Why You Need To Add Sicily To Your Bucket List
An Island of Beauty, Culture, and Adventure
Seven years ago, I took a trip that left a special place in my heart for Sicily. I hope that sharing my experience inspires you to take a trip there someday.
I’m lucky enough to have family in Sicily so I was excited about the chance to visit them for a few weeks during the summer with my mom. Much of the Sicily I experienced was almost like taking a trip back in time. Small towns look just as they did years ago and their inhabitants live simply. The center of the island is covered with hillside farms while the coast showcases quaint towns and stunning beaches. And, unlike any other trip I have ever taken, Sicily was a perfect balance of recreational outdoor activities and cultural sightseeing.
Of all of the incredible excursions we took, the most memorable was climbing Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe. We were lucky enough to be there on a day where it remained dormant so we could explore it. To reach one of the main craters, we took a cable car and a bus then continued on with a guided hiking tour. As we moved higher, we left the extreme heat of the island behind and entered what looked like another planet. Everything is covered in black volcanic sand except for some colorful green and yellow plants spotted over the mountainside. Standing on the edge of one of its massive, smoking craters was both intimidating and awe inspiring.
On our way back from Etna, we took an evening stroll along the coast known as La Riviera dei Ciclopi in Acireale. There you can see impressive rock formations, known as faraglioni, jetting out of the ocean. They are said to be the boulders that the mythical cyclops, Polyphemus, hurled toward Odysseus as he was escaping. Having read Homer’s Odyssey, I appreciated its connection to my culture.
Sicily has a wealth of Greek ruins. Perhaps one of the most remarkable is The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento. The ruins are well preserved and rival those in Greece. It is easy to spend the whole afternoon wandering through the majestic ancient site. The city of Siracusa has another incredible archeological display. I enjoyed walking through the Greek amphitheater and visiting the Ear of Dionysius, a cave said to be used as a prison by the tyrant, Dionysius. Its unusual shape creates perfect acoustics, which allegedly allowed Dionysius to eavesdrop on his prisoners.
Sicily has many small towns filled with treasures. One definitely worth a visit is Noto. In fact, Noto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as a model of Baroque architecture. The buildings in this charming town are made of a camel-colored soft stone called tufa. While there, we climbed a narrow, dark, and winding staircase of a church steeple and were rewarded with a beautiful view of the whole town below. We marveled at the buildings’ architecture, especially the ornate balconies.
In August especially, temperatures in Sicily can be extremely high. A refreshing start to the day was having a traditional Sicilian breakfast of lemon or almond granita (slush) and brioche (buttery bread). Although we did a lot of sightseeing in the morning, a day did not go by that we didn’t seek out the closest beach, usually only minutes away. We always traveled with bathing suits, prepared to take an afternoon swim to cool off. The crystal clear water is always a perfect temperature and takes no getting used to. For locals and tourists alike, spending time at Sicily’s gorgeous beaches is a must. Two popular beach resort towns I visited are Taormina, on the eastern part of the island, and Cefalù, on the northern side. Besides the beach and unsurpassed views of the coast, each also has other treasures worth exploring.
One day, our beach alternative was visiting the beautiful Alcantara Gorge. The Gorge is a striking natural formation that has refreshing, icy water flowing through it. There are options to hike or body surf, but lounging on a large rock or the small beach makes for a relaxing afternoon out of the heat.
These are only some of the places I was fortunate enough to explore in Sicily and barely scratch the surface of all it has to offer. The island is abundant in natural beauty, steeped in mythology, and has a wealth of history and culture. I completely fell in love with Sicily and I know you would too.