If you've decided to come to Sicily --or if you're just thinking about it-- but you have only a general idea of what you'd like to see and do, or if you're undecided about your itinerary, this is the page for you. Our map provides brief descriptions of major localities, with links to more detailed articles, and following this is our "Quick Guide" to Seeing Sicily.
A 'Quick Guide' to Seeing Sicily
That said, winter, being the "low season" for touring, offers less crowded hotels and sights and some enjoyable annual events like Agrigento's almond blossom festival (in February). The opera houses begin their concert-ballet-opera season in October. Summer, of course, is beach season and also good for hiking and biking, but from late July into September it can be exceptionally hot. Keep in mind, too, that August is a national vacation month for Italians. Resorts like the Aeolian Islands, Pantelleria, Taormina and Cefalù can be rather crowded, and almost everything closes around Ferragosto (15 August).
On the other hand, Taormina's summertime Film & Art Festival is worth experiencing, and the ancient Greek amphitheatres at Siracusa and Segesta stage classical plays in June and July. Palermo's KalsArt is a series of events in the city's colorful Arab Kalsa quarter during July and August. It's just one of Sicily's many annual local events --things like Erice's passion play around Easter, patron feasts in cities (St Rosalie in Palermo, St Agatha in Catania) and small towns, and Piazza Armerina's Palio medieval festival.
The season you choose to visit Sicily is a highly individual, personal choice, and the fact that you're on this site already says that you're a very independent person who doesn't usually follow the crowd.
Finding Your Way Around Sicily
Dining: Whatever you do in Sicily, one thing is certain: you'll be eating. Sicilian cuisine is one of the world's most eclectic, a fact reflected in our restaurant recommendations.
Ancient Archeology: Best Punic (Phoenician and Carthaginian) sites are in Palermo, Erice, Mozia and Solunto. Note that Punic and 'native' (Elymian, Sicanian) traces are sometimes seen alongside Greek and Roman ones. Segesta was originally Elymian. The best preserved Greek temple is that of Segesta, though Agrigento's are also worth seeing. Selinunte and Siracusa (Greek Sicily's most important city) are the other important Greek sites. Taormina has a Greek amphitheatre, and Himera (outside Termini Imerese) the ruins of a Greek temple. The most interesting Sicilian attraction that is specifically Roman is the Villa del Casale outside Piazza Armerina, famous for its Roman mosaics. Catania, Tindari and Solunto are fine examples of secondary Roman sites. Places like San Giuseppe Jato have Roman sites but they're rarely open. Many finds have been removed from their sites to be displayed at museums. The regional archeological museums at Palermo (the Salinas) and Siracusa (the Orsi) have exceptional collections, while those at Agrigento, Catania and Mozia, though smaller, are also very good.
Medieval Architecture: Major medieval cathedrals and churches are in Cefalù, Agrigento, Erice, Siracusa and Palermo. Monreale Abbey is just outside Palermo. The medieval cathedrals in Messina and Catania are largely reconstructed. Some of the best preserved castles are those in Catania (Ursino), Siracusa, Caccamo, and Mussomeli. Many of the others, such as those of Enna or Sperlinga, are partly destroyed. Taormina and Palermo have a number of fortified aristocratic dwellings similar to castles. The pure Gothic never supplanted the Romanesque, though some later Romanesque churches, such as Cefalù's cathedral, have certain Gothic elements.
Baroque: Ragusa is famous for this but most of the larger cities have more than their share of Baroque or quasi-Baroque churches and palaces. In Palermo and Catania entire districts were built in this style.
Art Nouveau: In Sicily this architectural style is called 'Liberty' and Palermo is most famous for it.
Ceramic Art: There are good shops in Palermo and Taormina, but many of the finest majolica artisans will be found in Santo Stefano di Camastra (east of Cefalù) and Caltagirone (near Siracusa).
Opera Houses: Those of Catania and Palermo are the largest and best known, offering the best opera, concert and ballet seasons year after year. Palermo has two, the Massimo and Politeama.
Nature: For hiking and biking, Mount Etna is supreme, but some parts of the Nebrodi and Madonie mountains are also interesting.
Wine Country: The area between Salemi and Marsala is Italy's largest contiguous grape growing region, and most of Sicily's better wineries are in the vast area west of Agrigento. The Etna region also has a number of vineyards and wineries.
Golf: Sicily has two 18-hole courses in fantastic settings --one near Cefalù in the Madonie Mountains and one near Catania on the lower slopes of Mount Etna.
Sailing: The most convenient yachting ports are near Taormina, Cefalù and Milazzo.
Museums: Here are the most important ones, for the genuine culture vulture. In Palermo, the Salinas Regional Archeological Museum (Piazza Olivella), the Regional Art Gallery (Via Alloro 4) and the Palermo Modern Art Gallery (Piazza Sant'Anna). In Catania, the Civic Art Gallery (Ursino Castle in Piazza Federico di Svevia). In Agrigento, the Provincial Archeological Museum (Contrada San Nicola 12, in Via dei Templi). In Marsala the Whitaker Museum (Villa Whitaker on Mozia). In Mazara del Vallo, the Museo del Satiro (Piazza Plebiscito). In Messina, the Regional Gallery of Messina (Viale della Libertà 465). In Siracusa, the Paolo Orsi Regional Archeological Museum (Villa Landolina, Viale Teocrito 66), the Regional Art Gallery (Palazzo Bellomo, Via Capodieci), and the Papyrus Museum (Viale Teocrito 66).
An Editorial Note: Opinions expressed in articles linked off this site (to Best of Sicily's locality pages) are not necessarily those of Sicily Concierge/Tradizione Turismo.
© 2006-2008 Chat & Tour, Palermo, Italy.