The Travel Guide : Sicily
Now that Covid-19 restrictions have eased for the most part, and travel seems to be slowly resuming normalcy, we bet you are looking ahead to planning your next holiday and making up for the past two years.
Italy is triumphantly back on the map as a Coronavirus test-free destination for fully vaccinated visitors. That’s the travel news so many of us have been waiting for – especially those who dream of a good glass of Nero D’Avola wine on a balmy evening, an ice cream stroll through picturesque piazzas studded with Baroque palazzos, and a week or two in a luxury sea-view villa with shimmering infinity pool.
Given Italy’s perennial popularity, seeking out quiet corners is the way to go in 2022. Artistic and historic treasures are found throughout Italy, but the island of Sicily, with its countless UNESCO World Heritage sites, mesmerising natural landscapes, and awe-inspiring architectural wonders, is without a doubt one of its finest destinations, yet still very much unspoilt by mass tourism.
If these two years of Covid have left you missing bright, golden-warm sunlight, blue skies, sparkling beaches, history, culture and fresh Mediterranean seafood, a holiday in Sicily absolutely needs to be at the very top of your bucket list for 2022.
Here are our top picks for the best places to visit in this gorgeous triangle of land off the southern coast of Italy, to which many Brits trace their ancestry.
Taormina, north-eastern Sicily
Perched dramatically on a slope high above the Ionian Sea, the strikingly beautiful hilltop town of Taormina has lured Victorian Brits, royals, and big-name travellers since the 18th century, from Goethe, Oscar Wilde and D. H. Lawrence, to Cervantes and Guy de Maupassant, to name just a few.
Often dubbed the Pearl of the Ionian Sea, the bijou town of Taormina is famous for its 3rd-century BC Greco-Roman open-air amphitheatre, looking out over the electric blue sea, with snow-capped Mount Etna filling the horizon with its immense majesty.
Noto, south-eastern Sicily
Inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2002, the undulating Noto Valley has all the history of Rome along with fabulous beaches and exquisite Baroque architecture, without hordes of tourists.
A pure gem of Baroque art in Sicily’s southeast corner, the gorgeous town of Noto is really worth visiting now, before the rest of the world does. While you are there, make sure to stroll the streets in the late afternoon, when the Sicilian sunshine casts the limestone façades of the Baroque palaces and churches with a dreamy, amber glow. Simply amazing!
This Baroque jewel is also famous for its flower festival, known as Infiorata di Noto. It is an annual Spring celebration that turns Via Nicolaci, one of the prettiest streets in town, into a polychrome floral carpet, where local artists use myriads of flowers to shape creative looking mosaics that run the entire length of the street.
Siracusa, south-eastern Sicily
An absolute must-see on Sicily’s eastern coast is the ancient town of Siracusa, once the most important city-state of the sprawling Greek Empire, now listed among UNESCO’s World Heritage sites.
The historic Baroque island of Ortygia, linked to the mainland by a couple of road bridges, is this area’s most picturesque corner, with its labyrinth of narrow alleys, gleaming white Baroque churches, and elegant piazzas.
Don’t miss a chance to visit the Archaeological Park of Neapolis in Siracusa, and be ready to marvel at the 2nd-century BC Roman Amphitheatre, originally used for gladiatorial combats, and the huge Greek Theatre, the largest in Sicily, built around 470 BC.
Catania, eastern Sicily
For the ultimate in picture-perfect settings, a visit to Catania, at the foot of the smoking hulk of Etna, Europe’s highest active volcano, is a must.
This sunny, unique Sicilian hot-spot is perfect for history and culture buffs, as its historic centre is dotted with Baroque masterpieces, centred around the UNESCO-protected Piazza del Duomo, overlooked by the Norman Cathedral of Sant’Agata, Catania’s patron saint, and the stunning Elephant Fountain, crafted from black lava, like most of the city’s monuments.
This part of the island is a paradise for oenophiles as well, as different varieties of grapes are grown on Mount Etna’s ever-changing hillside microclimates. Like Santorini, the region’s volcanic soil creates grapes imbued with intense minerality and flavours.
Agrigento, southwestern Sicily
Archaeological treasures await in the hilltop city of Agrigento, on the southwest coast of Sicily, where you will have the privilege of exploring some of the best-preserved Doric Greek temples in the world.
Just south of the city is the mythical and ancient Valley of the Temples archaeological park, included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1997, where visitors come to admire the nearly intact Temple of Concordia, as well as ruins remaining from six other Greek temples and structures dating to the 6th and 5th centuries BC, which have stood through weather and ancient wars.
So, why not rent a holiday villa in the surrounding area? Imagine coming home to your own private pool villa after exploring Sicily’s artistic and historic treasures all day.
Renting a holiday house is by far a much safer choice at the moment than staying in a busy hotel or tourist resort, simply because you can avoid face-to-face contact with anyone outside of the group of friends and family you are travelling with.
From ultra-luxe villas with tennis court and Finnish-style sauna to stunning countryside retreats in true Sicilian style, and architect-designed contemporary homes with elegant, airy interiors and shady al fresco areas, Sicily has suitable properties aplenty.
One of the island’s leading vacation-rental agencies is Select Sicily Villas, based in Palermo, which boasts an ever-growing portfolio of deluxe villas all over the island. For more information, reservations and travel inspiration, visit the company’s website www.selectsicilyvillas.com. All these exquisite properties are highly sought after, so start planning your trip now to avoid disappointment.
Words by Jessica Maggi