- Experience the stunning beauty of Sicily – a laidback jewel in the Mediterranean Sea that offers a diverse holiday
- The best places to visit on an escorted Sicily tour, including Palermo, Mount Etna, and the Valley of the Temples
- Get expert advice and travel tips from Riviera Travel – temperatures, currency, when to travel and delicious local food to enjoy
The largest of the Italian islands, separated from the mainland by the Strait of Messina, Sicily is a joy to behold. Stunningly beautiful and full of historical treasures, a warm welcome awaits anyone who embarks on an escorted Sicily tour. Thinking about holidays to Italy in 2020? Why not explore Sicily!
Sicily: general travel advice
The ancient Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Moors, Normans, Spanish, French, and now Italians – many civilisations have lived in Sicily and left their mark. Today, though, it’s friendly Sicilians who are hospitable to visitors, and who make the Mediterranean island an ideal destination for an Italy tour. The relaxed laidback vibe also means it’s perfect for solo holidays, and there are lots of things to see and do.
With flights from the UK taking around three hours, travelling to Sicily is easy. The currency is the euro, and you’ll find ATMs in cities, towns and villages. However, you may need to learn a few new phrases to get around. The Sicilian language is markedly different from Italian, with different accents too.
As for the best time to travel to Sicily, the island is only 80 miles or thereabouts from Africa, so temperatures soar in the summer. The mercury regularly hits 30°C in the capital, Palermo, during August. A more comfortable time to visit is between April and June, and again in September and October. Consider an escorted Sicily tour at Easter when many places celebrate Holy Week with elaborate processions – the most famous is the Misteri in Trapani.
Escorted Sicily tours
On an escorted tour, you’ll be taken to the best Sicily attractions. Note that many of the ancient landmarks have little shade, so pack sunscreen, wear loose, comfortable clothing and bring a hat. As Sicily is a rugged and hilly island, sightseeing may also involve a climb or two, perhaps along the dusty ground, so suitable footwear is a must.
Six must-see sights and experiences on escorted Sicily tours
Explore pretty Palermo
Spending time in the capital Palermo will be a highlight of any escorted Sicily tour. The city boasts lots of great sights, such as the Norman Palace, an impressive UNESCO-listed former royal residence. There’s a splendid cathedral dating from the 12th century to visit too, and Palermo has the largest opera house in Italy – the Teatro Massimo. Contemporary art lovers have a choice of excellent galleries to wander around. If you enjoy a spot of retail therapy, make tracks to one of Sicily’s four ancient markets: Capo, Ballaro, Vucciria and Borgo Vecchio all resemble Arab souks.
Marvel at Mount Etna
At over 3,327 metres high, Mount Etna is undoubtedly one of the top 10 places to visit in Sicily. Europe’s highest volcano, it’s also one of the most monitored volcanoes in the world – red lava was seen at the crater in May 2019. Mount Etna tours, however, will take you as close to the snow-capped summit as is safely possible. There are various hiking routes that can be climbed with a guide, and walking poles will come in handy on rocky ash terrain. Alternatively, you can take a cable car or jeep up the mountain to 2,500 metres, from where you can get a good look at the evocative lunar landscape.
Visit the Valley of the Temples
Described as one of the wonders of the ancient world, the Valley of the Temples is on the itinerary of many Italy tours, including solo holidays to Sicily. The UNESCO World Heritage Site at Agrigento extends for over 1,300 hectares. Eight temples, some built as early as the sixth century BC, can still be seen, as well as gateways, tombs and a gymnasium. The most impressive and best-preserved Doric temple is Concordia, which is similar in design to the Parthenon in Athens. As there is little shade in the archaeological site, bring a hat for protection from the sun. You can also escape the heat in the museum and restaurant.
Stroll around Syracuse
One of the most attractive and best places to visit in Sicily is Syracuse, where the Greek scholar Archimedes had his ‘eureka’ moment when he discovered the principle of buoyancy. Today, Syracuse perfectly captures Sicily’s timeless beauty, and streets are filled with limestone buildings dating from the 17th and 18th centuries – don’t miss the chance to go inside the baroque cathedral. While in Syracuse, you’ll also have the opportunity to explore the city’s historical centre, which happens to be a small island called Ortygia. Just cross one of the three bridges and wander along the winding alleyways. Alongside Roman ruins and medieval mansions, you’ll find souvenir shops and plenty of cafes and bars.
Take time out in Taormina
Perched high above the magnificent Mediterranean Sea, Taormina is another Sicilian jewel. With its rugged rocks, sandy coves and crystal-clear water, the chic hilltop town on the island’s east coast is a great spot to stop and unwind. Author DH Lawrence was besotted by Taormina, and it’s easy to see why – the resort has charm, elegance and glamour, and sits in the shadow of Mount Etna. Citrus and almond trees dot the squares, window boxes brimming with pretty blooms and there are colourful market stalls full of fresh fruit and vegetables. The pedestrian-friendly Corso Umberto is the place to head to for a gelato or cappuccino and pastry.
Sample the local food and drink
You can’t travel to Sicily without trying the local cuisine. Food on the island bursts with Mediterranean flavours, and as the sun shines year-round, the crops grown in Sicily’s fertile soil taste amazing. Classic specialities include arancini, fried rice croquettes filled with vegetables or meat and cannoli – fried pastry shells filled with sweet, creamy ricotta. However, make sure you also order some traditional pasta alla Norman, a dish made with aubergine, tomato sauce and salted ricotta. Pecorino cheese, juicy red oranges, olives, pistachios – menus feature some of the freshest ingredients. And then there’s the outstanding Sicilian wine. A glass (or two) of Nero d’Avola ought to be savoured, and if you prefer white wine, opt for a Grenache Blanc. Saluti!
Escorted Sicily tours – plan your holiday
And there you have it – plenty of good reasons why an escorted Sicily tour should be on your holiday wish list for 2020. The island is an exciting cultural oasis, full of fascinating historic sites, flavoursome food and friendly people. What’s not to like?
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.