Located near the city of Palermo, the Sicilian capital, Monreale sits atop a hill overlooking the Golden Shell, which is renowned for its olive, orange and almond groves. The star attraction of this wonderful place is undoubtedly the cathedral, which is one of the best examples of extant Norman architecture in the world today. It dates back to the 12th Century. Be sure to take a look at its interior, which is adorned with beautiful mosaics.
Perched on a hilltop overlooking the city of Trapani, Erice is worth visiting just to see the incredible views it offers. It can be reached by cable car from Trapani and offers welcome respite from the hotter temperatures at lower altitudes during the summer months. The two main attractions in Erice are medieval castles built by the Arabs and the Normans respectively. The Norman castle was built on top of an ancient temple dedicated to the Roman goddess, Venus.
8. Doric Temple of Segesta
The Ancient Greeks were a major cultural force in Sicily during pre-Christian times, and the Temple of Segesta harks back to that legacy in a big way. It was built in the 5th Century BC, but curiously it appears never to have been finished. An example of this is the lack of a roof over the main chamber. The temple sits in a beautiful setting, with views that stretch right down to the sea.
7. Villa Romana del Casale
This 4th-Century Roman villa is one of Sicily’s must-see attractions – it features one of the largest and most well-preserved collections of ancient mosaics in the world. Each of the villa’s rooms is adorned with a mosaic floor that has a specific theme, including a notably hedonistic one in the main bedroom. The most notable mosaic of all is the one that features female ancient Olympians with the oldest-known depiction in the world of what we now call bikinis.
Syracuse, or Siracusa in Italian, has a history that stretches back no less than 2,700 years into the past. It was one of the ancient Western world’s most important cities, and it is even mentioned in the Bible. It also appears in numerous myths and legends of various civilizations. The oldest part of the city is actually on the island of Ortiga, which is filled with temples, churches and important archeological sites. If you happen to be in Sicily during the summer months, be sure to enjoy a theatrical production in the 5th-Century Greek theater.
Founded by the Phoenicians some 2,700 years ago, the bustling capital of Sicily reached its cultural peak during its Arab occupation. In fact, it was known as the “city of delights” thanks to its beautiful gardens and architecture. Nowadays, the city’s highlight is its busy street markets, however there are also great museums and churches for you to enjoy also. An underground maze of open crypts, which is called the Catacombe dei Cappuccini, lies beneath the city’s Capuchin monastery. The crypts are home to the mummified remains of 8,000 people.
4. Aeolian Islands
This stunning archipelago can be found off Sicily’s northern shore, and welcomes approximately 200,000 visitors each year. Should climbing an active volcano take your fancy, you have a choice of two, namely Stromboli and Vulcano. Most visitors make the journey to the Aeolian Islands to take in vistas of whitewashed villages and enjoy high-end luxury resorts. Natural mud and thermal baths can also be found throughout the islands.
Taormina became a bona-fide resort town after it was “discovered” by northern Europeans on the Grand Tour during the 19th Century. Well-heeled travelers and celebrity types flock to Taormina during the summer, and the main streets are lined with designer boutiques. One of the most enjoyable things you can do in Taormina is to take a tram down to one of the pretty beaches that lie at its foot. The town is also home to a 2nd-Century Roman theater, which is thought to have been built on top of an even older Greek theater.
2. Mount Etna
Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and the largest active volcano in the whole of Europe. Its summit is over 11,000 feet high, and towers over the east coast of Sicily. Due to frequent eruptions, the summit’s height is continually changing. During the winter months, skiers enjoy its snowy slopes. You can also take a guided tour up to the Volcanic Observatory station, or even the main crater itself.
1. Valley of the Temples
Agrigento started off life as the ancient Greek city of Akragas, and the archeological remnants that can be found around it are a testament to its glorious past. The Valley of the Temples features a series of 5th-Century Doric temples that stand on a ridge facing the sea. One of the most well-preserved of these temples is dedicated to the goddesses Concordia and Juno. Another curious archeological site is the Temple of Zeus, which despite being the largest Doric temple ever discovered, was never completed.