Italy without Sicily leaves no image in the spirit. It is in Sicily that is the key to everything.J.W.Goethe, “Journey to Italy”, 1817
This is what Goethe wrote in 1787 during his journey to Italy when he finally reached Sicily. The island of Sicily is the largest region of Italy. Anyone who has been to Sicily will have noticed its advantages – the southern sunny weather, fresh fish dishes in restaurants, and colorful beaches. And let’s not forget the endless number of historical sites.
Sicily is one of the pillars of Mediterranean culture, the endless meeting place between East and West, Africa, and Europe. This beautiful island is one of the most attractive places in Europe. It offers something for everyone – beautiful beaches, great food, architectural treasures, smoking volcanoes, artistic spirit, beautiful fishing villages. They say Sicily is not just a destination, Sicily is a state of mind.
Here are the top sights of Sicily that the we selected for you.
Lest start with Palermo
Palermo is the capital of Sicily which is the largest island in the Mediterranean sea. It sits at the bottom of Italy in close proximity to Tunisia and Malta.
This charming city is like unpolished stone, beautiful, confused, and challenging. The city was ruled by Phoenicians, Byzantines, Romans, it was home to Jewish merchants, Greek artisans, Persian artists, and Berber slaves. This unprecedented diversity is the reason for the birth of the complex urban culture of Palermo, which will literally enchant you.
The city has a number of monasteries and fortresses, a magnificent cathedral, art galleries and a good archeological museum.
Mount Etna is the highest volcano in Europe and one of the most active in the world. 3327 meters high with an average basal diameter of 40 km. Its impressive size overlooks the entire region of Sicily. Its spectacular eruptions and its fiery lava flows have always aroused the interest of scientists along with the curiosity of visitors from all over the world. But do not worry, due to its activity the volcano is under 24-hour surveillance.
A trip to the crater of the volcano in Sicily can become a real adventure.
It is impossible to come to Sicily and not visit Syracuse. Today, Syracuse is an open-air museum, a city of cultural landmarks from different centuries.
The ancient city of Syracuse was founded by Greek colonizers who arrived from Corinth in the 8th century BC. The heart of the old town is Ortygia. Ortigia was founded by the Greek Corinthians in the 8th century BC, located on a small island and is the most interesting part of the city. Fortunately, a lot of the ancient landmarks are preserved here. The remains of the temple of Apollo, the square of Archimedes with a fountain, the church of Santa Lucia.
The great Roman politician and philosopher Cicero called Syracuse “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of all.”
One of Sicily’s top tourist attractions, the cathedral at Monreale was conceived as a political statement, as well as an artistic one. The result is the most important monument to the artistic tastes of the Normans in all of Sicily.
The cathedral was built by William II after the English archbishop of Palermo sought, with the solid backing of the Pope, to assert his authority over the king by refusing to honor his father’s wishes to be buried at Cefalù, instead interring him at Palermo Cathedral.
Although Monreale Cathedral moves away from Eastern Byzantine concepts of space with a basilica floor plan, the spirit of Byzantine culture is very much present in the superb mosaics that cover every available surface.
The Cathedral of Noto
In southeastern Sicily, according to UNESCO, there are eight cities with unique cultural monuments: Caltagirone, Militello, Catania, Syracuse, Noto, Palazzolo, Ragusa, and Scicli. After a strong earthquake in 1693, the city of Noto was badly damaged but was later rebuilt. Now it is a spectacular architectural museum: 15 palaces, 19 monasteries, and 23 churches. The most beautiful works of architecture are the Cathedral of Noto “San Nicolò” and the Church of St. Francis in the late Baroque style.
Catania is dramatically situated between the Ionian Sea and Mount Etna, Europe’s greatest active volcano. As well as ruins from the ancient city, the town boasts a wealth of fine Baroque architecture. Some visitors love Catania, others – generally those who pass through briefly – hate it. It’s a city with a strong personality, dominated by the looming bulk of Etna, which every so often rains ash upon the streets.
The city has a lot to offer tourists, though, and has recently been making an increased destination to promote itself as a tourist destination, and not just a base for seeing the legendary volcano. Etna One of the most significant events which shaped Catania was the earthquake of 1693, which devasted most of south-eastern Sicily. The town was rebuilt in the Baroque style, and it was during this era that many of the town’s finest buildings came into being.
The Breathtaking View of the Castle of Venus in Erice
The medieval city of Erice and the castle of Venus look like a place from a mystical romantic movie. This town is located on a high hill overlooking Trapani and is connected to it by cable car. Erice is named after the ancient Greek hero Eric. The city is still almost untouched by modern civilization, here you can see the ruins of ancient Phoenician walls and the castle of the Saracens.
Among the most beautiful places, there is the Spanish neighborhood. It is said that this area was made in the period of Spanish rule in order to accommodate Spanish soldiers, as it was mandatory for every city of Sicily.
Erice is famous for its numerous churches, indeed it was known as the city with a hundred churches. However, in reality, there are less but many must be visited. Besides the Church of San Martino, in Norman style, and the Church of Sant’Albertino Degli Abbati, we will highlight the oldest, the Mother Church, dedicated to the cult of Santa Maria Assunta. Its quadrangular bell tower is embellished with mullioned windows it is a structure with the function of defending and sighting.
For more ideas you can view our top 10 places to visit in Italy.