towns can be particularly deserted after 10 pm, with only lingering restaurant-goers remaining out.
BARS, TAVERNS & PUBS
Known for its 20-plus flavors of granita, this place is also popular for before- or after-dinner drinks. Extensive outdoor seating creates a very casual and fun atmosphere. Daily 7 am-midnight. No cover. Via di Giovanni 45, Taormina. Phone 0942-24355.
This lounge bar’s highlight is a beautiful terrace overlooking the sea, with indoor seating areas built into the buliding’s old stone walls. The cocktails and music aren’t bad, either. Daily 5 pm-2:30 am. Via Ortolani di Bordonaro 60 (in the historical center of town), Cefalu. Phone 0921-421-210. http://www.carrelounge.com.
Chic, urban-style bar in an upscale boutique-hotel of the same name. It has indoor seating, but go for the outdoor terrace with an expansive view of Naxos Bay and Mount Etna. Unique interpretation of classic cocktails and a great wine list. It serves a selection of delectable nibbles with your drink order. Metropole Jazz Nights have become a draw for international artists and music lovers. Daily noon-midnight. Cover charge 2 euros. Corso Umberto 154, Taormina. Phone 0942-681-330. http://www.hotelmetropoletaormina.it.
This slightly touristy bar is a good spot for a late-night cocktail. With elegant, artsy decor, it’s a fun place to relax. Prices are reasonable (cocktails are about 9 euros) and there is a DJ and dancing later on in the night. Daily 9 pm-4 am. Scesa Morgana, Taormina. Phone 0942-620-056. http://www.morganataormina.it.
This bar and trattoria is popular with an alternative crowd and aficionados of all things Cuban. It serves affordable food and excellent beer and is conveniently located near Piazza Duomo and Piazza dell’Universita. Daily except Monday 7 pm-2 am. Via Alessi 15-17, Catania. Phone 095-313-792. http://www.nievski.it.
The Stag’s Head
This pizza and beer pub in Catania is popular with young tourists and foreigners who visit the city. It has a lively atmosphere and reasonable prices, making it a fun place for a night out. It also has jazz and country music nights. Via Rapisardi Michele 7/9, Catania. Phone 095-715-2204. http://www.thestagshead.net.
This charming bohemian-style bar, cafe, bookshop and craft shop is in the heart of Ortygia, Siracusa’s historic center. It’s a relaxing place for everything from a morning cappuccino to afternoon tea (it has more than 30 varieties). It is particularly popular for an evening aperitif, when locals and expats meet up for wine and snacks. It also sells its own line of beauty products and some stylish Padrino-style Sicilian caps. Daily except Wednesday 10 am-midnight. Via della Giudecca 63, Sicily Island. Phone 335-607 5293. http://tinkite.tumblr.com.
Top Beer Brewery
This brewery offers a selection of house-made Italian beers, as well as international brews (nonpasteurized, with no artificial additives). With a wide selection of beers, weekly tastings and talks about the technical elements of brewing, this is a wonderful spot to taste great local beers. Daily 6 pm-midnight. Via Vicenza 43, Catania. Phone 095-518-7546. http://www.topbeer.it.
DANCE & NIGHTCLUBS
Empire Risto Lounge
This cool, modern club comprises a restaurant with a fresh Mediterranean menu, a lounge bar, tea room, happy-hour specials and open dance space, all combined to create an elegant setting. Occasionally features DJs and other live performances. Open daily for dinner and late night. Via Zolfatai 12, Catania. Phone 095-531-266 or 348-383-1331. http://www.empirecatania.com/servizi.html.
Housed in a 19th-century palace, this eclectic venue has become quite an icon in Palermo. It has an internal garden area, restaurant, wine bar, Internet point, bookshop and music pub. There is always something going on at the Kursaal, including concerts, jazz sessions, art exhibitions, book presentations and live theater. Tuesday-Saturday noon-3 pm and 7 pm-1:30 am, Sunday noon-1:30 am. Bookshop open daily except Monday 6 pm-1:30 am. Foro Umberto I 21, Palermo. Phone 091-616-2282 for the restaurant, 091-616-2111 for the wine bar. http://www.kursaalkalhesa.it.
This is one of the most popular clubs in Palermo. It features a wonderful garden area made up of three dance floors and three bars; two of the floors are dedicated to house and dance music, and the third venue is reserved for live groups and guest stars. Friday is Latin and Caribbean dance night. The club is only open Saturday, as it hosts events and private parties during the week. Via Faraone 2, Palermo. Phone 091-243-946 or 338-351-5230. http://www.scaleaclub.com.
Le Terrazze dei Candelai
This lively cultural center in the historical center of Palermo is frequented mostly by locals. It stages more than 35 rock, pop, jazz, ethnic and alternative concerts each year, with a focus on Sicilian musicians. There is also a dance club on-site with live music and DJs on the weekends. Daily 9 pm-1 am. Via Candelai 65, Palermo. Phone 091-327-151. http://www.candelai.org.
A live-music club and pizzeria that often features performances by Italian and international artists and DJs. Open Friday and Saturday, as well as for special events. See the website for a schedule. State Road 417, Km. 69, Catania. http://www.mercatigenerali.org.
Sicily’s performing arts scene is anchored by its two opera houses, Teatro Massimo in Palermo and Teatro Massimo Bellini in Catania. In the spring and summer there are outdoor performances, plays and concerts, as well as a renowned film festival in lively Taormina, and Siracusa’s beautiful Greek theater hosts performances of ancient Greek plays.
Compagnia Zappala Danza
One of Sicily’s most interesting contemporary dance companies, founded in 1990 by Roberto Zappala, who is the artistic director and main choreographer. It distinguishes itself by its wide and articulated repertory and performs both on its home stage in Catania at Scenario Pubblico, as well as internationally. The company is in constant evolution, always developing new dance projects and opportunities for young Sicilian dancers. Via Teatro Massimo 16, Catania. Phone 095-250-3147 or 095-315-459. http://www.compagniazappala.it.
Istituto Nazionale del Dramma Antico
This institution organizes ancient Greek plays that take place mostly in April and May in historic locations throughout Italy. The primary venue in Sicily is in the Greek ampitheater in Siracusa. Admission is free. Corseo Matteotti 29, Siracusa. Phone 0931-487-200. http://www.indafondazione.org.
Organizes operas, ancient Greek plays, dance performances, art exhibitions, concerts and the famous Taormina Film Festival in the gorgeous Greek amphitheater, Teatro Antico. Corso Umberto 19, Taormina. Phone 0942-21142. http://www.taormina-arte.com.
Taormina Teatro Greco
Prominent artists often tour the island during the warmer months, stopping at this amazing summer venue for a performance. Musicians from classical and jazz pianists, contemporary Italian singers and pop bands play there consistently. See the website for a schedule of upcoming performances. Tickets can be purchased from Box Office Sicilia (http://www.ctbox.it) and TicketOne Italy (http://www.ticketone.it). Corso Umberto 19, Taormina. http://teatro.taoarte.it.
This historical theater has become a mecca for lovers of Sicilian playwright and Nobel Laureate in Literature Luigi Pirandello. It often premiered the writer’s works during his lifetime (1867-1936) and continues to faithfully represent his work to this day. Piazza Pirandello 1, Agrigento. Phone 0922-590-220. http://www.teatroluigipirandello.it.
Teatro Vittorio Emanuele
This elegant theater was lovingly rebuilt by the people of Messina after nearly being destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the city in 1908. The dress circle’s ceiling features an original painting by Sicilian artist Renato Guttuso that depicts the legend of the mythological fisherman Colapesce: It’s a stunning work of modern art. The theater still puts on a rich season of theater, opera and musical performances. Via Garibaldi, Messina. Phone 0908-966-226. http://www.teatrodimessina.it.
Scenario Pubblico-International Choreography Center Sicily
The home stage for contemporary dance company Compagnia Zappala. In addition to hosting performances from the dance company, it also hosts choreography competitions and other Sicilian artistic endeavors, focusing on emerging dance companies. Via Teatro Massimo 16 (in the historic center), Catania. Phone 095-250-3147. http://www.scenariopubblico.com.
This impressive neoclassical opera house is an iconic Palermo landmark. It took more than 20 years to complete the construction of the grand building. It stages operas, orchestra and choral performances, and ballets. The climactic opera scene from the movie The Godfather: Part III was filmed there, making it a favorite site of visitors on The Godfather pilgrimage. The open-air summer venue, Teatro di Verdura, is located on Viale del Fante 70. Guided tours are available daily except Monday. 7 euros. Piazza Giuseppe Verdi, Palermo. Phone 091-605-3521.
Teatro Massimo Bellini
Built by Ernesto Basile, this beautiful art-nouveau theater stages operas, ballets and music concerts. Via Perrotta 12, Catania. Phone 095-730-6111. http://www.teatromassimobellini.it.
Ippodromo del Mediterraneo
This racetrack and facility was built in 1995 and has an attached hotel, spa and two restaurants. Races take place four to five times per month, mostly on the weekends. Corso da Spinagallo 50, Siracusa. Phone 0931-710-129. http://www.ippomed.it.
Stadio Angelo Massimino
This soccer stadium, with a capacity of approximately 20,000, is currently the home of Calcio Catania, fierce rivals of U.S. Citta di Palermo. The stadium is located northwest of the city center, approximately a 20-minute walk, or accessible by city buses 4, 5, 6 and 7 from the central station. Piazza Vincenzo Spedini, Catania. Phone 095-742-4724. http://ilcalciocatania.it.
Stadio Renzo Barbera
This soccer stadium, holding 35,000 fans, is currently the home of U.S. Citta di Palermo, one of Italy’s most prominent football organizations with a 100-year-old tradition. If you’d like to experience real Italian soccer, nothing is more memorable than a night at the stadium. Viale del Fante 11, Palermo. Phone 091-690-1211. http://www.palermocalcio.it.
One craft that you will see throughout Sicily is ceramics. Each town boasts its own ceramics tradition, so it’s fun to visit a few to gain an appreciation for the local differences. One of the traditional styles that you’ll see in many stores is Caltagirone, which is characterized by a white background with brilliant patterned floral and animal designs of bright blues, greens and yellows.
There are coral crafts and jewelry available from Trapani artisans, made with coral harvested by hand to preserve the integrity of the reefs. Specialty food products (olives, preserves and capers) and sweets, such as the brightly colored marzipan candies, cannoli and torrone (almond nougat), also make popular gifts. Delicious red and white wines are available from vines grown on Mount Etna soil, particularly Etna Rossa, as well as Nero D’Avola from the interior, and Malvasia from the Aeolian Islands.
Be sure to visit vibrant Vucciria and Ballero markets in Palermo; they’re a little run-down, but they offer rustic street food and are a slice of authentic Sicilian life.
Shopping Hours: Most Sicilian vendors observe the riposto, a rest in the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest; therefore stores are typically open 9 am-1 pm and 4-7 or 8 pm. Some stores in the resort towns of Taormina, Cefalu and Siracusa stay open throughout the day. There is also a rest day during which shops are closed in the afternoons (the day varies from town to town) during the work week. Call ahead to confirm hours for any must-do shopping.
This gallery features antiques and fascinating works of contemporary art, including paintings, prints, antique books and home accents. The owners are always happy to answer questions or take inquiries. Monday-Wednesday and Friday-Sunday 10 am-11 pm, Thursday 10 am-1:30 pm and 3:30-11:30 pm. Corso Umberto I 133 (near Piazza IX Aprile in the town center), Taormina. Phone 0942-23091. http://www.lagora-taormina.it.
Located in an elegant Renaissance palace on the central Corso Umberto in Taormina, this place sells antique furniture, paintings, jewelry, and objects of artisan design including tables, light fixtures, picture frames, mirrors and more. Also sells apparel such as cashmere scarves and typical Sicilian caps. Daily 9 am-9 pm in summer, daily 9 am-1 pm and 4-8 pm in winter. Corso Umberto I 122, Taormina. Phone 0942-23910.
The Cavallotto bookstores have more than 50 years of tradition in Catania. It offers a vast assortment of volumes, from fiction to textbooks, with some titles in English. The staff can give excellent recommendations for books on Sicilian culture, history and architecture. There is a second location at Corso Sicilia 91. Viale Ionio 32, Catania. Phone 095-539-067. http://www.cavallotto.it
Catania Mall is a top luxury outlet dedicated to discounted designer clothes, shoes and accessories. Shops include Gucci, Dior, Jacob Cohen, Burberry, YSL, Valentino, Versace and others. Discounts vary, but the best summer sales are in June and July, and winter sales are held in January and February. Viale Del Commercio, Misterbianco. Phone 095-473-886. http://www.cataniamall.it.
If you love pottery and similar goods, pay a visit to Caltagirone (75 mi/120 km southwest of Taormina) or Santo Stefano di Camastra (93 mi/150 km northwest of Taormina), where pottery is produced. Prices will be better than in the larger cities, and the choices are almost infinite.
For a list of contemporary art exhibitions, see Sicily Art’s website. It publicizes the latest exhibitions and gallery openings in Sicily: http://sicilyart.com.
Manago Ceramica Taormina
This shop has an impressive array of ceramic objects in many traditional Sicilian styles. It has two jam-packed stores in Taormina, which are a real treat to browse through. The staff will also do custom designs and original pieces on request. The second location is at Via Teatro Greco 6. Piazza Santa Domenica 1-2, Taormina. Phone 0942-625-285. http://www.manago.it.
Every small town and big city has its own market day, when open-air market stalls are set up in local squares and streets to sell a variety of items. You’ll see everything on display, from shoes, bags, vintage clothing and haberdashery to arts and crafts. The open markets are a part of Sicilian life: Haggle for the best price and discover fun and unexpected objects.
Most fresh-food markets in Palermo and Catania are open Monday-Saturday from morning to midday. The most well-known are the Vuccuria and Ballero in Palermo, as well as La Fiera di Catania in Piazza Carlo Alberto and La Pescheria in Catania.
The Sunday markets at Randazzo bring together the best products from three provinces (Enna, Palermo and Catania). The Wednesday summer markets in Taormina’s Piazza Duomo are filled with antiques and ceramics. For details of all the local and provincial market days, see http://www.italiaambulante.com, or simply ask a local.
With more than 100 shops and several restaurants, Etnapolis is the largest shopping center in southern Italy and includes the largest cinema in Sicily. The mall itself is a spectacular structure, made almost entirely out of glass.
Wi-Fi is available throughout the center. Monday-Friday 9:30 am-9 pm, Saturday and Sunday 9:30 am-9:30 pm. Contrada Valcorrente 23 (at Valcorrente, near Belpasso-Catania, close to Etnaland amusement park), Belpasso. Phone 095-786-7432. http://www.centroetnapolis.it.
The Palermo Forum is dedicated to luxury Italian and international designer brands. The mall features ample parking, free Wi-Fi, a kids’ play area, cinema and more than 100 stores. There’s also a wide range of cafes, bars, pizzerias and restaurants. We recommend Rossopomodoro and Rossosapore for authentic Neapolitan cuisine. Shops are open daily 9 am-9 pm. The food court is open 9 am-midnight. The cinema is open Monday-Friday from 4:30 pm, Saturday and Sunday from 2:30 pm. Via Procaine, Palermo. Phone 091-621-8353.
This major shopping mall in Catania houses more than 100 name-brand stores, as well as several restaurants, a cinema and a bowling alley. It’s surrounded by ample green space, making it a perfect place for families with children to spend the day. Daily 9:30 am-9 pm. Viale Cristoforo Colombo 13, San Giovanni La Punta, Catania. Phone 095-741-5534. http://www.iportaliweb.it.
Misterbianco Galleria Auchan
Auchan is a huge food market in Catania. This location combines it with another 20 retailers to create a large indoor shopping mall where you can buy anything from food, clothes and sportswear to mobile phones. The Auchan supermarket is its main focal point and offers a wide selection of food. Galleria Auchan often organizes events and concerts along with regular special offers and discounts. Daily 9 am-9 pm. Via Zinirco, Catania. Phone 095-343-111. http://www.misterbianco.gallerieauchan.it.
Porte di Catania Shopping Mall
The Porte di Catania shopping center is where relaxation, shopping and entertainment come together. The 150 shops include most well-known Italian clothing and accessories brands, a generous dining area, a dedicated children’s area and a supermarket. Services include changing areas, Wi-Fi, ATMs and easy access to public transit. S.S. Gelso Bianco, Sicily Island. Phone 095-578-717. http://www.portedicatania.gallerieauchan.it
A.F.M. Argenteria Siciliana
One of the only silversmiths in Palermo that still creates silver pieces made entirely by hand. Find everything from beautiful hammered bowls, vases and candle holders to silver table service. Open by appointment only. Via Giuseppe Broggi 4, Palermo. Phone 091-637-2291. http://www.afm.it.
Bottega sel Sandalo-Minotaura Group
This tiny shop is a must for its custom-made, artisanal, made-to-order sandals. Choose from a variety of different leathers, embellishments, sole widths and heel heights to create your own unique style. Affordable at about 60 euros, and they’re ready for pickup in about an hour. Daily 9 am-1 pm and 4-7 pm. Via Bagnoli Croce 30, Taormina. Phone 0349-757-0675. http://www.bottegadelsandalo.com.
This colorful shop beckons a visit with its brightly painted, colorful pottery designs and decorative items for the home. It specializes in handcrafted objects from the master craftsmen of Caltagirone. Many articles are available made-to-order, and it ships worldwide. Daily 9 am-1 pm and 4-9 pm. Via Teatro Greco 34 (on the way to the Greek theater), Taormina. Phone 0942-23445. http://www.ceramichefarano.com.
Gioielleria Massimo Izzo
Unique store specializing in elaborate jewelry handcrafted from Sciacca coral and gold. The jewelry maestro’s philosophy is to give life to jewelry, and that he does, crafting beautiful pieces that are inspired by the sea and marine creatures. Daily 9 am-1 pm and 4-8 pm. Piazza Archimede 25, Siracusa. Phone 0931-22301. http://www.massimoizzo.com.
I Peccatucci di Mamma Andrea
Small gastronomic boutique with beautifully wrapped boxes; bottles and jars of marmalades made from Sicilian citrus; liqueurs distilled from various herbs and fruits; and an array of peccatucci (“small sins”) candies made from marzipan in different colors and shapes. Daily 9 am-1 pm and 4-7:30 pm, except closed Saturday afternoon, as well as Sunday and Monday mornings. Via Principe di Scordia 67, Palermo. Phone 091-334-835. http://mammaandrea.it.
Small artisanal workshop with a selection of lovely, primitive, painted ceramic tiles; ceramic-edged mirrors; small plates and bowls; and bottle stoppers. It’s on the expensive side, but unique and delightful. It can also create personalized tiles, such as family placards or address markers, on request. Also offers courses in ceramic decoration. Daily 9 am-8:30 pm. Corso Umberto 198, Taormina. Phone 0339-207-9032. http://www.kerameion.com.
This lovely, bright food shop is full of typical Sicilian products perfect for gift giving, including artisanal pastas, biscuits, olive oils, wines, spices, preserves, spreads and olives. There is also a great selection of soaps, candles and small kitchen gift items. Wine tastings are available upon request. Daily 9:30 am-6 pm. Via Porta Giudecca 60-62, Cefalu. Phone 0921-925-077. http://www.latrinacriacefalu.it.
Le Ceramiche di Caltagirone
Check out the beautiful ceramics and pottery at this shop. International shipping is available. Via Cavour 114, Palermo. Phone 091-609-0875. http://www.leceramichedicaltagirone.it.
Tre Erre Ceramiche
A ceramic shop run by the Raffa family since 1979, who have been instrumental in reviving Palermo’s ceramic production. Its focus is on reproductions of 17th- and 18th-century patterns, and high-quality majolica art with reasonable prices. The store will ship your purchases worldwide. Monday-Saturday 9 am-1 pm and 4-8 pm. Via Emerico Amari 49, Palermo. Phone 091-323-827. http://www.treerreceramiche.com.
Sicily has an ancient and distinguished gastronomic tradition, but only a few Sicilian dishes—such as the sweet and spicy flavors of eggplant-based caponata and the velvety smooth, sweet ricotta-filled cannoli—have crossed the Strait of Messina to find fame abroad.
Sicilian cuisine has the influences of Arab (who introduced sugar cane to the island), Greek and Spanish cooking, among others. Whereas the north has specialties made with land-based animals such as beef and poultry, Sicilian cuisine is hugely married to the sea. The classic Palermo dish bucatini con le sarde is a hollow pasta filled with sardines, wild fennel, pine nuts, raisins and bread crumbs. Melanzana con parmigiano (eggplant parmesan) is a classic dish that has Sicilian origins.
Small bites served from the outdoor food carts in Palermo’s Piazza Caracciolo are popular among the locals and must be tried to experience the full range of Sicilian foods. Panelle (chickpea pancakes), small grilled sausages and arancini (fried rice balls stuffed with various fillings) are typical offerings.
At the open-air markets, particularly for food festivals (sagre) and saint day celebrations (feste), keep an eye out for calia stores, which sell dried Sicilian fruits and nuts: These are considered local delicacies. If you are feeling particularly decadent, try the honey-covered bars of hazelnut Torrone and sweet almond nougat.
Legend has it that the Romans mixed snow from Mount Etna with various flavorings as a precursor of the famous granita (Italian ice). Do as the Sicilians do and have a scoop of the delicious ice inside a brioche—an eggy, sweet bread with the center scooped out—for breakfast. There are endless flavors of ice cream and granita to try, including flavors from local, seasonal fruits.
There are many dining experiences to be had in Sicily, from street food to fine-dining restaurants. There is really no need to spend much money when there are so many ways to taste fresh, seasonal dishes cooked with simplicity and flair. In summer, there are plenty of local food festivals where you can taste local produce and have a meal for less than 10 euros.
Sicilian pizzerias sell oven-baked pizza by the slice; there, a beer and large slice of pizza cost about 5 euros. An osteria or wine bar will give you a selection of antipasti and main dishes, as well as a fine selection of local wines. Trattorias serve excellent meals at reasonable prices: These family-run restaurants are usually where the locals go to eat (you hear about the best trattoria in the area by word of mouth), and the menu changes daily based on what is currently in season. A rosticceria serves hot meals daily (prices are around 10 euros), and a panneria bakes Continental bread rolls and toasted sandwiches filled with whatever your heart desires, ranging 5 euros-10 euros based on filling.
Eating seafood in Sicily may be expensive, but it is highly recommended, especially the local pesce azurro, including swordfish and sardines. A must-try dish is pasta alla nero di sepia, a typical dish in the provinces of Palermo and Messina. The pasta is prepared with the black ink from local squid: It is exotic and thoroughly delicious. Other pasta dishes to try include involtini di melanzane, which are thick, handmade macaroni noodles wrapped in deep-fried slices of eggplant, oven-baked with a rich tomato sauce and ricotta cheese.
Expect to pay within these general guidelines, based on the cost of a three-course dinner for one, not including drinks or tip: $ = less than 15 euros; $$ = 15 euros-30 euros; $$$ = 31 euros-50 euros; and $$$$ = more than 50 euros.
LOCAL & REGIONAL
Gagini Social Restaurant, Vuccuria
This modern restaurant near the la Vucciria e la Cala markets in the center of Palermo offers stunning seasonal menus with freshly made pasta
and bread, as well as a constant dedication to Sicilian cuisine. The dining experience often includes live music. Daily for lunch and dinner. $$-$$$. Via Cassari 35, Palermo. Phone 091-589-918. .
Via Cassari 35
Palermo, Sicily Island, Italy
Hostario San Pietro
In the port in the center of Trapani, this is a favorite of the locals. Try the busiate (a house-made pasta) with arugula pesto, tuna and shrimp. Daily
except Monday. Reservations recommended. $$. Visa and MasterCard accepted. Largo Porto Galli 4, Trapani. Phone 339-719-8193.
Largo Porto Galli 4
Trapani, Sicily Island, Italy
Hotel Elimo Ristorante
A 16th-century convent in Erice, preserved and converted to a 24-room hotel with two beautiful terraces and a popular restaurant known for its
home-style Sicilian specialties, buffet and panoramic view. The restaurant was featured in an episode of David Rocco’s Dolce Vita travel and cooking TV show. Daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended. $$-$$$. Most major credit cards. Via Vittorio Emanuele 75, Erice. Phone 0923-869-377.
Via Vittorio Emanuele 75
Erice, Sicily Island, Italy
Osteria La Bettolaccia
This authentic Trapani eatery uses seasonal, fresh ingredients to create local specialties such as couscous stews, house-made pastas and mixed
seafood dishes. Try the bresaola di tonno al pepe nero, smoked tuna in a black pepper sauce, or the bocconcini di fisce misto, small bites of fish
with fennel. Monday-Friday for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended. $$-$$$. Most major credit cards. Via Generale Fardella
23-25 (at the corner of Via San Francesco D’Assisi), Trapani. Phone 0923-21695.
Via Generale Fardella 23-25
Trapani, Sicily Island, Italy
This place is set in an interesting part of town right next to the crumbling Spasimo Church. The menu offers seasonal specialties from the island of
Pantelleria. For a starter, try the crostini ai ricci (toasted bread with sea urchin), the delicious tuna tartare or the typical Sicilian mixed antipasti
plate. Beautifully prepared home-style pastas and seafood dishes. Don’t miss the cassata for dessert. Daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations
recommended. $$$. Most major credit cards. Via dello Spasimo 44, Palermo. Phone 91-610-1215.
Via dello Spasimo 44
Palermo, Sicily Island, Italy
Ristorante “ll Normanno” di Gaetano Parisi
This family-run restaurant at Cefalu has a very good reputation for fine seafood and Sicilian cuisine. Daily for lunch, dinner and late night. $$-$$$. Via Vanni 9, Cefalu. Phone 0921-925-903
Via Vanni 9
Cefalu, Sicily Island, Italy
Ristorante Pizzeria Taormina
This restaurant is tucked away in a side alley off the Corso Umberto in Taormina, and the covered terrace with a panoramic view of Taormina Bay
is a pleasant surprise. Specialties include locally caught grilled fish and meats, and it also serves an excellent pizza. Try the sea bass baked in foil
with a thick crust of sea salt, or the excellent marinated grilled calamari. Daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended. $$-$$$. Most
major credit cards. Vico Teofane Cerameo 2 (near the Piazza IX Aprile), Taormina. Phone 0942-24359.
Vico Teofane Cerameo 2
Taormina, Sicily Island, Italy
Trattoria ai Cascinari
A popular local restaurant with changing seasonal menus and typical Sicilian fare. It’s a little bit out of the way, but worth seeking out. The
pastas are homemade and are recommended along with such starters as the fried anchovy balls. Open Tuesday and Sunday for lunch only,
Wednesday-Saturday for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended. $$-$$$. Most major credit cards. Via d’Ossuna 43-45, Palermo. Phone
Via d’Ossuna 43-45
Palermo, Sicily Island, Italy
Trattoria da Nino
A genuine local eatery with only about a dozen tables inside, and a few more on a small outdoor patio with a view of the sea. There’s always a
line of people outside waiting to be seated. Delicious specialties include the pasta Norma, a Sicilian pasta dish made with eggplant and smoked
mozzarella, and fresh local seafood dishes such as gambero rosso from Mazara del Vallo or grilled tuna served simply on a bed of arugula.
Complimentary limoncello or amaro is a perfect ending to the meal. Daily noon-3 pm and 6:30-11 pm. Reservations required. $$-$$$. Most major
credit cards. Via Luigi Pirandello 31 (located across from the cable car station, near the archway of the Porta Messina), Taormina. Phone 0942-21265
Via Luigi Pirandello 31
Taormina, Sicily Island, Italy
This tiny restaurant and wine bar is located on a small alleyway off the main street in Taormina. When you go up the narrow stairwell you’ll be
treated to a gorgeous view of Taormina, the Bay of Naxos and Mount Etna. Fresh fish and Sicilian specialties take center stage, complemented by an excellent local wine list. Also offers cooking courses. Daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations required. $$$-$$$$. Most major credit cards.
Vicolo Stretto 6, Taormina. Phone 0942-625-554 or 349-849-7118.
Vicolo Stretto 6
Taormina, Sicily Island, Italy
A gem of a restaurant perched on a cliff with stunning view of Isola Bella and the sea from the outdoor dining terrace. Features a degustation menu with wine pairings for a special meal, or you can order from the menu of Sicilian specialties, including risottos, fresh seafood and grilled meats. Try the homemade pasta with artichokes and ricotta, and the creme brulee is a must for dessert. Open for lunch and dinner. Reservations required. $$$$. Most major credit cards. Via Luigi Pirandello 88, Taormina. Phone 0942-625-502 or 347-113-5497.
Via Luigi Pirandello 88
Taormina, Sicily Island, Italy
Sicilians have the strongest cultural identity of Italians, considering themselves Sicilians first, then Europeans, and then Italians. Their culture is similar to southern Italy’s, which is more relaxed, informal and warm, but at the same time less efficient than their northern counterparts.
Tradition is a huge deal for Sicilians, with much of tradition revolving around or related to the church. Family events and celebrations are very important.
If you are visiting a church or religious site, be sure to dress appropriately: Cover exposed shoulders with a scarf and wear long trousers. Inappropriate dress may result in being denied access. Flash photography is frowned upon in churches, art galleries and archaeological sites. Be sure to ask before taking photos inside any shop, out of courtesy.
Most major Sicilian cities are generally safe during the day; simply use your common sense and be aware of your surroundings. Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and expensive tech devices such as tablets and smartphones. Be aware of those around you in tourist areas and near major attractions such as museums, monuments, restaurants, hotels, train stations, airports and so forth. When it’s late at night, avoid city centers, train stations and bus terminals.
Palermo and Catania are the largest cities in Sicily and are therefore places where you should pay extra attention for pickpockets, which can be a problem in crowded market areas or on the street. If you are carrying a handbag, take care to sling it across your shoulder and facing the building side of the sidewalk where you are walking, not streetside. (Thieves on motorcycles can speed by and snag valuables if you’re not careful.) Also take notice of teenagers on scooters or street corners.
Don’t carry cameras in plain sight, and take care not to stand around with a huge map unfolded in front of you, as you’ll be identified as an easy target. Do not wear expensive jewelry, as thieves have been known to rip off gold necklaces and bracelets.
Sexual assaults are rare, but do take necessary precautions: Use a taxi at night to take you back to your hotel, and don’t accept rides from locals who seem “nice.” If you feel threatened, don’t be afraid to shout and cause a scene, as it is an excellent deterrent.
Drivers should always carry ID, as uniformed police officers often do random roadside checks on major roadways.
The loss or theft of a passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest embassy or consulate of your home country.
Sicilians are very welcoming, spontaneous and willing to help visitors. If you become lost, simply go into a local cafe and ask for assistance.
n general, no vaccinations are needed for travel to Sicily, and the tap water is safe to drink, although locals tend to order bottled carbonated water with their meals in restaurants. The water is generally very good. Be careful with street food and places lacking hygiene; in general, if a place looks dirty, avoid it. Watch the locals—they know the best fountains and places to eat.
Summers in Sicily can be terribly hot and humid, so it is important to keep hydrated and wear sunscreen to avoid heatstroke. Sicilian mosquitoes and flies can be quite nasty, so we recommend investing in a good insect repellent.
If you are planning to do any trekking, it is important to wear appropriate shoes, as venomous snakes live in some of the nature parks.
The Scirocco is a bothersome hot wind that comes up from Africa and blows all around Sicily. Apart from making things uncomfortable at times, it is also filled with dust and can create problems for those who suffer from allergies. Take medication if you are prone to such allergies.
Sicily is playfully known as the terra ballerina, the dancing land, as it is a seismic zone. There are often small earthquakes during the year, but they do not last very long and don’t cause too much damage. If you do feel an earthquake, don’t panic. If you are in a city, local authorities will coordinate evacuations and gather people in safe locations. It is important not to go outdoors during an earthquake: Stay inside in a doorway or under a table if it is particularly strong. When it is over, follow the instructions of the local authorities.
Pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage, and keep them in their original containers with pharmacy labels: Otherwise, they won’t make it through airport security. If your medication requires the use of hypodermic needles, ask your doctor for a signed statement, or take your prescription indicating the name of the medicine and your condition. It’s also a good idea to keep a list of the active ingredients alongside the name of each prescription drug you take; though the brand name might differ in Italy, a doctor or pharmacist will immediately recognize the
A hospital with emergency facilities is located in Palermo on Via Carmelo Lazzaro. Phone 091-666-1111. http://www.arnascivico.it.
Many doctors in Sicily understand English to some degree. If you get sick, your hotel concierge will call or recommend a doctor. Another option is to go to the guardia medica (doctor on duty) or the guardia medica turistica at resorts.
Under the Italian national health-care system, you’re eligible for free emergency care. If you’re admitted to a hospital as an inpatient, you’re required to pay, unless you’re a resident of the European Economic Area. You’re also required to pay for follow-up care. If you do end up paying for health care, some health insurance plans will cover at least part of the hospital visits and procedures. Be prepared to pay the bills up front, however. Once you’ve filed all the necessary paperwork back home, you’ll be refunded.
Palermo has a pharmacy service that is open 24/7 on Via Mariano Stabile 177. Phone 091-334-482.
In Catania, the Policlinico Vittorio Emanuele on Via Plebiscito 628 has a 24-hour emergency doctor (phone 091-74354). In Taormina, there’s a British Pharmacy, located at Corso Umberto at Piazza IX Aprile I. Phone 0942-625-866.
In an emergency, dial 118 to call an ambulance.
Sicily’s bad reputation when it comes to accommodating disabled visitors is improving; most of the major archaeological sites now have access, as do most theaters and museums. For information about disabled access, contact the specific tourist sites. Most major train stations and bus companies can provide assistance for visitors with disabilities. The only problem can be with the badly maintained or nonexistent sidewalks, which means you will have to navigate on the street in some places.
The Selinunte archaeological site has a small electric train running around the site for those with mobility problems. It is also possible to tour around Mount Etna by private rail or by four-wheel-drive vehicle to get a scope of the park without having to leave the train or vehicle.
DOS & DON’TS
Do make sure you have comprehensive car rental insurance if you rent a car. Sicilians aren’t the most careful drivers, and there are a lot of narrow, one-way cobblestoned streets to negotiate, so your car is very likely to get scratched or damaged. Better yet, use public transportation or hired drivers.
Do spend a morning in one of the city produce, meat or seafood markets—such as the fish market in the Piazza Carlo Alberto in Catania or the Ballaro in Palermo—where you will get a true feeling for the pace of day-to-day life in Sicily.
Do eat lots of ice cream—it’s what the locals do. A traditional Sicilian breakfast consists of an icy granita (in fruit or various other flavors) eaten along with or inside a brioche (a bun with the texture of a croissant), or scoops of ice cream directly in the bun. For the ultimate iced coffee experience, order a granita al caffe con panna (coffee granita topped with fresh cream).
Don’t mention the Mafia, and in particular do not make a joke about the Mafia. It’s a sure way to make a Sicilian angry, and they’ve heard all the jokes anyway.
Do leave space for spontaneity. For example, in the summer there are many free concerts and food festivals all around Sicily. Since these events are organized each year according to budget requirements, they are often advertised at the last minute. If there is a celebration of a town’s patron saint, go along to witness an ancient tradition typical of Sicily.
Do eat the seafood: Sicilians are great lovers of fish.
Don’t expect Sicily to be efficient. It’s an old place filled with bureaucracy and inefficiency, so don’t be in a hurry, and be patient.
Don’t be afraid to ask. If you ever get stuck, lost or need advice, feel free to ask a local. Sicilians are very open and generous of their time, so if you need help, simply ask for it.
Passport/Visa Requirements: Citizens of the U.S., U.K., Canada and other EU countries need passports but not visas. All visitors must present proof of sufficient funds and onward passage. Reconfirm travel document requirements with your carrier before departure.
Languages: Italian, Sicilian.
Predominant Religions: Christian (Roman Catholic).
Time Zone: 1 hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+1 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is observed from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.
Voltage Requirements: 220 volts.
Telephone Codes: 39, country code; 091, Palermo city code; 090, Messina city code; 095, Catania city code;
The euro is the currency in Sicily, as in the rest of Italy and most of Europe. The best source of local currency is from bank ATMs, which are dotted throughout the resort towns of Taormina, Siracusa and Cefalu as well as most other towns and cities, including the port areas of Trapani, Palermo, Giardini Naxos and Messina. ATMs accept most major credit cards and bank cards.
Major banks are also reliable places to exchange money, but you will find a better rate through the ATMs. Banking hours are generally Monday-Friday 8:30-1 pm and 3-4 or 5 pm.
There are exchange offices open outside the normal banking hours at the airports and at train stations. Avoid ATMs outside post offices, as they often don’t accept international cards.
Most shops accept major international credit cards. Some small restaurants do not accept credit cards, so be sure to take plenty of cash when you go out to eat.
A VAT (value-added tax, called IVA in Italy) of 22% is added to goods and services, and can be refunded to non-European Union residents. With a little paperwork, visitors can obtain a tax refund for purchases of a minimum of 155 euros from one visit to a single store. Refunds usually amount to about 13%-16% of the purchase price. Hotel stays and meal purchases do not qualify. The two largest refund services are Global Blue and Premier Tax Free.
If you choose to apply for the refund when you leave Italy, you will need to present three things to the VAT refund officer at the airport: the article you purchased, the receipt and a refund form (which must be picked up at the place of purchase). Without these three things, your refund will be denied. Note that only unused articles are eligible for a refund: If the article looks used, you won’t get your money back. If everything is in order, the VAT refund officer will give you a final form to be mailed in for your refund. (For your own convenience, see the VAT officer before checking your bags and have your purchases in an easy-to-reach place.) Note that goods need to be exported within three months.
You can also get an immediate cash refund on tax while in Sicily. As soon as you have made your purchase, you can cash your tax refund immediately in all major city tax refund offices. You’ll need to take your Tax Refund Yellow Form with your passport and credit card. Or on departure, you can cash your tax refund in all major Italian and European airports. http://www.taxrefund.it/faq.php.
At most restaurants and bars in Sicily there is a coperto (cover charge) added to the total bill, usually 2 euros-4 euros per person. It is customary to tip extra in restaurants if the service is particularly good, up to 10% of the total bill.
For taxi drivers that provide door-to-door service or are particularly helpful, it is customary to tip up to 5 euros extra. For porters, tip a euro or two, especially if you have several bags or if the porter has to negotiate a large flight of stairs.
May, June and mid-September to October are the best months to take a trip to Sicily. Temperatures are very comfortable, and swimming in the sea is possible. High temperatures in May and June reach the high 70s F/high 20s C and lows don’t often go below 50 F/10 C. In September and October high temperatures are in the mid-70s F/mid-20s C.
August is the hottest and most humid month to visit Sicily, and it can be uncomfortable. Additionally, most Sicilians and Italians go on vacation during August, so the country slows down, many shops are shuttered, and beaches are always overcrowded.
Seasonal rainfalls begin at the end of October, accompanied by high winds. Most tourist attractions begin their reduced hours, and resorts have a skeleton staff. November is the month with the most rainfall, and it can get quite cool at night, close to the mid-30s F/low single digits C.
February is the coldest month, with temperatures barely reaching highs in the low 40s F/6 C on average.
January-April are relatively cool with average highs in the 50s F/11-15 C. In winter, temperatures tend to be milder on the coasts, but the mountains are cold and often covered in snow, which is great for skiers and snowboarders.
What to Wear
If you’re going to Sicily in the winter months, be sure to take some layers, long pants and a warm jacket—in particular, waterproof outerwear for the rainy season, which is generally November-February.
In summer, shorts and skirts are acceptable, as well as T-shirts; however, the dress code in churches is very strict, with shorts required to be knee-length and sleeveless tops prohibited for both men and women. Be sure to pack a swimsuit if you’ll be there June-September, as the sea is lovely for swimming at that time. Days in spring and fall can be warm, but it cools off in the evenings, so dress in layers.
Sicilians tend to dress nicely, even in the hot summer months, taking care to fare la bella figura, or simply to look good. In resort towns such as Cefalu, Taormina, Giardini Naxos and Marina di Ragusa, dress is a bit more relaxed and casual. Sicilians dress up for dinner and the evening stroll, called la passeggiata.
If you’ll be visiting Mount Etna any time of year you will need to dress in layers, with a fleece jacket and long pants, as it can be quite cool at the higher altitudes as well as down in the lava caves. You’ll also need sturdy hiking or walking shoes, although if you forget them many tour operators will loan you a pair free of charge. Take a water bottle, hat, sunscreen and sunglasses as well.
You can buy a prepaid card for making domestic calls (scheda telefonica) at the airports in Palermo or Catania, or at the main train stations and Tabaccheria shops, newsstands and some bars. For international calling, ask for an international phone card rather than the scheda telefonica—these are issued in denominations of 5 euros-50 euros and include a toll-free access number on the card and a PIN to use when placing a call.
Always dial the area code, even when making a local call. For international calls, dial the country code first. Common expressions to use on the phone include pronto (hello) when answering the phone and arrivederla (goodbye) when completing the call.
Public phones are slowly being phased out, and most of the ones you will find are usually out of order. You can rent a mobile phone at major airports, although many long-term visitors choose to buy a cheap cell phone and a pay-as-you-go SIM card from one of the three cell phone providers (TIM, Vodafone and Wind). You can also purchase this type of solution prior to your departure.
Another option is to rent a cell phone before your departure. With a local Italian line, you’ll have the benefit of low calling rates, including receiving incoming calls free of charge. You’ll find several companies offering this kind of service, but be aware of those that use call-back, since the voice quality is very poor. Some good options are Cellular Abroad (http://www.cellularabroad.com), Phone Rental USA (http://www.phonerentalusa.com) and PlanetFone (http://www.planetfone.com).
There are many Internet points in the major towns and resorts. Many of the bars and cafes have free Wi-Fi access and will provide the access information and password upon request. In Palermo there are several Internet points around Via Maqueda in particular, which the immigrant population also uses to make telephone calls. In Catania, Internet points are plentiful as well, and you can try Internetteria for a more traditional access point.
Ask at your hotel which places are the best to connect, as some Internet points can be a little disreputable, and always keep an eye on your bag while using the computer. There have been many cases of bag snatching at Internet points. Most hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, malls, airports, train stations and good cafes have free Wi-Fi, which is probably the most secure option.
For a complete list of internet points in Sicily, see http://www.regioni-italiane.com/internet-point-sicilia.htm.
This convenient Internet cafe also offers Wi-Fi. It is mainly frequented by students, so it has a good atmosphere, and you can grab a snack or a coffee. Monday-Friday 9 am-11 pm, Saturday and Sunday 5-10 pm. 2 euros per hour. Via Penninello 44, Catania. Phone 095-310-139.
Mail & Package Services
UPS (http://www.ups.com/content/it/en/index.jsx) and DHL (http://www.dhl.it/en.html) international courier services are available, but are usually located outside the main cities, closer to the major airports.
Mail Boxes Etc.
Offers international postal service with secure postal packages adapted to whatever you may need to send. Also has Internet points, international money transfer, fax service, and tablet and smartphone repair. Several locations in Palermo and Catania. Via Nicolo Turrisi 40/42, Sicily Island. Phone 091-611-8013.
This is the main post office in Palermo. Smaller branches are located at the main train station and on Piazza Verdi. Branches are also located in every major town and resort. Via Roma 320, Palermo. Phone 091-753-5392. http://www.poste.it.
Newspapers & Magazines
In major cities, towns and resort areas, hotels and kiosks carry the the International New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today as well as other English-language newspapers and magazines.
Many local events during the year are published in the local press, so if you are looking for festivals, be sure to pick up a copy of the Gazetta del Sud (http://www.gazzettadelsud.it), the Giornale della Sicilia (http://www.gds.it) and La Sicilia (http://www.lasicilia.it). They all have online editions that you can read with Google Translate.
For tourist and cultural information, there is Sikania Magazine, a monthly bilingual tourist magazine (http://www.sikania.it). The Times of Sicily is a blog with information about Sicilian culture (http://www.timesofsicily.com).
Once you get to Sicily, the main ways of getting around are by car, motorcycle, bus and train. To reach the islands of Lampedusa and Pantelleria, there are regular flights from Palermo and Trapani. The Aeolian and Egadi islands are easily reached by ferry and hydrofoil.
There are two major international airports in Sicily: Falcone Borsellino Airport in Palermo and Fontanarossa airport in Catania. All the main car rental companies are represented at both airports.
Trapani’s small airport is 11 mi/17 km south of Trapani at Birgi.
International flights are available from Trapani to London and about a dozen other European cities, and regular flights to the Sicilian island Pantelleria are also available. AST buses (http://www.aziendasicilianatrasporti.it) connect the airport with the ferry port and main bus station. Phone 0923-610-111. http://www.airgest.it.
Sicily Island, Italy
Palermo’s airport is at Punta Raisi, about 19 mi/30 km west of the city. Flights operate from many major European cities and most major Italian cities, and the airport is the hub for regular domestic flights to the islands of Pantelleria and Lampedusa. Phone 091-702-0111. http://www.gesap.it.
The bus operated by Prestia e Comande is the best way to get from the airport to the center of town. It runs every half hour, with stops at Palermo Centrale train station. Tickets can be purchased on the buses, which are located to the right as you exit the arrivals area of the airport. Phone 091-586-351. http://www.prestiaecomande.it.
You can also go directly to the central station of Palermo (Palermo Terminale) via the Trinacria Express train. For more information, call the ticket office (phone 199-166-177) or the ticket office at the airport (phone 091-704-4007).
Sicily Island, Italy
Catania’s airport is 4 mi/7 km southwest of the city and is perfect if the base of your stay in Sicily is anywhere on the eastern coast, from Taormina to Siracusa. Phone 095-723-9111.
A special Alibus 457 runs every 20 minutes between the main train station in Catania and the airport; if you’re heading to Taormina, take the Etna Transporti/Interbus which runs several times daily. http://www.interbus.it.
The main intercity bus station in Palermo is on Via Paolo Balsamo, one block east of the train station.
For service from Palermo to southeastern destinations, including Ragusa and Siracusa, Azienda Siciliana Trasporti is the bus carrier located at Via Brasa 36 (phone 091-657-2261; http://www.aziendasicilianatrasporti.it). For services to Agrigento, contact Cuffaro at Via Paolo Balsamo 13 (beside the central train station; phone 091-616-1510; http://www.cuffaro.info). For services to Catania, Messina and other major cities on the mainland, contact SAIS at Piazza Cairoli, Palermo (phone 091-616-6028; http://www.saisautolinee.it). SAIS has offices at most major train stations.
The main intercity bus station in Catania is just north of the main train station. The bus carrier Interbus runs service to Taormina, Siracusa and Ragusa. Phone 091-616-719; http://www.interbus.it.
Carrier SAIS runs service to Palermo, Agrigento, Messina and other cities on the mainland. The station in Catania is located on Via d’Amico 181. Phone 095-536-168; http://www.saistrasporti.it.
For other locations in Sicily, Taormina is served by Interbus. The main ticket office in Palermo is in the train station, Terminal Segesta Stazione F.S., Piazza Cairoli. Buses leave daily for Messina and Catania, as well as the airport in Catania. Phone 091-616-7919.
You can buy Interbus tickets to Caltagirone, Catania, Enna, Giardini, Taormina, Nicosia, Noto, Ragusa and Siracusa online, or onboard from the driver. Phone 091-616-7919. http://www.buscenter.it.
In order to drive a car you will need to have an international driver’s license, which can be obtained at any AAA branch in the U.S. (http://www.aaa.com). In order to rent a car, the driver must hold a valid driver’s license and in most cases should be at least 25 years old.
The roads and highways linking the main towns are generally in good condition. Some of the most traveled routes include the A19, which links Palermo with Catania and cuts through the island diagonally, and the A20, linking Palermo with Messina on the northern coast. The A18 links Messina and Catania on the eastern coast.
Driving in the interior is fine and is a good way to get around, but traffic in the cities of Palermo and Catania is frenetic and is best avoided if at all possible.
Using a cell phone while driving is illegal, and you could risk a fine if you are stopped by a Carabiniere police officer.
If you are using a GPS navigation device in your car, be sure to stick to the main roads, as these devices tend to go a little haywire in Sicily. There are many old roads that criss-cross the island, which the GPS tends to mistake for main roads, so be sure to have all maps updated and do not go too far off the main roads, else you will be taking the scenic route.
The main ferry terminal in Palermo is located about 10 minutes from the central train station, on Via Francesco Crispi. All the major ferry companies have ticketing offices at the port. There are several ferry companies that run service to Italy, Malta and Tunisia. Grandi Navi Veloci (phone 010-209-4591; http://www.gnv.it) is one of the largest operators, with regular year-round ferries from Palermo to Civitavecchia, Naples, Livorno, Genoa, and weekly ferries to Tunis and Malta. Two other seasonal operators are Grimaldi (phone 091-611-3691; http://www.grimaldi-lines.com) with service to Salerno, Civitavecchia and Tunis; and Tirrenia (phone 091-976-0703; http://www.tirrenia.it)
The ferry terminal in Trapani is located opposite Piazza Garibaldi at Viale Regina Elena 104. Ustica Lines (phone 0923-873-813; http://www.usticalines.it) and Siremar (phone 0923-545-455 or 091-749-3315; http://www.siremar.it) both run year-round hydrofoils to the nearby Egadi Islands. Ustica Lines also operates summer only service to Naples, and Siremar has a daily ferry service to Pantelleria Island. Other operators that run weekly ferries to the mainland and to Sardinia include Grimaldi and Tirrenia, mentioned above.
The ferry terminal in Catania is located along Via Beato Cardinale, southwest of the central train station. TTT lines runs nightly ferries to Naples (phone 095-348-586 ; http://www.tttlines.it) and Virtu Ferries run regular, direct ferries to Malta May-September (phone 095-703-1211; http://www.virtuferries.com).
Palermo and Catania both have fairly good public transportation networks, although the buses can be crowded and slow. Catania is in the process of building a metro, which currently has one line and six stops.
Trapani has a free city bus that operates circular trips through Trapani, connecting the bus station, train station and port.
Palermo’s city buses are painted orange, blue and white and run frequently, but are often quite crowded. Get a map from the Palermo tourist office detailing the major bus lines, most of which stop or originate at the main train station. Three small bus lines run in the historical center—Linea Gialla (yellow line), Linea Verde (green line) and Linea Rossa (red line). You must purchase a ticket from a tobacco kiosk or an AMAT booth at the main train station before you get on the bus. Daily 6 am-10 pm. Via Roma, Palermo. Phone 0848-800-817 for the main office, or 091-350-111 for general information. http://www.amat.pa.it.
Palermo, Sicily Island, Italy
The intracity buses in Catania run from the main train station to various points around the city, including Via Etnea, and June-September they offer service from Piazza Raffaello Sanzio to the local beaches. Daily 6 am-8 pm. Via Plebiscite 747, Catania. Phone 095-751-9111. Toll-free 800-018-696 (from Italy). http://www.amt.ct.it.
Via Plebiscite 747
Catania, Sicily Island, Italy
Taxi rates are generally very high in Sicily. Taxis are found at all airport arrival terminals, but it is cheaper to arrange a ride in advance. Try New Travel Services, which is one of the most reasonable companies. (Door-to-door service from Catania to Taormina, for example, is 65 euros for two people.) It provides transfer services from both airports and the harbors. Phone 0942-985-455. http://www.newtravelservices.net. Another good company serving both airports is Taxi Sicily. Phone 327-925-4777. http://www.taxisicily.com.
Direct intercity trains travel to Messina, on Sicily’s northeast coast, from major cities in Italy, including Milan, Florence, Rome and Naples, transported by ferry from Villa San Giovanni on the mainland. The island’s main railway lines go south from Messina to Catania and Siracusa, and west from Messina to Palermo.
Train travel in Sicily can be slow and unreliable, and quite often without air-conditioning in the summer. If you catch the train from the mainland, the carriages are loaded onto a ferry to pass over the Strait of Messina from Villa San Giovanni on the Calabria side, which can be a very slow process. It is best to catch the train up until Villa and simply catch a ferry a few hundred meters from the train station: You will be on the island in less than half an hour, compared to a long wait for the loading and unloading of the train. The train station at Messina is a relatively short distance from where the ferries arrive, so it is easy to buy train tickets directly from the ticket office or catch a bus from the stops across the road from the train station.
Palermo’s main train station is just south of the city center at the bottom of Via Roma. Regular trains leave for Messina, Agrigento and Cefalu. Intercity Trains go to Reggio di Calabria, Naples and Rome. The regional headquarters for Trenitalia, the national railway, are in Palermo on Via Oreto Nuova. Phone
Catania’s central train station is on Piazza Papa Giovanni XXIII. It has frequent trains to Messina, Siracusa, Agrigento and Palermo.
There is also a private railway line called Ferrovia Circumetnea that goes to the small towns around Mount Etna, following a 71-mi/114-km trail around the base of the volcano. The main office is at Via Caronda 352a in Catania. Phone 095-541-250. http://www.circumetnea.it.
For More Information
Most main train stations and town halls have tourist offices or information booths. If you are looking for information on a particular town or city, look for the comune, or local government, website. The pro loco is the local tourist information office.
On Persephone’s Island: A Sicilian Journal by Mary Taylor Simeti (Vintage). A love letter to Sicily from a U.S. expat who lived on the island for more than 20 years. Simeti is also the author of Pomp and Sustenance: 25 Centuries of Sicilian Food and Sicilian Food: Recipies from Italy’s Abundant Isle.
Sicily: A Literary Guide for Travellers by Andrew and Suzanne Edwards (Taurus Parke). A well-crafted guide providing insights into Sicily’s literary history.
Driving Like a Maniac. A blog consisting of short, slice-of-life articles by English expat Kate Bailward. http://www.katebailward.com/drivinglikeamaniac.
John P. Brady. The Irish writer’s blog is full of photos and stories about his life in Sicily. http://johnpbrady.com.
The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife. U.K. expat Veronica shares hilarious tales from her life in the small town of Bagheria, near Palermo. http://siciliangodmother.wordpress.com.
Baroque Sicily. Photographer Jann Huizenga shares images and stories from her life in southeastern Sicily. http://www.baroquesicily.com.
Catania Municipal Tourist Office
In addition to providing information about the region, Catania’s downtown tourist office also has information and brochures on tours and excursions
to and around Mount Etna. Monday-Saturday 8 am-1 pm and 2-7 pm. Via Vittorio Emanuele 172, Catania. Phone 095-742-5573.
Via Vittorio Emanuele 172
Catania, Sicily Island, Italy
Palermo Tourist Office
This tourist office has branches at both the airport and at the city center and offers an abundance of information and brochures to help you plan various activities. Airport location open Monday-Saturday 8:30 am-7:30 pm; city center location open Monday-Friday 8:30 am-6:30 pm. Via Alloro
19 (city center), Palermo. Phone 091-605-8351 (city center) or 091-591-698 (airport). Toll-free 800-841-042 (from Italy).
Via Alloro 19
Palermo, Sicily Island, Italy
Taormina Tourist Office
A large, well-staffed tourist office in the historic Palazzo Corvaja off Corso Umberto offers town maps and hotel and tour information. Monday-Friday
8:30 am-6:45 pm, Saturday 9 am-6:15 pm. Palazzo Corvaja, Taormina. Phone 0942-628-322. http://www.taormina.it.
Taormina, Sicily Island, Italy
Events – Calendar
Regardless of when you are planning to visit Sicily, there’s bound to be some type of festival, carnival or cultural event taking place. Popular events include the arts festival in Taormina in July and August (http://www.taoarte.it); the Carnival season in February when towns all over the island have parades, celebrations and feasting before Lent; and the Festival of Greek Classical Drama in Siracusa in May and June (http://www.indafondazione.org).
The Carnivals of Acireale (Catania; http://www.carnevaleacireale.com) and Sciatica (Agrigento; http://www.sciaccarnevale.it) are considered the most elaborate celebrations in Sicily, with parades, shows and masquerade parties throughout January and February.
Easter in Sicily is filled with traditions. During Holy Week, there are endless processions that commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Some are traditional, such as Trapani’s four-day festival I Misteri (http://www.processionemisteritp.it), whereas others such as San Fratello’s masked Judei defy explanation (http://www.comunedisanfratello.it/pages/feste.htm). For general information about Easter in Sicily, see http://www.siciliainfesta.com/pasqua.htm.
There is a wide variety of festivals throughout the year filled with entertainment, fine Sicilian products and creativity. From the Festa di Mandorle in Fiore, which celebrates the flowering almond trees in early February at Agrigento; and the Infiorata spring festival at Noto (Syracuse) with carpets of flower designs; to the Sagra of the Sicilian Granita at Acireale in June; the Festival Euro Mediterraneo at Taormina June-September; the Cous Cous Festival at San Vito lo Capo in September; Sagra of the Pistachio at Bronte; and many more.
Christmas in Sicily is filled with religious celebrations and an array of folk traditions and gastronomic delights. The Presepe Vivente (nativity plays) re-enact the birth of Christ, and the Christmas food and craft markets in the weeks leading up to Christmas ensure there is always something new to see, do and taste.
The true colors of Sicily are shown in the ancient patron saint celebrations of each town. Sicilians’ dedication to their Saints is legendary, and experiencing a festa firsthand is amazing. The largest celebrations include the Festa di Sant’Agata in Catania (3-5 February), Santa Rosalia in Palermo (14-15 July), Santa Lucia in Syracuse (13 December), the procession of the Madonna of the Letter in Messina (3 June), San Alberto in Trapani (7th August), San Michele the Arcangelo in Caltanisetta (29 September), the Festa della Madonna delle Visitazione in Enna (2 July), San Giovanni Battista in Ragusa (August) and San Gerlando in Agrigento (25 February and 16 June). Every town has its own celebrations and ways of commemorating its patrons. http://www.siciliainfesta.com/eventi.htm.
There are endless food festivals and religious celebrations throughout the year. The best websites for information about sagras and festas are Kara Sicilia (http://www.karasicilia.it), Sicilia in Festa (http://www.siciliainfesta.com) and Festa di Sicilia (http://festedisicilia.it).
The best points of contact for information on current events are the tourist offices in individual cities and towns.